John M. Gottman on Maintaining Good RelationshipsThe December issue of the Harvard Business Review has a thought-provoking interview with John M. Gottman, a psychologist who has been studying marriage and divorce for about 35 years.
Diane Coutu, a senior editor at HBR, interviewed Gottman about his research, with the idea that readers could decide where Gottman's findings about personal relationships could apply to their relationships in the workplace.
The whole interview only six pages, including the introduction is worth reading. As an example of Gottman's insights, here is the start of his answer to Coutu's question concerning his biggest discovery:
It sounds simple, but in fact you could capture all of my research findings with the metaphor of a saltshaker. Instead of filling it with salt, fill it with all the ways you can say yes, and that's what a good relationship is. "Yes," you say, "that is a good idea." "Yes, that's a great point, I never thought of that." "Yes, let's do that if you think it's important." You sprinkle yeses throughout your interactions that's what a good relationship is.Another particularly resonant comment comes in response to the question, "What would you suggest we be on guard against in relationships?" Gottman replies:
What I call the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt are the best predictors of breakup or continued misery. Readers familiar with my work will remember that I consider contempt to be the worst ... Inevitably, contempt leads to greater conflict and negativity.You can read more about Gottman's research in his 1994 book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last.