Listen in as BOLD health’s associate marriage and family therapist Scott Phillips talks about couples communication. He discusses four behaviors he sees when working with couples. Criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling can be destructive in a relationship and can escalate minor issues into major conflicts.
Couples communication is a fundamental aspect of any healthy and thriving relationship. Effective communication allows couples to express their needs, understand each other’s perspectives, and navigate challenges together. However, there are certain behaviors that, if left unchecked, can significantly hinder communication and lead to relationship distress. In a recent discussion, BOLD Health’s Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, Scott Phillips, shed light on four behaviors commonly observed when working with couples: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
Criticism, the first behavior discussed by Scott Phillips, involves making negative judgments or attacking the character of one’s partner. This form of communication often focuses on pointing out perceived flaws, faults, or mistakes. Criticism can erode trust and create a hostile atmosphere, making it difficult for couples to find common ground or work through issues effectively. Instead, it is crucial to approach disagreements with respect and focus on specific behaviors or actions rather than attacking the person’s character.
Defensiveness, the second behavior discussed, is a common response to criticism. When individuals feel attacked or blamed, they often become defensive as a protective mechanism. However, defensiveness only perpetuates the cycle of negative communication. It involves denying responsibility, making excuses, or counter-attacking. Instead of being defensive, couples can strive to listen openly, take responsibility for their actions, and express their feelings and concerns in a constructive manner.
Contempt, the third behavior highlighted by Scott Phillips, is a toxic emotion that undermines the foundation of a relationship. Contempt involves displaying a sense of superiority or disdain towards one’s partner. This can manifest through sarcasm, mockery, name-calling, or eye-rolling. Contempt erodes trust, respect, and emotional connection, making it difficult for couples to resolve conflicts or find common ground. Building a culture of appreciation, empathy, and respect is essential in fostering healthy communication and fostering a strong relationship.
The fourth behavior discussed is stonewalling, which occurs when one partner withdraws or shuts down emotionally during a conflict. Stonewalling often happens when individuals feel overwhelmed or unable to express themselves effectively. It can manifest through silence, avoiding eye contact, or physically leaving the situation. While it may provide temporary relief, stonewalling creates a significant barrier to communication and leaves important issues unresolved. Developing strategies for self-regulation, such as taking breaks to calm down and then returning to the conversation, can help couples navigate challenging moments without resorting to stonewalling.
Understanding these four behaviors—criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling—can empower couples to recognize them when they arise and take proactive steps to address them. Open and effective communication is a skill that can be learned and practiced, even in the face of conflict or disagreement. By cultivating a safe and respectful environment, couples can navigate challenges together, build intimacy, and strengthen their bond.
At BOLD Health, we recognize the importance of couples communication in fostering healthy and fulfilling relationships. Through therapy, education, and support, our aim is to equip couples with the tools and strategies needed to improve their communication and overall relationship satisfaction. By addressing the destructive communication patterns and working towards healthier alternatives, couples can create a solid foundation for long-lasting love and connection.
In conclusion, the discussion led by Scott Phillips on couples communication highlights the detrimental impact of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling on relationships. Recognizing these behaviors is the first step towards fostering healthier communication patterns. By actively practicing respect, empathy, and active listening, couples can enhance their ability to navigate conflicts and deepen their emotional connection. At BOLD Health, we are committed to supporting couples in their journey towards improved communication and stronger, more fulfilling relationships.