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Posts tagged ‘defensiveness’

The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling

SOURCE:  Ellie Lisitsa /The Gottman Institute

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death respectively. We use this metaphor to describe communication styles that, according to our research, can predict the end of a relationship.

Criticism

The first horseman is criticism. Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an ad hominem attack. It is an attack on your partner at the core of their character. In effect, you are dismantling their whole being when you criticize.

The important thing is to learn the difference between expressing a complaint and criticizing:

  • Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
  • Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish. You never think of others! You never think of me!”

If you find that you are your partner are critical of each other, don’t assume your relationship is doomed to fail. The problem with criticism is that, when it becomes pervasive, it paves the way for the other, far deadlier horsemen to follow. It makes the victim feel assaulted, rejected, and hurt, and often causes the perpetrator and victim to fall into an escalating pattern where the first horseman reappears with greater and greater frequency and intensity, which eventually leads to contempt.

Contempt

The second horseman is contempt. When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean—we treat others with disrespect, mock them with sarcasm, ridicule, call them names, and mimic or use body language such as eye-rolling or scoffing. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.

Contempt goes far beyond criticism. While criticism attacks your partner’s character, contempt assumes a position of moral superiority over them:

“You’re ‘tired?’ Cry me a river. I’ve been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those idiotic video games. I don’t have time to deal with another kid. Could you be any more pathetic?”

Research even shows that couples that are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, etc.) than others due to weakened immune systems! Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner—which come to a head when the perpetrator attacks the accused from a position of relative superiority.

Most importantly, contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce. It must be eliminated.

Defensiveness

The third horseman is defensiveness, and it is typically a response to criticism. We’ve all been defensive, and this horseman is nearly omnipresent when relationships are on the rocks. When we feel unjustly accused, we fish for excuses and play the innocent victim so that our partner will back off.

Unfortunately, this strategy is almost never successful. Our excuses just tell our partner that we don’t take their concerns seriously and that we won’t take responsibility for our mistakes:

  • Question: “Did you call Betty and Ralph to let them know that we’re not coming tonight as you promised this morning?”
  • Defensive response: “I was just too darn busy today. As a matter of fact, you know just how busy my schedule was. Why didn’t you just do it?”

This partner not only responds defensively, but they reverse blame in an attempt to make it the other partner’s fault. Instead, a non-defensive response can express acceptance of responsibility, admission of fault, and understanding of your partner’s perspective:

“Oops, I forgot. I should have asked you this morning to do it because I knew my day would be packed. That’s my fault. Let me call them right now.”

Although it is perfectly understandable to defend yourself if you’re stressed out and feeling attacked, this approach will not have the desired effect. Defensiveness will only escalate the conflict if the critical spouse does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner, and it won’t allow for healthy conflict management.

Stonewalling

The fourth horseman is stonewalling, which is usually a response to contempt. Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction, shuts down, and simply stops responding to their partner. Rather than confronting the issues with their partner, people who stonewall can make evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in obsessive or distracting behaviors.

It takes time for the negativity created by the first three horsemen to become overwhelming enough that stonewalling becomes an understandable “out,” but when it does, it frequently becomes a bad habit. And unfortunately, stonewalling isn’t easy to stop. It is a result of feeling physiologically flooded, and when we stonewall, we may not even be in a physiological state where we can discuss things rationally.

If you feel like you’re stonewalling during a conflict, stop the discussion and ask your partner to take a break:

“Alright, I’m feeling too angry to keep talking about this. Can we please take a break and come back to it in a bit? It’ll be easier to work through this after I’ve calmed down.”

Then take 20 minutes to do something alone that soothes you—read a book or magazine, take a walk, go for a run, really, just do anything that helps to stop feeling flooded—and then return to the conversation once you feel ready.

The Antidotes to the Four Horsemen

Being able to identify the Four Horsemen in your conflict discussions is a necessary first step to eliminating them, but this knowledge is not enough. To drive away destructive communication and conflict patterns, you must replace them with healthy, productive ones.

Fortunately, each horseman has a proven positive behavior that will counteract negativity. Click here to learn about the antidotes.

This Behavior Is The #1 Predictor Of Divorce, And You’re Guilty Of It

SOURCE:  Brittany Wong/Huffington Post

Your body language speaks volumes.

Ever catch yourself rolling your eyes at your partner or getting a little too sarcastic during a conversation?

Those seemingly small behaviors are not that innocent after all.

According to renowned researcher John Gottman, contemptuous behavior like eye-rolling, sarcasm and name-calling is the number one predictor of divorce.

For 40 years, the University of Washington psychology professor and his team at the Gottman Institute have studied couples’ interactions to determine the key predictors of divorce — or as Gottman calls them, “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.”

Contempt is the number one sign, followed by criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling (emotionally withdrawing from your partner.)

So how do you curb contempt in your own marriage and stave off divorce? Below, experts share seven things you can do to keep contempt in check.

1. Realize that delivery is everything.

“Remember, it’s not what you say, but how you say it that makes all the difference. Contempt often comes in the form of name-calling, snickering, sarcasm, eye-rolling and long heavy sighs. Like a poison, it can erode the trust and safety in your relationship and bring your marriage to a slow death. Your goal is to be heard. You need to present your message in a way that makes this happen without doing damage to the relationship.” — Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist based in Easton, Pennsylvania

2. Ban the word “whatever” from your vocabulary.

“When you say ‘whatever’ to your partner, you’re basically saying you’re not going to listen to them. This sends them a message that whatever they’re talking about is unimportant and has no merit to you. This is the last thing you want your spouse to hear. Sending messages (even indirectly through contempt) that they’re not important will end a relationship pretty quickly.” — Aaron Anderson, a Denver, Colorado-based marriage and family therapist

3. Stay clear of sarcasm and mean-spirited jokes.

“Avoid sarcasm and comments like, ‘I’ll bet you do!’ or ‘Oh, that was super funny” in a rude tone of voice. While you’re at it, don’t make jokes at the expense of your partner or make universal comments about his or her gender (‘You would say that — you’re a guy’).” — LeMel Firestone-Palerm, a marriage and family therapist

4. Don’t live in the past.

“Most couples start showing contempt because they have let a lot of little things build up. To avoid contempt all together, you need to stay current in your communications along the way. If you’re unhappy about something, say it directly. Also, acknowledge the valid complaints your partner has about you — you’ll probably be less self-righteous the next time you fight.” – authors of The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer

5. Watch your body language.

“If you find yourself rolling your eyes or smirking, it is a signal that your relationship could be headed for trouble. Try taking a break from each other if things get heated, or try focusing on positive aspects that you like about your partner.” — Chelli Pumphrey, a counselor based in Denver, Colorado

6. Don’t ever tell your spouse, “you’re overreacting.”

“When you say your S.O. is overreacting, what you’re really saying is that their feelings are unimportant to you. Instead of telling your partner that they’re overreacting, listen to their point of view. Try to understand where they’re coming from and why they feel that way. They have those feelings for a reason.” — Aaron Anderson

7. If you find yourself being contemptuous, stop and take a deep breath.

“Make it your goal to become aware of what contempt is. Then find out specifically what it looks like in your marriage. When you feel the urge to go there, take a deep breath, and say ‘stop’ quietly to yourself. Find another way to make your point. Contempt is a bad habit like smoking or nail biting. With work, you can break it.” — Bonnie Ray Kennan, a psychotherapist based in Torrance, California

Listening To Hard Things

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 168-169.

Taking Time to be Wrong

Agreeing with others, especially when they are pointing out your faults, is not easy, but it can play a crucial role in peacemaking.

 When you are talking with another person, first listen for the truth, resisting the temptation to defend yourself, blame others, or focus on points of disagreement. Ask yourself, “Is there any truth in what he or she is saying?” If your answer is “yes,” acknowledge what is true and identify your common ground before moving to your differences. Doing so is a sign of wisdom and spiritual maturity. “Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it” (Ps. 141:5). “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise” (Prov. 15:31; cf. 15:5; 17:10; 25:12).

 By agreeing with the other person whenever possible, you can resolve certain issues easily and then focus profitably on matters that deserve further discussion.

Think back to arguments you’ve had. Can you recall a single instance when quickly defending yourself from the criticism of another brought peace? In contrast to a quick defense, James exhorts us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (Jas. 1:19). Consider the beginning of Proverbs 15:31: “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke…” Simply put, listening requires time–and reflection on what’s been said. You have literally nothing (except pride) to lose and everything to gain by listening and not responding quickly when someone points out what they believe to be a fault of yours.

The next time someone brings a rebuke your way, restrain yourself from offering your verdict on their rebuke–whether that verdict be positive or negative–until you’ve had time to check in with the Lord about it.

Tell the other person, “That’s hard for me to hear, but I know I need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I’d like some time to think deeply about what you’ve said.” If it turns out that you still disagree with the other person, at least you’ll both have the benefit of knowing that you’re not responding at the jerk of a knee.

A Wife’s Inner Beauty: Convicting and Compelling

SOURCE:  Gordon Bals/The Gospel Coalition

Years ago, I wrote a newsletter called Every Husband Feels Like a Jerk and Every Wife Agrees.

It was meant to explain a common phenomenon that kept emerging in the course of my marriage counseling practice. No matter what else they brought to the table, couples seemed to agree on one thing: No one believed the husbands demonstrated loyal love in their marriages.

In fact, whenever I began to talk about the quality of love in the marital relationship, most husbands began to act ashamed. They were like Isaiah when he saw the Lord sitting on his throne, “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1). It seemed like their wives were so good at love.

It’s true. In almost every case, a wife approaches marriage with a deeper understanding of and passion for loyal love. I consider this a God-given gift, one way she reflects the image of God (Gen. 1:27). I began to identify this as an aspect of a wife’s inner beauty.

This inner beauty exposes areas where a husband is lacking.

Just as Isaiah encountered the Lord’s beauty, I heard husbands echo his response: “My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of sinful race” (Isa. 6:5).

But unlike Isaiah, who was reduced to humble contrition in the presence of such loveliness, husbands tend to fight back. “My wife wants too much from me,” they declare. The wives counter with a long list of their husbands’ failures. This tension increases because neither the husband nor the wife responds well to her gift of inner beauty.

Couple Implications

If inner beauty is God’s gift to a woman, then it stands to reason that it’s a gift that can be employed in the service of building redemptive marriages. I want to suggest a couple of implications for each couple.

To grow in loyal love, a husband must not be afraid for his sin to be exposed in his wife’s presence. 

This requires humility. He must stop telling his wife she wants too much and instead look to the Lord for his help. Typically, a husband wants to be a knight in shining armor. Instead, he needs to be willing to humbly see the ways he hides and casts blame. As a husband opens up to this exposure and learns to look to the Lord for forgiveness and care, he has more to give his wife. A wife’s inner beauty matters because a husband can let it expose his deep need for God’s grace and mercy. A wife’s inner beauty is meant to turn a husband toward the Lord, not drive him to intimidation, control, or defensiveness.

To use her gift to enhance loyal love, a wife must remember that her husband experiences shame in her presence. He experiences this whether or not she says or does anything. Her gift of inner beauty can be that powerful.

When a wife trusts this, she can relate to her husband with more kindness and rest instead of feeling compelled to help her husband recognize where he is lacking. When Peter encourages wives to let their “adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,” (1 Peter 3:4), he is telling wives to rest as their husbands learn how to make room for the ongoing conviction of sin that comes with marriage. Peter wanted women to stop expending so much effort. A husband’s struggle to love well should turn a wife toward more faith and less activity as she waits for him to grow into God’s love.

In fact, as a wife rests and shows kindness in the midst of her husband’s frustration, she can have a powerful effect. After Isaiah witnesses God’s beauty and expresses humility, a seraph touches his lips with a coal and says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isa. 6:7). Later, we find Isaiah willingly responding to the Lord’s direction. Beauty and kindness together inspired courage in Isaiah. He is moved to stand up and follow the Lord.

It works the same way in marriage.

When a husband responds well to his wife’s inner beauty, and when a wife mixes it with kindness, she becomes a compelling force in her husband’s life.

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Gordon C. Bals founded Daymark Pastoral Counseling in Birmingham, Alabama, a ministry committed to restoring people to God and to one another. Anyone interested in reading further about this topic and/or related marital themes can find them in his recently published book, Common Ground: God’s Gift of a Restored Marriage,available on Amazon or on his website, www.daymarkcounseling.com.

Am I Wise or Foolish? What’s The Difference?

SOURCE:  Michael Hyatt

THE PRIMARY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WISE AND FOOLISH

A few weeks ago, a business acquaintance called to discuss a challenge he was facing at work. As usual, I began with a few questions, trying to understand the context and the issues involved.

It quickly became apparent that he didn’t want to change. In fact, the entire conversation was about why he couldn’t change, why he didn’t need to change, and why he wasn’t responsible for the results he was getting.

Ten minutes into the discussion, I realized I was dealing with a fool. There was no point in continuing the conversation. More talk would not change anything.

In Chapter 7 of his book, Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud deals with the difference between wise people and fools. It has given me clarity about something I have struggled with for years.

The difference between a wise person and a fool is not about:

  • Position. Plenty of business leaders, pastors, and politicians are fools. Conversely, I have met wise executive assistants, gardeners, and even one shoe shine man.
  • Intelligence. I know fools with masters degrees and Ph.Ds. Some of them teach in universities and have written books. Conversely, I know wise people who never graduated from high school and a few who can’t read.
  • Talent. I know fools who are successful entrepreneurs, worship leaders, and television pundits. I know wise people with average talent and modest income.

According to King Solomon, there is one major thing that differentiates a wise person from a fool: how he or she receives instruction and correction.

(See, for example, Proverbs 1:5; 9:8–9; 10:8; 12:15; 15:12; 17:10; and 19:20.)

A wise person:

  1. Listens without being defensive.
  2. Accepts responsibility without blame.
  3. Changes without delay.

If you are dealing with a wise person, talking is helpful. They soak up feedback and use it to adjust their lives for the better. Your input can truly make a difference.

If you are dealing with a fool, however, talking is a waste of your time. They resist change. The problem is never “in the room.” It’s always out there somewhere—something you can neither access nor address.

I have always wondered why some conversations never seem to go any where. Instead, I am left confused and frustrated. Now I know. This inevitably happens when you are talking with a fool.

By the way, this doesn’t mean that you have to write fools off. Instead, you have to change strategies. More talk won’t help a fool. Instead, you must:

  1. Stop talking.
  2. Provide limits.
  3. Give consequences.

If this topic interests you, I recommend you read Necessary Endings. Honestly, it is one of the best books I have read in the last year.

Seven signs of true repentance

SOURCE:  Posted on July 17, 2007 by Wisdomforlife

“He said I am sorry but this is at least the tenth time! I don’t know what to do. I am told it’s my Christian duty to forgive and Lord knows I’ve tried! But each time I forgive him, he changes for a little and returns to the same behavior. I have a gut feeling that I am handling things the wrong way. He never really changes and I just get angry. What should I do?”

Sound familiar?

How do you begin reconciliation when you’ve been deeply and perhaps repeatedly hurt by someone? How can you rebuild trust? The first and most important step is to confirm the genuineness of the apology or repentance. While it is true that changes to deeply ingrained patters do not happen overnight, certain foundational attitudes are essential to any hope for change. These attitudes flourish in hearts where God has granted repentance.


Consider seven signs of genuine confession and repentance: 
(Essential information for co-dependents or enablers)

The offender:

1. Accepts full responsibility for his/her actions. (instead of saying, ”Since you think I’ve done something wrong…” or “If  have done anything to offend you…”).

2. Accepts accountability from others.

3. Does not continue in the behavior or anything associated with it.

4. Does not have a defensive attitude about being in the wrong.

5. Does not have a light attitude toward his or her hurtful behavior.

6. Does not resent doubts about his/her sincerity- nor the need to demonstrate sincerity. (Especially in cases involving repeated offenses)

7. Makes restitution wherever necessary.

Restitution gives the offender an opportunity to demonstrate by actions that he or she wishes to be restored to the injured person and to society in general. The harder you work to make restitution and repair any damage you have caused, the easier it will be for others to believe your confession and be reconciled to you. Forgiveness does not necessarily release an offender from responsibility to repair the damages caused by his or her actions. An injured party may exercise mercy and choose to waive the right to restitution, but in many cases making restitution is beneficial even for the offender. Doing so demonstrates remorse, sincerity, and a new attitude, which can strengthen reconciliation. At the same time, it serves to establish lessons that will help the offender avoid similar wrongdoing in the future.

Move forward with caution:

An unrepentant offender will resent your desire to confirm the genuineness of his confession and repentance. He may resort to lines of manipulation. “I guess you can’t find it in yourself to be forgiving.” “You just want to rub it in my face.” “I guess I should expect that you want your revenge.” “Some Christian you are, I thought Christians believed in love and compassion.” These lines reveal an unrepentant attitude. Don’t be manipulated into avoiding the step of confirming the authenticity of your offender’s confession and repentance.

Use these signs carefully and with prayer. In difficult cases, seek a wise counselor. For genuine reconciliation to occur, you must be as certain as you can of your offender’s repentance—especially in cases involving repeated offenses. It is hard to truly restore a broken relationship when the offender is unclear about his confession and repentance.  Even God will not grant forgiveness to one who is insincere about his confession and repentance. The person who is unwilling to forsake his sin will not find forgiveness with God (Proverbs 28:13).

Of course, only God can read hearts– we must evaluate actions. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16a). But we must not allow superficial appearances of repentance to control our responses. Displays of tears or “appearing” to be sorry must not be substitutes for clear changes in attitude and behavior.

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