I presented  “Leadership Using Active Listening” last week to the MN Institute of Food Technologists Young Professionals and will be presenting it again this coming week to the Central MN Manufacturers Association.  There’s always a lot of interest in the psychologist Gottman’s Four Horses of the Apocalypse.

In the bible, the four horses presaged the end of the world.  In Gottman’s couples theory, these four attitudes suggest the end of relationships:  criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling.

While Gottman focused on romantic relationships, the negative attitudes can be equally detrimental in the work place.

How can you avoid these attitudes and what do you replace them with, so you can be what Gottman calls a “master” vs. a “disaster”?

1)    When giving feedback, focus on specific incidents and avoid generalizations and words like “always” and “never”.

2)    Avoid hostile humor and sarcasm, including eye-rolling.  Even subtle body language can communicate contempt.

3)    Don’t disagree by cross-complaining and placing blame on the other person.

4)    Avoid stony silence that is really conveying disapproval, distance or disconnection.


1)    Validate and find something that makes sense to you about what your personal or professional partner says.

2)    Claim responsibility for your part.

3)    Let go of stories that you make up.

4)    Give five times as much positive feeling/feedback as negative.

The 5:1 ratio is at the heart of successful relationships, whether personal or professional.  Giving good feedback is an art, but it can be learned.  Realizing that everyone is doing his or her best (even when it looks or feels otherwise) can help keep you on an even keel.

And may your pursue all your relationships with purpose, passion and peace.

Best wishes,