Do you use violent ways to communicate? I don’t mean physically hurting someone (although we certainly don’t want that, either!) What I’m talking about are ways that we communicate that stop the conversation from moving forward and get us off track when a disagreement arises.
Violent communication are words and actions that are unkind, immature, mean, spiteful, or are otherwise used to attack the other person or their character. They are unproductive and end up frustrating both parties! Some examples are . . .
- Name calling
- Bringing up past missteps (“throwing it in their face”)
- Lewd gestures like giving the finger
- Cussing at the person
- Eye Rolling
- Insisting someone admit they are a “liar”, a “cheater”, etc.
- Putting down the person’s family, job, physical looks, etc.
- Using something that the person has intimately shared with you to prove your case about them (i.e., a fault, fear, or failure)
- Telling the kids that “Daddy doesn’t love us”, etc.
- Telling the other person how they feel i.e.,“You never loved me.”, etc.
- Telling someone you wish they were dead, etc.
All of these are just examples of things many couples use when they argue. Sometimes it really surprises me how deeply someone will sink the dagger into the person that they truly love. This type of communication pushes two people further away from one another when what they both really want is to come together!
We are all capable of hurling hurtful words in anger, but when the conversation takes on this level of a hurtful nature, it has a lasting impact that is extremely difficult to overcome. John Gottman, PhD*, cited 4 primary indicators that a marriage would fail and 2 of them are covered here . . .
Criticism – Of course there will always be complaints about our partner (not putting the toilet seat down, forgetting to complete a task they agreed to do, etc.), but complaining about a person’s behavior and criticizing a person’s character are two very different things! Criticizing a person for something is in the violent communication territory, while gently confronting a person about their behavior should produce a healthy conversation which reaches resolution. (If it doesn’t and you are certain that you were kind and gentle in your communication, then you might have tapped into another one of Gottman’s indicators: Defensiveness)
Contempt – Contempt is a nasty beast to remove once it enters the marital relationship, but it can be done (usually with a great deal of counseling). Contempt is a hurtful, vengeful, hate-filled venom people use to fight with one another. It drudges up crud from the depths of one’s arsenal and sometimes takes on a life of its own. Criticism is hitting the person you love in the heart with an arrow, while contempt is making sure the arrow is soaked in poison first. See the reason for it being called violent?
It always breaks my heart when I see couples fighting in these venomous ways. If you see this type of communication going on in your relationship, give us a call. We will be happy to help you unpack the reasons behind the violent communication in your relationship and help you learn a healthier and more productive way to communicate!