Do you have questions about how to build really good relationships with others? This could be a relationship with your spouse/partner or with friends, family, fellow workers or your boss. Building GREAT relationships with anyone has the same foundation.

A Psychologist by the name of Dr. Gottman did some really cool studies on predictors of relationship breakdown. In married couples, the presence of the following four elements was a high indicator of future divorce.

It’s not hard to generalize his findings and realize that the presence of these in ANY relationship is going to cause problems.

1. Criticism, sarcasm, and judgments – the words you use, your tone and the body language that accompanies it create distrust and defensiveness. Criticism, sarcasm and judgment of another person implies that there is something wrong with them which in turn causes that person to be defensive. When people are busy defending themselves, open communication often shuts down. When couples don’t communicate the relationship becomes fractured. The more this pattern is used, it is likely that these two people will eventually stop connecting.

2. Contempt, mocking or acting superior – When someone is on the receiving end of this, it feels aggressive, negative and completely lacking in love. This causes people to withdraw, shrink back, become small – or conversely, they may attack. There is no listening, no real conversation happening and over time, this will erode the connection that people have.

3. Defensiveness – This happens when people feel attacked or criticized even if it isn’t the case. Rather than being able to have a conversation about whatever issue has been raised, defensive people site all the reasons why the other person is wrong. Rather than trying to discover if they had any responsibility for the other person’s problem, defensive people project blame outward – it has nothing to do with them. When someone is always defensive, it makes open, honest communication impossible and in the end, communication stops.

4. Stonewalling – This occurs when a person doesn’t respond and avoids all conversation in the hope that it will calm down and go away. The reality is that issues never get resolved this way, the issue will resurface, often more dramatically than in the past. This can lead to major blowouts, which in turn can severely damage relationships. In blowouts people often say things they don’t mean, bring up subjects that are designed to hurt the other person, and can become condescending and cruel – never a good thing!

Relationships are the product of every small choice you make. Refusing to communicate in the above ways and finding a way to always communicate from a place of love and respect is CRITICAL to a healthy relationship. Loving the other person enough to really listen to them, acknowledge what they say and involve their thoughts in decisions is critical to building intimacy and connection. You also need to love and respect yourself enough to communicate honestly and sincerely.

We are not taught how to build GREAT relationships. Most of us have learned about relationship skills from our parents and family. If they did things well, then we will do things well. If there were problems at home, we may not have the crucial skills and attitudes necessary to building GREAT relationships.

If you have challenges and if you feel stuck, book an appointment and come see me. Most challenges are easily solvable. The sooner you get help, less damage will happen and you will have confidence to build a GREAT relationship!