Pursue What Matters
Episode 94: Minding Your C’s: Concerns, Complaints, Criticisms, & Contempt
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you finding your four C’s? Do you even know what your four C’s are? Well, let me tell you that these four C’s are so important for communicating effectively, both at work and home. But here’s the thing. Some of these four C’s are essential for effective communication. And some of these four C’s are absolutely disastrous for effective communication. Are you curious? Join me and let’s learn more.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:28
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the pursue what matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work? Oh, boy. Okay, communication. So we are doing a deep dive into communication. And I’m so glad to have you here. If you joined me, last week, we were talking about communicating concerns at work. And boy, isn’t that a big part of what we are always doing at work, not because you’ve got a lot of problems at work, but because in order to be successful, and in order to grow and be successful, we always have to be taking on challenges, we always have to be communicating concerns. It’s just part of the job is just part of the work for leaders for team members for all of us. And as I talked about in that podcast last week, you know, communication, it seems like such a basic thing. But boy, oh, boy, there is nothing basic at all about communication. It’s hard, because, you know, we as humans are kind of pesky. We’re, we’re pretty complicated, folks. And so it kind of seems like communication should be very simple and should be very straightforward. But it’s not always that way. But there are some really helpful principles that can hopefully guide you in communication. So it doesn’t have to be too complex or too overwhelming. And if you haven’t checked out last week, pod, last week’s podcast, which was communicating concerns at work, definitely check that one out, because I had several good solutions for you. And that will really help to kind of frame our conversation today. You don’t have to listen to that one first. But I think it would be helpful. So I will link to that podcast. So you can check that one out. And then of course, today, we are going to be talking about minding your C’s. So first of all, what are they? So let’s, let’s figure that out.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:54
Okay, so the four C’s that I’m going to be talking about today, and I want to help you understand in a very comprehensive way, are first concerns, second complaints, third criticisms, and fourth contempt. Now, as I said, at the top of the podcast, some of these C’s are absolutely essential for effective communication, both at work and home. And some of these C’s are absolutely disastrous for communication at work and how we do not want any part of them. And so we’re going to break them down, and define them, help you understand them, and really help you understand why some of them are essential and why some of them are disastrous.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:38
And of course, every week in the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters and help you really develop and strengthen your confidence to lead. I try to do that in one of three areas. So leading with clarity, right? Where are you going? And why does it matter? Because if you don’t have a vision for your life, you don’t have a vision for your leadership. Why would anyone want to join you? Why would anyone you know want to help you to create and fulfill your vision and your sense of purpose, right? Like you got it. You got to have a why. And then leading with curiosity is all about quieting ourselves and learning to get curious about our experience. what’s what’s happening, internally, what’s happening in your relationships. We live in such a world where it’s so noisy all the time, so much static, and we have lost our ability at times it seems to get quiet and to get curious and yet if we can cultivate that skill of curiosity, it really will be such a such a value to us in guiding us in terms of understanding our own sense of purpose. understanding our needs. understanding our desires, and to be able to connect meaningfully with others and of course with purpose. And so curiosity is also about self care and making sure you have a strong solid foundation for your own growth. And of course, that’s so important because how can you lead others if you cannot lead yourself. And then of course, the third area is leading community. So leading and building a community. And that’s really so important. And so today, primarily, we’re really focusing on leading and building a community. Of course, communication is so important in that area. And so let’s jump right in and talk about the difference between a concern a complaint a criticism and contempt. big differences there, they you know, when you hear those initially, it might not seem like there are big differences, but the devil is in the details. So let’s, let’s learn more about each of these.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:01
Okay, so first of all, a concern. So a concern is a valid issue grounded in reality is based on facts. And a concern is absolutely essential for effective communication. Concerns need to be addressed for the good of the team, the good of the project, and the growth of the organization. So right if we think about communication, both at work, and at home, it’s so incredibly important that you are addressing concerns as they crop up. And so this is really the key about concerns. You’ve got to bring them up when you notice them. And this is where it gets really dicey with concerns because you may or may not want to bring concerns up because right it can be a little bit uncomfortable to address concerns. If you’re conflict avoidant at all which there are plenty of us that are conflict avoidant I, I have been conflict avoidant in my life, I’ve been doing this work way too long. At this point, I am I am not conflict avoidant any longer, but definitely come from a history of being conflict avoidant. But, you know, this is the challenge with concerns if you have a tendency towards being conflict avoidant, or wanting to push things under the rug, or hope that they’ll just go away over time, this is going to be a problem for you. Or right, you may not want the other individual or team member to be uncomfortable. And so you, you hold on expressing concerns. But guess what, right, you’ve got to address concerns. Because here’s the thing, concerns can be mole hills, but it’s important to address them before they turn into mountains. Because often that is what can happen. Certainly not always. But molehills can turn in to mountains. So we want to be careful about that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:06
So how do you address concerns? Now we’re talking primarily at work, but obviously this applies at home, it applies to your personal relationships as well. So the best way to address a concern is directly Do not beat around the bush. Oh, that makes me crazy. And I’m not saying address it directly, just because it makes me crazy. It’s because it’s the most effective way to tackle concerns, say what needs to be said. And say it when the concern crops up, so that there is no question about the concern, or the recommended remedy. So let’s think a little bit more about the how. So you do want to consider the best forum for addressing the concern. So for example, is it best to address a concern? One on one? So absolutely pay attention to this? So you know, is this a team wide concern that is best addressed as a team? Or is this concern specific to one person that may be best addressed one on one, so you always want to pay attention to those factors. Because if this is a specific concern to one person, you don’t want to go calling that person out in front of the entire team. I mean, think about the golden rule and think about how you would want to be treated in that situation. And so, of course you want to be thoughtful and considerate about this, which leads us right into the next point about that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:44
So you know, the first point about addressing concerns is to do it directly. The second point is to do it respectfully. So there’s always, always, always always a place for respect and kindness. You can say what needs to be said. said, but do it with grace and respect. And this is where I think addressing concerns can become, you know, this is really the art form of addressing concerns. And it is, it’s, I would say it’s a mark of true leadership. Now, it’s okay, you don’t have to be really graceful. You don’t have to have the art in order to be effective. But to have some kindness and to have some respect, guiding, and guiding you, as you address concerns, that is really so incredibly important. And I will just say, having given individuals very, very difficult feedback for all of my career, right, I’ve spent my career giving people some of the most difficult feedback, you can imagine, what I have, have come to know, and have seen time and time again, is that you can give the most difficult feedback to people. And when they know that you care for them, and they know that you respect them, they can accept the feedback, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be painful, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily even agree with the feedback or the concern that they they’ll let it in, they’ll at least consider it when they know that you respect them, and that you care for them. And so that, you know, to be able to address a concern directly and respectfully is really a such an important mark of leadership. And just you know, it’s such a such a mark of respect actually.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:57
Okay, and then the third component of addressing concerns. So the first one is directly The second one is respectfully, the third one is timely, do not put off addressing concerns. So right, I’ve kind of talked about this already a little bit, because we tend to be conflict avoidant, when it comes to addressing concerns. But individuals and teams really do need timely feedback in order to grow and become more effective. So one of the biggest hits to motivation is a lack of timely feedback. And this so I know, this next point is going to be a really strong point. But I stand by it, I really do believe it is a dereliction of duty to not provide timely feedback to those you work with. And they need that feedback to grow. And so it is irresponsible, if you’re not giving them that feedback. And when there’s a big gap between a concerning behavior and the feedback, it’s just it’s going to be almost useless, it’s going to be very ineffective. Because, you know, first of all, there’s a gap in the learning opportunity between Oh, yeah, like this just happened. And I can see what, what this leader means with this feedback. And it just drops the motivation for change. Because it’s like, oh, this thing you were talking about two months ago, okay, well, you know, there might just be a shrug of the shoulders. And so, when we address concerns, first of all, address them when they’re molehills, before they become mountains, because especially when we, when we see patterns of concern at work, they become mountains, it’s a lot easier to address a molehill than it is a mountain, ask any HR director, it’s it’s boy, and the three ways that we want to address those concerns directly respectfully and timely.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:02
Okay. So now let’s head to our second C. So we’re going to mind our four C’s. And the second one is a complaint. So is this something that we really need to have for effective communication? Or is this one of those no no’s that is disastrous for effective communication? So I’m, I would, I would love to hear your your thoughts on this. Okay, so let’s, let’s think about what a complaint is. So, when I think about a complaint, this is when a concern becomes more pronounced. So kind of think about a complaint as a molehill kind of turning into more of a mountain, right? So we kind of see a concern is becoming more pronounced. It’s impacting the work, it’s impacting others. It’s undermining relationships, right? So there is behavior that’s starting to get in the way of the work, it’s getting in the way of relationships. So again, if concerns aren’t addressed as mole hills, they can really turn into complaints and mountains, because they become more significant over time. Right. And part of that is because individuals don’t get the feedback they need, they don’t get the course correction, to help them to straighten up in terms of the behavior. And so correction doesn’t happen and concerns become more problematic. Of course, the other thing that can happen, not always, but what can happen is because corrective feedback doesn’t happen in a timely or direct manner. Sometimes, and this is, you do not want this happening. But sometimes this can embolden ineffective behavior. So then when corrective action needs to be taking taken, it may need to be more abrupt and forceful. So, you know, if someone’s got some bad behavior, and there’s no feedback, there are no consequences. The, you know, the underlying messages, I can get away with this. And so that can embolden that bad behavior, that ineffective behavior. And so, right, then, when corrective action comes in, it has to it has to be very abrupt, it has to be much less nuanced than it needed than it would have needed to be, if it would have been addressed back when it was just a concern. So the thing to pay attention to about complaints is that they are still focused on the concerning behavior, not the characteristics of the individual.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:11
Okay, so complaints are valid, because here’s the thing, none of us are perfect, right? We, we mess up, sometimes we we let our lesser selves get get the better of us. And we really must keep the concerning behavior, and the characteristics of the individual separate. So we’re focusing on the behavior at hand. And when we’re talking about a complaint, we want to be very specific, we want to be specifically focused on the behavior. So for instance, you’ve been 10 minutes late to, to the last five team meetings. Okay, that is a very specific complaint. It’s actionable. Right? The person has no question, what the concern is, what the complaint is. There’s that it speaks, right. It’s a complaint, it speaks to the pattern of behavior over time. So you want to identify a pattern of behavior as needed, but avoid dredging up the past? Okay, so I talked about that pattern with, you know, you’ve been late to the last five team meetings, because it’s part of the complaint. But we don’t want to dredge up a ton of history unnecessarily. It’s important to identify the pattern, because that’s part of the complaint. But we also don’t, you know, want to dredge up every, you know, every bone from someone’s closet. And you also want to tie the behavior to the concern. So for example, x behavior concerns me for the following reasons. So for example, and the fact that you’ve been 10 minutes late to the team mate meetings concerns me, because then you miss the update on our launch progress. Or, you know, it concerns me because I’ve started to see during the past three meetings that other people are starting to show up late as well. And that one also kind of shows why it’s important to identify the pattern over time, because other people are really starting to follow this pattern of showing up late. And so tying the behavior to the concern. So x behavior concerns me for the following reasons. So right exit for, for example, the impact on the team, impact on results, impact on psychological safety, right? Like when you don’t come to team on time it right it undermines the effectiveness of the team. It communicates that you don’t you don’t take our team time, seriously. The impact on trust and reliability, when you don’t show up for our team meetings, we can’t count on you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:08
So that’s what you want to communicate with a complaint, you have a concern, and you want to be specific about communicating that concern. And then you know, when you are communicating a complaint, you want to focus corrective action on the specific complaint. Okay, so the corrective action is, you know, like, okay, what’s going to happen to get you to come to team meeting on time, for example. So we want to pay attention to this idea that accountability is a two way street. So corrective action is owned by the individual. So the person who is you know, is receiving the complaint, the person who needs to correct their actions, so the person showing up late to the team meeting in this example, needs to own the corrective action. So that is the ownership component of accountability. Okay, corrective action is owned by the individual. But here’s the here’s the second part of that, because accountability is a two way street. Ultimately, it is the leaders responsibility to structure corrective action and ensure it is effective.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:31
Okay. So the corrective action is owned by the individual, that’s who needs to correct their action. So that’s the ownership piece. But ultimately, it is the leaders responsibility to structure corrective action, and ensure it’s effective. So the leader is helping to make sure that there is a structure, a framework, a process in place, to help ensure the corrective action happens. So whether that’s an accountability plan, whether that is increased one to ones, you know, whatever that ownership looks like, often that can be, you know, a process plan, accountability plan, a scorecard, right, whatever that might look like. And that accountability is a two way street. So that is the second see. And when it comes to complaints, those are essential for effective communication in all of our relationships. So right, like none of us are perfect. We’re going to have disagreements, we’re going to have concerns, we’re going to have complaints. And we’ve got to effectively address those for the good of the team for the good of the work for the good of the relationship.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:54
Okay, so now let’s move to our third C. Our third C is criticism. And so this is where we kind of get to the dark side of the seas. Criticism is a global critique of the individual. Okay, so criticism is not typically helpful, right? So criticism should be avoided. So if we think about the four C’s, what’s helpful, what’s not helpful? criticism is not helpful, it should be avoided. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about the difference between a complaint and a criticism because I think sometimes these two concepts can get confused. Okay. So a complaint is specific to a behavior or a situation. Right, so you’re showing up late to the meeting, whereas a criticism, we’re typically criticizing the person as a whole. Right? Okay. So like, in this situation, the example that I’m using in terms of like showing up late to the meetings, it with a complaint, we would say, you know, you’ve been, you’ve been 10 minutes late to the last five team meetings. So the complaint is, is focused on the specific behaviors with a criticism, we would, we would take that criticism, or that complaint and we’d raise it a notch. We’d say, I can’t count on you for anything. We’d say you’re so lazy, you can’t get here, you can’t get to the meeting on time. Right. And so the criticism is an indictment of the individual. We often go looking for patterns to support our belief about the person such that they are lazy or disrespectful, or whatever the label is that we have thrown on them. And sometimes that label comes because of complaints because of behavior that we’re seeing. But at the end of the day right, a criticism is all about judgment. Criticism is an attack on the character of another person. And I’m here to tell you it has no place in polite society. It has no place in our relationships, either at home or at work. So criticism can be absolutely devastating, because it is an attack on the person. And it honestly just leaves them defenseless. It’s like, what the heck are they supposed to do with that? So, you know, what is a criticized individual to do with a complaint? There is a specific behavior that can be redressed. Right? So let’s go back to the, you know, you’ve been 10 minutes late to team meeting, okay, well, that’s still not comfortable to hear. But what like there is, there is direction, there is a specific behavior that can be redressed. Okay. I can I can get to team meeting on time, I can do what it takes to get to team to team meeting on time. But when your entire character is attacked, which is what happens with a criticism. What on earth are you to do about that? When someone says you’re lazy? When someone says, I can’t ever count on you? What where do you go from there? Right. I mean, that just moves people to shame. It moves people to hopelessness, criticism, absolutely feet shame. And it gives no direction for correction.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:45
So this was a few years ago, so my kids are lacrosse players. And they’re they’re not they’re not much in the way of kids anymore, to teenagers and an adult at this point. But we have been watching lacrosse games for a long time. And I remember this was, this was several years ago. And one of our kids was that he was younger. And he was playing in a lacrosse game. And one of his coaches who shall remain nameless it This was several years ago. And may I first say bless all the coaches, bless all the volunteer coaches, because they it’s a thankless job and they do remarkable. But But on this one day, this one coach was was yelling at the kids from the sideline. And I think his intent certainly was to encourage the kids. But the, the thing that he was saying to the to the players was “be better.” We were sitting on the sidelines, and that when we heard that it just kind of went clunk in our head. And, you know, my guy, friend, and I turned to each other. My husband, and my guyfriend is my husband, by the way. And we said, “What did he just say?” And he said it again. And he was he was yelling this and not in a mean way or anything like that. It was he was encouraging them. But the thing he was yelling to these lacrosse players who you know, they were boys was be better. And we just looked at each other. And we just said what the hell does that even mean? Like it was just the most useless feedback that could have been given to these lacrosse players. And again, like, bless him and bless every volunteer coach ever. But, you know, like, What is? What is the lacrosse player to do with that feedback? Be better? I mean, run faster, would have been better. Block would have been better, but be better. Like it’s just, that’s that’s kind of what happens when we run into criticism. It’s like, what do we do with that? It’s like, be a, be a better version of yourself. Like don’t be you is how it can often feel like there’s no direction for feedback. It is not helpful. So we want to avoid criticism. It is just devastating, is devastating to relationships and is it’s devastating to the sense of self of the other person. And here is the thing, and you know what, if you think about it, it’s, you know, criticism is actually incredibly common. Like we see it a lot. And it’s so sad, it makes me really sad because it really does have an eroding impact on relationships and on cultures. So why is it so common? Right? It is so easy to point the finger at others, and to do it with blanket accusations of how others are lazy, irresponsible, and not helpful. And I don’t know about you, but even when I say those words, like lazy, irresponsible, like, they just it kind of makes me cringe inside. Like, I don’t like those words. But unfortunately, like, it’s so easy to judge others. Whereas right, like we’re always super diligent, high achievers who never let anyone down. Right? Right. No. So criticism really is a perfect example, from the Bible. So for for those of you Bible readers, of us talking about the mote in our brother’s eyes, right, and wanting to take the mote out of our brother’s eye, while refusing to see the beam that is in our own eye. Right? criticism blinds us to our own faults, because we are so darn busy judging others. It’s so not helpful. And here’s, here’s the other thing, and you are not going to like this.
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:29
So I just warned you, you’re not gonna like this next part. We typically judge others in the very areas we most struggle. So I’m going to let that one sink in for a minute. That one hurts. So the very areas that you are most likely to judge others will be the very areas you probably are most vulnerable. The areas you must most struggle with. So watch that one. Watch that one, pay attention to the beam in your own eye first. So when it comes to criticism, it is typically an outgrowth of frustration, anger and resentment over time. And sometimes that’s because, right, complaints build over time. So criticism can be an outgrowth of valid complaints. But when we criticize that is not an effective response to a concern or a complaint. So you know, ironically, when individuals or teams are conflict avoidant, so listen up. If you have a conflict avoidant team, or if you yourself are conflict, avoidant, a predictable result is actually criticism. Because instead of addressing concerns when they surface, these teams let concerns build up into complaints, okay, so that’s a red flag. So along the way, frustration, anger and resentment, also build to the point that it is often difficult to distinguish between the concerning behavior and the individual. So because we’ve avoided addressing concerns, right, we build up so much frustration, that instead of being able to actually see valid concerns, we just pair our frustration and our anger and resentment with the person. Right, so all of our frustration, it just is embodied in that person. And it we can’t even disentangle the concerns from the person. And so it gets really, really messy. And instead of saying this behavior is frustrating, a team member may feel or say even worse, say, You are so lazy, I can’t work with you. And of course, you can see that once a team reaches this point of global criticism, psychological safety has flown the coop, right. So trust is eroded intentions are suspect. And individuals are left to mind read or make up stories. So all of the walls go up, everyone gets defensive, vulnerability shuts down. And it is a recipe for ineffectiveness on teams. There’s less creativity, less productivity, less communication and less success. And the reason is because everyone goes into survival mode, because the defenses go up. And so everyone moves into threat assessment. That is not the seat of creativity. That is not the seat of collaboration. Right? So you’re not going to reach out to people you’re not going to communicate, you’re not going to collaborate. You are assessing threats. And so right there yourself effectiveness in your organization has just been drastically reduced.
Dr. Melissa Smith 35:06
The other thing that happens is we also tend to avoid our own emotional experience. Oh, fancy that that’s, that’s a big thing. And we avoid taking responsibility for our own part in our troubles. That never happens, right? I mean, that’s, that’s why we have addiction plagues, because we avoid our own emotional experiences and avoid taking responsibility for those. So it’s always easier to cast blame on those around us. And, you know, the truth is, those around us aren’t perfect. And so they give us plenty of material from which to grow frustration, right, those closest to us, will be the ones that bog us the most, for not careful. But here’s what we need to keep in mind that others are a mirror of our own concerns. They’re simply a mirror, you are never, you are never meeting anyone else, you’re always meeting yourself. None of us really tend to see it this way. We see the other person as the problem, which is why we criticize, which is why we judge, we really do think that they are the problem. But if we can start to see other people as a mirror, reflecting back to us, our own concerns, our own vulnerabilities, our own pettiness, then we could actually get curious, we had learned from the other person. So the other thing that happens with criticism is it surfaces shame, not only in the one being criticized, which is totally understandable, right, when your sense of self is attacked, that’s going to surface shame. But it also surfaces shame in the one criticizing. So for the one being criticized, of course, you’re the target of judgment.
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:00
So often you will be made to feel that you’re not good enough. And this of course, can bring up past memories of rejection of being bullied, right? It can surface so many painful feelings. But for the one criticizing, right for for most of us, in those situations, we are behaving outside of our values were behaving badly. And this will surface shame. And depending on how the individual responds to this shame, it can lead to more shameful behaviors. So it can lead to more defensiveness, more anger, more blaming more judging, or it can lead to self correction. Right, it could lead to an apology, it could lead to restitution could lead to Hey, I was a real jerk back there. I’m so sorry. So, you know, the criticism, it really just it surfaces shame for everyone involved. And by the way, those witnessing it because to to witness these experiences of criticism. It’s just, it’s so vulnerable.
Dr. Melissa Smith 38:15
So the last thing that I want to talk about with criticism, and it is going to move us into our fourth C is John Gottman, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So John Gottman is the world’s foremost researcher on relationships. And he has been studying couples and relationships for I think, 35 years, and he has taught us so much about what it means to have a good meaningful relationship. Now, most of his research is about couples and marriage and divorce. But the principles apply to work it, it applies to communication, it applies to all relationships. I’ve talked about this in another podcast on communication. But the principles are so incredibly valuable, that I wanted to just mention these four horsemen and the because they’re part of our four C’s. And so, as part of his research he identified so Gottman identified four horsemen of the apocalypse. So what he meant by that are, these are four signs that herald in the end of a marriage. So if these four things are present in a relationship, they are signs that the marriage will not survive. They are signs that the health of the marriage is really poor, and you better start looking for Divorce Attorneys. And of course, we can look at these behaviors and recognize that they speak to the health of other relationships as well. So obviously we don’t want these horsemen in any of our relationships because they undermine trust, they undermine psychological safety. And they make it difficult for us to grow and develop in our relationships.
Dr. Melissa Smith 40:17
So the four horsemen, okay, the first horseman is criticism, okay, which is exactly what we have been talking about. So there’s a lot of criticism in your relationships, that does not bode well, right, it’s such a bad behavior, we do not want that. And then the second horseman is contempt, which is what we will be talking about next. And that’s really corrosive. So we’ll, we’ll talk about that next. And then the third horseman is defensiveness, which often comes right along with criticism, and how many of us get defensive, when someone gives us feedback, or when someone expresses a concern, or when someone expresses complaint, it is such a natural tendency to get defensive. And it’s really not helpful. Because again, none of us are perfect. And we need feedback to grow. And so, you know, the thing that I want to say about this here is that we need to we need to learn to be open to concerns and complaints. Because you will probably be on the receiving end of concerns and complaints. If you’re not, then you got some seriously conflict avoidant people in your life. And so how can you learn to be open to concerns and complaints in your life without getting defensive. And I can tell you that it is painful, right, but it’s so incredibly value valuable to be able to do that because it you’ll have better relationships, and it will open you up to growth, it will open you up to actually doing your best work. And then the fourth horseman is stonewalling. And so stonewalling. And this happens a little bit more often with men than women, typically in relationships based on Gottman’s research. So that’s not me. Just doing some gender bias there. That is what Gottman found in his research. Stonewalling is emotionally shutting down, verbally shutting down and kind of refusing to engage in the communication, refusing to work through a problem. Now, sometimes you need to cool off, sometimes you need to take a timeout if you’re having a disagreement, and that’s totally appropriate. And that’s something I advocate for especially like in teams and in marital relationship, right? Like if things are getting heated, you should take a timeout, but that’s something you both agree to, and you agree to okay, we’re gonna come back whether it’s an hour or whether it’s a day, but you agree to that before you take the time out. Stonewalling is unilateral. Stonewalling is one person like giving the silent treatment. So you know, this can happen for days, this could happen for weeks at a time. You know, you can see this with colleagues. Sometimes people are like, I will not interact with this person at work. I mean, that is a version of stonewalling that we see at work, and it shuts down productivity, or you have other team members that have to be the go between that have to do workarounds because of stonewalling. And so it’s really, it just shuts down the effectiveness of the entire team.
Dr. Melissa Smith 43:39
So those are the four horsemen that we really do not want to see in any of our relationships. And so now I’m going to talk about the second horseman, which is contempt. And it is our fourth C, our fourth and final C, which is contempt. And so, you know, criticism can devolve into contempt, which is absolutely disastrous for relationships. Of the four horsemen. contempt is the number one predictor of divorce. So Gottmann could watch a couple arguing in a room for less than three minutes and predict with over 90% accuracy, whether they would be divorced. And that was based on whether there was contempt present for the couples so it’s not whether or not a couple argues that predicts divorce, but it’s how they argue. And so if there is the criticism, the contempt, defensiveness or the stonewalling, it’s very predictive of divorce, but contempt is the worst. Contempt is the worst of the four horsemen. It’s the most destructive, negative behavior in relationships. So I hope you heard that. I hope you heard that loud and clear. So this is bigger than marriage, although definitely here. For your most important relationships, contempt is the most destructive negative behavior in relationships, it has no place. So he, you know, Gottman saw contempt show up in many ways. So it shows up non verbally, it shows up verbally.
Dr. Melissa Smith 45:22
So let me give you some examples of how contempt shows up in relationships. So treating others with disrespect, mocking them with sarcasm, and condescension. These are all forms of contempt, hostile humor, right? Have you ever felt like, you have been the butt of a joke that someone makes a joke at your expense. And then they say I’m just teasing, but you know, that there’s hostility in that humor, name calling mimicking This is so this is the thing to pay attention to the the nonverbal communication, the body language, such as sneering, and the number one nonverbal communication, that communicates contempt that if you see this watch out, is eye rolling.
Dr. Melissa Smith 46:15
Okay, now teenagers, teenagers have mastered the art of eye rolling, and think about that. That’s contempt. That’s, I don’t, I can’t even stand looking at you. Eye rolling, conveys contempt. So it is poisonous. And because it conveys disgust, and superiority, so two things right there. contempt conveys disgust and superiority. So simply put, it says, I’m better than you, and you are lesser than me. And one of the forms of contempt that this can take, and I think that this shows up at work is taking the higher moral ground. So this better than it is an attack on the identity of the other person, and on their sense of self. So, you know, if you feel you are under attack, and you see others as the enemy, you might start to mount an attack. So contempt often grows out of desperation, it often grows out of defensiveness. And so some of the ways we would want to help you slow this down, if you recognize some contempt in yourself, is to ask yourself, Am I really under attack? To ask yourself, aren’t we on the same team? We want you to really watch your body language, no I rolling, we really need to pay attention to that. We also want you to begin expressing your feelings, not your negative judgments.
Dr. Melissa Smith 47:51
So what contempt is, is an expression of negative judgments. Instead, we want to focus on expressing feelings. So I’ll give you an example of this. So we want you know, an example would be I am feeling alone on this project, which opens the door to support from the rest of the team, instead of so this is what contempt would be, you can’t help me on this project, which obviously slams the door on support from others. So that’s the kind of shift we want to see happening.
Dr. Melissa Smith 48:33
Okay, so when we think about the four C’s. The first two, of course, are concerns and complaints. And those are really important, those are essential for effective communication. And then the last two, which are criticism and contempt, have no place in polite society. So just some last thoughts on how we kind of work with criticism and contempt if you notice these in yourself, if you notice them on your team, is, you know, of course, we want to stay away from criticism and contempt. They’re just they’re not helpful. And so an antidote to criticism is to complain without blame. So to be able to state the concern or the complaint without blaming, judging, or castigating the individual, so sticking to the facts, what is the behavior of concern, and also we want to use a gentle startup. So this comes from Gottman’s research as well. So expressing a concern directly and make your need known positively. So we really want to avoid drama, we want to avoid labeling, we want to avoid judging. So for example, this is an example about a report right so this is the third month in a row. Your report has been late. I need You should prioritize getting your report in on time, as the team relies on those numbers to take the next step. If this continues to be a concern, we will implement an accountability process next month. So do you see there how it expresses the concern directly and makes the need non positively right? Like the rest of the team is counting on you. When you don’t get your report in on time, it slows up the progress of the team. It also has the accountability, right this two way street. So the team member has ownership. But the leader also has responsibility, right? We’re going to implement an accountability process next month, if this doesn’t correct. Okay. So then, like I mentioned just a minute ago, we want to identify your feelings about a situation instead of the negative judgments. So don’t attack a person, right. But if you’re feeling alone, if you’re feeling like, you know, you don’t have support, focus on that. Focus on learning to respect others learn to see the value that others bring even. And this might be tricky for you that even if you do not personally like them or understand their perspective.
Dr. Melissa Smith 51:20
So right, how do you come back from criticism and contempt? We, you know, from the research, we want to build fondness and appreciation, which can feel kind of challenging, but to express the feelings instead of the judgments, right? We’ve talked about that, to make room for honest concerns in meetings. So we are not going to avoid concerns, we’re not going to avoid complaints. Because when we do that, that paves the road for criticism, and contempt. So we’ve got to make room for honest concerns. In meetings, we also want to make time for positive connections, so that positive feelings actually can flourish. So if every interaction is fraught, and difficult, you know, how on earth can positive connections take root. So you know, whether that is getting together, you know, bullying or whatever, right? Like, whatever it might be for your team. making time for positive connections and social connections really does matter. expressing gratitude, and obviously, we want that to be genuine. So if you’re, if you’re trying to change your feelings about a person, can you find something to be grateful for, for that individual, and you might have to look hard. But if you start looking, you can find something. And it’s not enough just to look, but express the gratitude, and you’ll start to see a thawing of some of those feelings over time. And then, of course, to respect the contribution of team members. And that’s so important, you don’t have to like them, you don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to see the world from the same perspective. But can you respect their contribution. And of course, if you have a concern, speak up before it becomes magnified from Brene Brown “clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” That is so true. And if you have a complaint, express it be specific and keep it focused on the behavior at hand. So don’t dredge up every last thing the individual has ever done. No one wants all their skeletons brought out if they, you know if it is pertinent to the concern, fine, but otherwise, leave the skeletons in the closet. And you’re not prosecuting a case. Unless you know, you are indeed prosecuting a case. And consider the golden rule. How would you like to be treated if the shoe were on the other foot? And regardless of what shoe you’re wearing, have a forgiving heart, and you will be happier and your relationships will be stronger. every relationship we have whether at work or at home requires a fair amount of looking the other way. I mean, isn’t that true? So don’t sweat the small stuff. Ask does this really matter? Ask if I were in a better mood would I care? I ask myself that question because sometimes I can get stirred up about the smallest thing. And I recognize it’s more about my own stress level than it has to do with the behavior of the other individual. And so I have to use that as a personal check. Before I, you know, go on the warpath about something and ask who is this a problem for and why? So do your own due diligence first, do your own work first. And then determine what matters and what you need to overlook. So pay attention to concerning patterns. Fool me once Shame on you fool me twice, shame on me. Right? So let’s pay attention to concerning patterns related to individuals to your team. Are you making excuses? Are you are you providing cover? Are you justifying? So those are all red flags that we want to pay attention to. You want to pay attention, obviously, to agree just behaviors. If if they’re clearly out of line by every metric, you know, obviously, that’s a very big red flag the flags on fire, and behaviors that undermine your guiding values. So ethical standards health and safety, psychological safety. So behaviors that are not in line with your culture. So you definitely want to pay attention to that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 55:56
Make sure to head on over to my website, check out the show notes for the resources on this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/contempt. One more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/contempt. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai