Anger Makes Us Dumb – Avoid These Common Pitfalls

by Jake Colton

Anger and Communication in Relationships: Understanding and Navigating the Challenges

Anger is a universal emotion that can significantly impact our ability to think clearly and communicate effectively, especially in intimate relationships. This article explores how anger interferes with communication and breaks down the concept of the ‘Four Horsemen’ in relationships, a term coined by relationship expert John Gottman, into everyday language.

The Overwhelming Wave of Anger

When we’re overcome with anger, it’s like being caught in a flood. Our brains, specifically the frontal cortex responsible for rational thinking and empathy, get overwhelmed. This ‘flooding’ can lead to hasty decisions and regrettable actions because, in that moment, our capacity for rational thought is significantly diminished.

Example: Imagine you’re working on an important project and suddenly, your computer crashes, losing hours of work. The rush of anger that follows can make it hard to think straight or make reasoned decisions.

The 'Four Horsemen' in Everyday Terms

John Gottman’s ‘Four Horsemen’ metaphorically represents four destructive communication habits that can predict the end of a relationship. Here’s a breakdown in simpler terms:

  1. Criticism: This goes beyond complaining about a specific issue; it’s attacking your partner’s character.

    Example: Saying “You’re always so lazy” instead of “I wish you would help more with house chores.”

  2. Defensiveness: This is a way of blaming your partner instead of owning up to your actions. It’s a defense mechanism to protect your ego.

    Example: Responding with “Well, you never help either!” instead of acknowledging your part in the issue.

  3. Contempt: This is any statement or nonverbal behavior that puts you on a higher ground than your partner, like sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, or sneering.

    Example: Mocking your partner or calling them names during an argument.

  4. Stonewalling: This occurs when you completely withdraw from the conversation or the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. It’s like building a wall between you and your partner.

    Example: Giving your partner the silent treatment or physically leaving during an argument.

Conclusion: You’re Not Alone

It’s important for couples to understand that experiencing these patterns doesn’t mean their relationship is doomed. Many couples go through similar challenges. The key is recognizing these patterns and working towards healthier communication. 

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