INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
Psychologist John Gottman can predict when relationships will end. He cites “The Four Horsemen,” – the four warning signs of an apocalyptic end to the connection between two people, based on their communications with one another. It’s relevant for your business or personal relationships, so I share it here.
1. Criticism. This is different than a complaint, which is feedback about a specific issue/instance. Criticism is an attack on the core of the other’s character, and once started, tends to create a back and forth escalation, paving the way for the other, deadlier “Horsemen.” The key is to avoid saying “you” (which assigns blame), and use “I” statements that indicate what you need in a positive manner. For example:
• Criticism: “You always talk about yourself. Why are you always so selfish?”
• Instead: “I feel left out of our talk tonight, I need to vent. Can we please talk about my day?”
2. Contempt. When you communicate contempt, fed by long-simmering negative thoughts about the other, you’re being mean, disrespectful, sarcastic, and ridiculing. You might eye-roll, sneer, or scoff, making the other feel despised or worthless. It goes far beyond criticism as you assume moral superiority over the other. Not surprisingly, it’s the number one predictor of divorce, according to Gottman. To overcome this devastating emotion, commit to appreciating the others positive qualities and showing gratitude for their positive actions. By doing so, you’ll build up a bank account of positivity that makes you less likely to feel or express contempt.
3. Defensiveness. This is usually in response to criticism, where we counter with excuses and blame shifting so the other will back off. It’s understandable in the moment when you’re feeling attacked, but it simply doesn’t work. It just tells the other we don’t take their concerns seriously and that we won’t take responsibility for our mistakes. Instead, respond by accepting responsibility, admitting your mistake, and showing you understand the others perspective.
• Non-defensive response: “I get what you’re saying, and you’re right, I screwed up here. I should have planned better so I’d show up on time for this. I’m sorry. I’ll do better next time.”
4. Stonewalling. This is when you withdraw and shutdown from the conversation, tuning out, turning away, or acting busy, refusing to address the issue on the table. Instead, ask for a pause in the conversation and the opportunity to revisit after a short break (so you can gather yourself/your energy to re-engage in solution mode). For example:
• “I’m way too angry to keep discussing this. Can we take a break so I can cool down and gather my thoughts? Then we can pick up again in a way we can work through this.”
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake many make)
An easy mistake to make is to see obstacles as burdens, things keeping us from achieving what we want, that drain our energy or frustratingly redirect it, that distract and devastate. Allow me, however, to reframe how you view obstacles, with this thought.
The obstacle IS the way.
It’s about turning adversity into advantage. Trials into triumphs. It’s how great things are achieved. It’s a 2000 year-old thought (first offered by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius) that seems more relevant than ever, with more elements opposing what we want than ever. But you can’t become the hero of your own story without overcoming obstacles. Think about your last big accomplishment. Unquestionably, it required overcoming some major roadblocks. Yes, this can be filed under “I know you know this.” I’m just asking you not to forget it.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
Here’s a simple strategy to dramatically increase the likelihood of achieving your goals.
Write them down.
Research shows that writing down your goals makes it between 20 to 40 percent more likely you’ll achieve those goals. As a vivid example, controversial sports team and stadium owner, James Dolan, recently opened the stunning Sphere venue in Las Vegas, with the goal of revolutionizing what an entertainment venue could be. (I can personally confirm the word “stunning” given my recent attendance at a U2 concert there). It all started with Dolan writing down his goal, including a visualization in this case (his drawing of a big circle with a stick figure inside it). It’s a small thing you can do, that could lead to your big goal coming to fruition. Maybe even as big as this: