The four communication styles that have a negative impact on your relationships: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Everyone will have a favoured method. Mine is defensiveness. Defensiveness is a response to criticism and tends to increase conflict because the other person doesn’t feel heard or validated.
The criticism or complaint might sound like this:
“The kitchen is a mess.”
Defensiveness sounds like this:
“I only walked in 15 minutes ago, am I supposed to have unpacked the shopping AND cleaned the kitchen in that time?”
When I hear my husband comment on the mess in the kitchen, my immediate reaction is to be defensive. My mind might start thinking, “Why is this MY job? Why is he making that comment to me, like I should be responsible for the mess? What about the other three people living here?” Am I alone in this? Does this sound familiar to anyone else?
The reality is that I have taken his comment as a criticism, when in fact, it isn’t. I could easily respond, “Yes, it is a mess. Shall we clean it up together?”
Defensiveness is a response that can prevent us from taking appropriate responsibility. It might be that I am late home three nights in a row and my partner complains and I say “what is the problem? I’m just working, you know where I am”. This response doesn’t take into account the feelings of the other person. Maybe they are missing you or feeling disregarded. It might also be preventing you from taking responsibility for being late. Taking responsibility might sound like.
“I’m sorry I have been home late three nights in a row, and the dinner has been cold. I will bring my work home tomorrow so we can eat together, and I can carry on working after.”