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  • Writer's pictureThrive Inc.

The Four Horsemen

So often on a team, it’s the leader or loudest person that has the biggest impact on a decision, but this can be costly to the creativity, transformation, engagement, and longevity of the team as a whole. In today’s episode, we’re talking about a set of behaviors that show up in teams and relationships, a concept known as The Four Horsemen, and how these can affect the dynamics of the team.

Clinical Psychologists Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman conducted a study where they discovered four behaviors that can be used to predict with 90% accuracy whether a relationship will fail or last. In this episode, we’re talking about the concept of The Four Horsemen in relation to teams, and showing you how to recognize and use these behaviors to create stronger relationships.

Join us this week to learn why understanding these behaviors can help you cultivate more effective relationships, both in your personal and professional life. We discuss why your team is like a marriage, and share some tools to apply in leadership to help you bring the magic to teamwork.

If you’d like us to speak at your organization about conflict, stress, team-building, or leadership, work with your team virtually, or coach you or leaders on your team, reach out to us!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Learn More:

  • What The Four Horsemen is and how to use it to your advantage.

  • Why your people are your best resource.

  • How to be more aware of the impact of your behavior on your team.

  • The foundations of a strong relationship.

  • How to use feedback to your advantage.

  • Some tips to create better working relationships.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan.

CrisMarie: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships both in person and virtually.

Susan: We are starting 2021 with a series based on our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Teams. We’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team work more effectively especially in this remote and virtual environment. We hope you’ll walk away from this episode and this series with some fresh ideas that change your day, your week and even your life.

Susan: Hello. This is Susan.

CrisMarie: And I’m CrisMarie.

Susan: And today we’re continuing our conversation and our series on the Beauty of Conflict for Teams based on our book, The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage. And we’re going to take a little different twist today because we just finished doing a Beauty of Conflict for Couples. And this is our other book and also a program that we’ve been leading. And we just spent this past weekend leading it…

CrisMarie: In our office.

Susan: Yes, for The Haven which is not in our office but up north.

CrisMarie: So it was an online program and it had about 21 couples in it and we did it for two days and it’s always just very heartwarming and inspirational for me to do this work and I think you too Susan.

Susan: Yes, for sure. Actually yeah, it’s probably the work I am truly most passionate about but not totally. Because it’s so clear to me in couples, their commitment to the relationship, their commitment to each other.

CrisMarie: Even if they’re struggling or towards the – ending, there was one couple that was moving towards ending. And it was their commitment to still – and I don’t know if they’re going to end now after doing the workshop, but to finish strong was powerful.

Susan: Yes. And so really what I love about working with teams is that they’re – I think it’s very similar. Now, it’s not always as recognized in business nor as appreciated, although where it’s appreciated is the end results, when you get to creativity and transformation and awesome money making things. However at the root of it is still I think what makes that the most special is when you have those relationships that are just singing and it’s working.

CrisMarie: It’s so true. I interviewed two leaders, one we’re going to do some more work for and another one just their company just got bought. And so they’ve moved into a much larger company. But these are different conversations and they said, “I think what the main thing is CrisMarie about what transformed our team is the concept of an A team, that we had each other’s backs, we were the team.”

And another one said, “You taught us how to do these four different types of meetings.” He said, “The one that we resisted the most was this daily check in, 15 minutes stand up.” He goes, “That would be the last one I let go of. It’s not like it’s all so efficient but it creates the connections with these humans, that really bring the magic to teamwork.”

Susan: So this has been sort of something I think I’ve been passionate about forever is it’s your people are your best resource. Results matter but maybe your people matter more. But that may just say something about my own valuing system. CrisMarie’s always been, “Both are.”

CrisMarie: I like people and results.

Susan: Yes, we do. So today we are going to focus on something that we talk about a lot in couples which we refer to as The Four Horsemen. And we’re also going to be identifying this through our book and we’re going to be talking about…

CrisMarie: Chapter 18 which is how tense moments equal creative opportunities. And that’s really that sense of conflict where we bump up into each other. And how you handle those moments really lead to whether it’s going to be a lost opportunity or something more.

Susan: And so often on a team when we talk about this in chapter 18 a lot of times it’s the leader or the loudest that has the biggest impact on a decision. And we think that is really costly to creativity, transformation, engagement.

CrisMarie: Even longevity of the team, people staying there and continuing to build.

Susan: Yes. And what gets in the way often though, of being able to address that problem is what we’re going to talk about in terms of The Four Horsemen, some behavioral pieces that show up that may or may not sometimes get rewarded in business. And what we want to say is they might have some rewards for rising you up on the ladder but they’re going to have some really critically bad impact on your relationships.

CrisMarie: Well, not only on your relationships but on you internally. And I think that’s the key that people don’t recognize is the cost to themselves as a human being and the cost of the relationship. I think both are true.

Susan: Yeah, both are true. And then in chapter 18 we actually talk about a situation where we were working with a leader who brought us in because he wanted to kind of deal with some of the dynamics going on his team. And then when he got direct feedback about how one particular person, one daring person on the team dared to speak up and say, “Look, you always side with him. He’s the person you talk to the most. You send him in to check on our areas of our business.”

And the leader got pretty defensive pretty quickly. “We are not going to make him the scapegoat and make him the problem.” And to her credit she courageously said, “I’m not making him the problem. I am making you the problem.”

CrisMarie: To the leader.

Susan: To the leader, took the leader back a little bit. And there was a bit of defensiveness but we reminded him, “You wanted this, remember, you wanted to find out why the team wasn’t operating as a team. Now you’re getting that feedback, you may not like it but sit in it.” And he did. And he began to realize he did like this particular person more, they had their own little team.

CrisMarie: They had a mini team within the team. And we see that so often where leaders, they like somebody, they have a similar style or they think this person’s going to get me the results. And they sidle up to them and they become the confidante of the leader which totally fractures the trust across the team. And most times the leader is unaware that that’s what they’re doing. Maybe they’re not unaware they’re doing it, but they’re unaware of the impact to the team.

Susan: Yeah. And sometimes they’re not even aware they’re doing it because people don’t say anything. This had taken a lot for this woman to speak up and say what she thought was going on. And she wasn’t about to do it, I mean I think part of why she did it was because we were there. And this is why as a leader, when you get someone who’s telling you something you don’t want to hear, just shut up and listen because it’s probably as really – sorry, that’s probably a bit abrupt.

CrisMarie: No, I think that is really good. And then it’s so hard because you want to go on the defense. You want to believe I’m not doing that. But I think your counsel, Susan, is spot on. Just be quiet even though you’re wanting to defend or put that person down. And just say thank you at the end, if that’s all you can muster out. And then say you’ll come back and talk to that person later. But just really take the feedback because it’s taken so much courage for that brave soul to speak up to you.

And most people aren’t making stuff up. As leaders as you rise in the organization you get less and less honest direct feedback. Most people are wanting to kiss your bum, they want to ingratiate themselves into you so that you give them raises, you like them more. And so if somebody’s willing to be that direct I would really honor that. So I just really wanted to underscore that.

Susan: The irony is we see this in couples even over the weekend. There was one couple and I really loved that this person was so willing to say; I realized what we were giving them our tool, we talk about on here called the 5-5-5 and you’re welcome to go back. It’s a tool to help you talk about something that might be difficult.

CrisMarie: Both in business and in a couple.

Susan: Yeah. And this particular person was like, “I don’t think I’ve ever used a tool like that. I am so busy interrupting most of the time. And I really got so much more out of having to make myself listen.” And I was so touched by the humility in that and the humbleness. And the same, I’ve heard the same thing when a leader sits back and doesn’t feel like they have to have the answer but just starts to listen. And it’s like you’ve got some good people out here. Don’t get so busy that you miss them.

CrisMarie: Right. I think that’s great. So the 5-5-5 we have a podcast on it so go back and look at that. But it’s a boundaried conversation and it’s really powerful.

Susan: Now, why we wanted to bring this in so shortly after the couples is because in a couple it’s very obvious that often a couple is looking to how do we make this relationship last, how do we sustain it?

CrisMarie: Or how do we even make it work right now? And hopefully will last. Think about your couple out there.

Susan: And the truth is in some respects you actually want that on the team too. And you really kind of want that in your organization, you want people engaged and committed. However we don’t pay quite as much attention to those relationships. But there are people out in the world because of marriages and coupledom and that have done tons of research about what makes a marriage work and a couple work.

CrisMarie: I have to say sometimes people will be like, “Do you know what? I don’t understand how you work with couples and then you say you work with business teams, CrisMarie and Susan. Pick a niche. What’s going on?” And the reason we work with both is one, we really have some strong heartbeats working with couples because we really like to help see people connect. But that’s also true on teams.

And the dynamics can be so similar because what we’re dealing with are two or more humans who are trying to be an individual, struggling to kind of work together on something and trying to make room for the other human beings in there. And we fall down in the same ways, both in our couple and on our business teams.

Susan: And the truth is in our book, CrisMarie, we really – the model…

CrisMarie: Do you mean the business book?

Susan: Both really, they’re the same model.

CrisMarie: That’s true.

Susan: I don’t know if anyone’s picked that up.

CrisMarie: If you try The Beauty of Conflict for Couples you’ll see the same model.

Susan: You’ll see that it’s very similar and there is a reason for that, because the dynamics in relationships, we say a team is someone who’s passionate about something, a goal. And they have smart people and there are high stakes and they’re going after something, differing opinions. Well, in some respects that’s the exact same dynamic.

CrisMarie: I know, on a couple we talk about it having a romance where you meet this person and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, all these good things can happen.” So now all of a sudden now you have a goal, a high stakes goal and you’re passionate about this person. And they’re different, so they’re unique and they have different opinions and yeah, there you go.

Susan: I mean I know you guys out there listening are probably thinking do not tell me that working as an executive is like a marriage. And so I don’t want to scare you. So I’m not going to, you know, well, I am going to say try thinking of it more in terms of it’s an important relationship. So we want to talk about some of the things that have come out of some of the research about couples. Can I go there?

CrisMarie: You could and I was going to actually go there.

Susan: I saw you raising your hand.

CrisMarie: She gave me kind of a look and so we’ll talk about that.

Susan: Bid for connection, so I was trying to pay attention.

CrisMarie: Okay. So the Gottmans from the Gottman Institute in Seattle, he’s a researcher, she is a clinical psychologist. And they have studied couples. So couples come into their lab and they study their behavior. Thank goodness for these couples that are willing to do that. And they have found there are four behaviors that they can predict with 90% accuracy whether a relationship’s going to fail or go on. And within the first six years they have that predictive.

And so the behaviors, we’re going to give them to you, we’re also going to relate them to teams. But for you just as you hear them think about how you show up with your partner and how you show up at work. And the first behavior is criticism. So that’s being critical of what something’s saying, pointing it out. The second is contempt which contempt is really I am better than you. So it’s this I’m better, you’re less than energy that comes out. We’ll talk about how that shows up. The third is defensiveness and the fourth is stonewalling.

I think defensiveness is you start to explain your position. Stonewalling is really I’m not going to talk about it. You disengage. You somehow want to get away. That’s stonewalling. And it’s often because you’re flooded.

Susan: So we believe that similar to the research they’ve done in the couples, I mean our experience has been that these same four horsemen show up on teams all the time.

CrisMarie: Yes, they do.

Susan: And in leadership teams and project teams across organizations. Obviously you may not have the same motivating force to pay attention to it. What’s ironic about this is sometimes people get well rewarded for how critical they can be. And in some respects that they think they’re superior.

CrisMarie: Yes, that’s true. They can defend their position.

Susan: Yeah, so it’s a very tricky ground sometimes just to be in an organization and recognize The Four Horsemen showing up. And even inside yourself and not think I’m getting rewarded for this. But we really want you to look at it can be at a pretty high cost.

CrisMarie: To the relationship but also to yourself, that’s why we work with teams. Often you’re swimming in a corporate culture that does reward these four horsemen. But in a team…

Susan: No one would say that directly. I don’t think any business says, “We are now going to really give you bonus checks for how often you demonstrate these four things.”

CrisMarie: No, they wouldn’t. But you can start to watch who gets promoted and how are they behaving. And I have seen this in organizations and people start copying this person who is just behaving poorly towards people because he or she is getting rewarded, so that’s how I learn my behavior in that culture.

But I wanted to say, on a team those relationships are closer, hopefully you’re working on something together. And you’ve got that meaning and purpose in that container. So even if you’re swimming in that culture you can have a different experience on your team. Yes, Susan, you’re raising your hand, go ahead.

Susan: Because I also want to talk about, I mean they talked about the four predictors of what leads to a failed marriage or relationship. And it’s important to pay attention to these things and really think about this in terms of your business. What they described as the foundation for success or mastery in couples is things like trust and commitment, friendship, goodwill, laughter, reinventing meaning and purpose.

CrisMarie: Asking open ended questions which means well, I don’t actually understand that. Or, why is that so important to you? Or, help me understand. They do that often.

Susan: And responding to bids for connection. And why I bring that up is because if you think about that list, I know those aren’t the things that you think of, boy, I want to make sure the people I hire have these. But if you think about where you’ve really loved to work, where you have gotten the most out of things, most of these things I’m going to guess were a part of it.

CrisMarie: And yeah, let’s just talk about them a little bit more. So even the last one, what does it mean to respond to a bid for connection? Well, in a couple it means if you’re having coffee and somebody says, “I’m reading this in the paper.” The other person would not just ignore it but actually, “Tell me about it. That’s interesting.” You’d have a little conversation about it.

Susan: And I was going to parallel that to a situation that I was on in a team recently. Well, actually a person I was coaching was describing this to me. They said, “Sometimes there’s this one person and they bring up something and no one says anything. And we don’t acknowledge what was said and I have to admit I have my own little thing of this is going to slow us down, there’s no way I’m going to…”

CrisMarie: This is the client who’s saying that?

Susan: Yeah. And yet at the same time even he was recognizing that person is offering a bid for connection. They want something. They either want you to say, “No, this is not a good idea.”

CrisMarie: Or here’s what I’m understanding are your ideas, tell me more.

Susan: But the worst thing in the world is that silence. And I know another leader I worked with said, “Sometimes I put things out and I just get crickets, nothing, I hear nothing.” So those are those opportunities, they’re bids for connection and when nobody says anything.

CrisMarie: Yeah, those can happen in a meeting where you’re saying something and it’s like, excuse me, but it’s like a turd in the middle of the room. Nobody acknowledges it. It could even be just responding to people’s emails or texts. We worked with this CEO, he would reply to anybody’s email, it did not matter where they were in the organization, who they were, he would respond within the day and often within the hour. He was conscientious and still is when I email him. Now, there’s other people that…

Susan: And it wasn’t a tiny little organization, yeah.

CrisMarie: No, this is a 300 million, something like that.

Susan: I meant numbers of people.

CrisMarie: Okay, yeah. And another company that we work with, they all complain that it’s a horrible email culture. And some emails just are not answered at all. And it’s like where did it go, into the abyss. Because that’s really like oh my gosh, what I’m saying doesn’t matter. Who I am isn’t important. That’s what can happen when you put out a bid for connection and it’s not met with anything.

Susan: And I also have sat in many a meeting where there’s not any real open ended questions. There’s just a lot of kind of, “Here’s my idea. Here’s what I think.” Even if you’re agreeing with someone you’re still not really asking to further their idea, you’re just jumping in with yours. And so it does help sometimes to just ask that question. “Why is this so important to you? You are fighting for this and I’m not sure what’s going on.”

CrisMarie: Or help me understand, what are you talking about? I don’t get it. And we have talked about this. I don’t know if we’ve talked about it on our podcast. We certainly talk about it in the book. The larger the meeting, because sometimes people want to have, especially virtually, let’s just invite everybody because everybody wants to know.

And if you have more than 12 people, and 12 is a high number of people, people don’t want to drop in and look like, well, I don’t know what I’m talking about. So they will more advocate for their position, making statements versus dropping into that inquiry and being willing to look vulnerable. And really a size of six to eight is probably a sweet spot on a team size.

Susan: Now, I want to kind of move us, CrisMarie, to talking about two, I’m going to think are maybe a little harder to spot.

CrisMarie: Are we talking about the horsemen now?

Susan: Yeah. I’m going to talk first about contempt because I think really contempt can seem a little bit like criticism, but the key difference between just a critical leader and a contemptuous leader is if that person actually thinks they’re superior. And I’m going to bring up a touchy topic but one that I think is, you know, we often come in to do what we call the kind of leadership development. And I am always struck by leaders who are like, “My people need this.”

CrisMarie: Where the executive team isn’t willing to go through the leadership development.

Susan: Now, usually there’s a whole explanation about we don’t have time, we’re too busy, we’re too this. But a lot of times there’s also an element of contempt, these people do not know how to do the most basic thing a leader should know how to do. And it’s like well, do you realize if you showed up as a genuine person and just demonstrated that without the superiority in a group of your leaders, how much influence?

CrisMarie: What do you mean if you showed up?

Susan: If they showed up at one of the developmental programs themselves and didn’t come in kind of watching and waiting for their people to develop, but just were honest and real themselves their people would get the benefit of their mastery. We have seen those types of leaders do that.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And if they think it’s for the other person, and I’ve talked on a podcast how my own level of contempt can rise up. I can think I know more about this and so contempt can be, how do you know there is contempt? It’s interrupting. It’s correcting, criticism, finishing somebody’s sentences, which we do all the time but hopefully that’s positive. Making fun of, even non-verbally like eye rolling, turning away, sighing, walking out of the room.

Susan: And I do think though, I mean I really want to bring this home to paying attention to checking yourself whether it’s contempt or criticism. Because the contempt is that superiority piece, and you know when you think you’re better than your people. We’re not saying that doesn’t ever happen, just own it.

CrisMarie: It happens to all of us. So I want to really normalize it, of course you’re going to feel contempt at times. The key is we want to raise a flag that this is not a healthy thing. It’s not even healthy for you because no one of us is better than. And it’s tricky in an organization because there you go, they’re, I’m the boss. I am better.

I was coaching a woman who was working for a well known personality and she was part of their business team and asked a question and from this well known personality got, “My god”, kind of like the signs like that is the dumbest question in the world. And she pretty much left the organization because she’s like, “I don’t want to be treated this way.” And so people can believe their own press, their own position of authority that I am a better human being. I deserve more air time and you should be quiet, get out of my way.

Susan: And I mean I think it’s even more right now with all that’s going on around diversity and inclusion. It is so easy to think that – I mean the whole idea is that as a white person in our culture, we probably do, we get taught that we’re superior. And so there is always going to be some blind sight to contempt. And whether you really want to own it, or look at it, or deal with it, and diversity training isn’t going to actually really get you there unless you start really looking under the hood.

CrisMarie: Well, hopefully they’ll give you some indicators. So we don’t want to diss it. But it really is that real time, wait a minute, what am I doing in this meeting. Maybe it’s not even a person of color or it’s just another human being that I think I’m smarter than and that same behavior happens. They ask a bumbling question or I ask them a question and they don’t come back with sharp answer. I’m like okay, I’m losing respect for them, they are not longer. It’s that entitlement that I am better.

Susan: So that contempt is a big one. Now, in the world of marriage and things like that, that is actually the one that’s the loudest destroyer.

CrisMarie: Can you talk more about why, Susan, that contempt is bad for the human, or any of these horsemen are bad for the individual? It’s certainly bad for the relationship, but why is it bad for me to keep going to contempt or keep criticizing?

Susan: I mean I think the biggest issue there is you’re in a place of separation from yourself. When you think you’re better than, superior to, there is always a way in which you are separating from just your own humanity. We are fundamentally all humans. We are equal, I mean not just you can deal with this with humans. But we have a huge amount of contempt for the world around us, like other animals, other people. And it’s like really, these animals have been more resilient and live longer than a lot of human beings walking on the planet. But because of our neocortex and our brain we start to think we are better than.

CrisMarie: I think this is true, and just even bringing it back to the human race, this can happen to leaders, or celebrities, they start to believe their own press that I am a better human being. And then they’re confronted with their own divorce, or health issues, or they fail at something and they can’t handle the failure because they believed I am better than.

Susan: Yes. And maybe this is where you’re going CrisMarie, I have always said that really smart people have a much harder life to live because they sometimes – they’re right a lot of the time. Then when they make a mistake it’s huge. Then when they don’t understand and it’s really big, and so I think it’s even harder then to sometimes turn inwards and really look at it. And so I’ve always been grateful that I wasn’t that kind of brilliant.

CrisMarie: You are baloney.

Susan: But, you know, well, I mean I’ve got a lot of opportunities to be humbled. Let’s just call it that way. So now, the other one I did want to talk about that I think gets really missed in business is this stonewalling idea. Because really behind stonewalling usually means that you are flooded or overwhelmed.

CrisMarie: People may not understand that term but I certainly have a felt sense of it when I am flooded. There is something happening and emotionally I am, like it’s like my CPU is all filled up and I can’t even process because I feel like I’m going to cry or I feel angry, whatever. I’m flooded with my emotions.

Susan: And frankly I think this is one of the ones in a business culture that has been almost trained out of people. I don’t know how many executives I’ve been working with and especially in the last year where it’s like, well, for the first time there is this, you know, we have a world pandemic so we’re going to pay attention to stress. But the reality of it is I would say that a lot of people, executives in particular have been dealing with their own internal flooding and feeling overwhelmed for a long time. And you just don’t admit it in a culture that’s all about get it done.

And so you don’t even recognize that what’s happening is you don’t answer the emails, you don’t respond to people, all these other things. But underneath it you have this internal sense of constantly being flooded and not being present.

CrisMarie: Yeah, there is one leader in particular who doesn’t answer texts, doesn’t answer emails, goes on to the next thing. I have a sense that this person is so stressed that he doesn’t even realize it. I was trying to ask him to close his eyes and breathe and he’s like, “I can’t do that. I’ve got to go on. I’m trying to stay ahead and triage just the bare minimum of what I have to do because I am so overwhelmed with what I have to do.”

Susan: Or they do it in a language of that is a dumb thing to do, breathe. I am not going to. Now, you see the contempt coming out but behind that contempt is really what’s even worse, is the sense of helplessness and feeling flooded and not knowing how to get out of that. And the key to stonewalling, if you recognize yourself sort of feeling I never have time to do anything.

CrisMarie: Before you go there, if you don’t have time or if you’re like I’m just not going to talk about it. We’re not going to talk about that subject. That is the stonewalling, so you’re walking out or you’re shutting down. I’m going to check my phone and you’re ignoring this other person even if they’re in the screen in front of you.

Susan: So I mean you’re not going to want to hear this you big time executives. But really what you need to do is step away and self-soothe, take care of yourself, do some self-care.

CrisMarie: If you don’t like that, well, a different way to frame this is, is take a distracting break. So how this showed up in the couples, they were studying these couples and they’d be into this fight and stonewalling each other. And so they’d say, “Okay, go take a break. Read a magazine. Go out in the waiting room. We’ve got some technology issues.” And they would take a 20 minute break or 30 minute break, come back in and it was like it was a different couple.

So what happens when you take a distracting break, take a walk, read a magazine, do something completely that feels good to you, your brain comes back online because you’re processing those, cortisol and the adrenaline gets absorbed into your body and you can think better and respond better.

Susan: And the problem is if you wait all day to finally be able to kind of do something different at the end of the day. And nowadays you’re at home anyway so it’s all the same territory probably. You really are missing an opportunity to get to your highest level of brain power as well as your highest ability to relate and be relational on these, meetings that make, you know, let’s face it, remote meetings are hard enough for connection. If you are absent because you’re not really dealing with yourself.

CrisMarie: You mean you’re there but you’re absent in your brain because you’re stonewalling.

Susan: Yeah. Then you’re really not going to have the connection online.

CrisMarie: So we would encourage you to actually skip the next 20 minutes of the next meeting and go take care of yourself and come back. And you will be a better human being and more effective on the stonewalling. So what I want to do is Susan’s giving you kind of the antidote to stonewalling, when you recognize you’re stonewalling. When you recognize you’re criticizing, meaning Susan, you need to do it differently, which I go to often.

The antidote to that is rather than talking about the other person is actually identify what you’re feeling, like I’m frustrated. And then say a positive want, like I want us to create the outline for the podcast or I want, whatever that is.

Susan: I want us to get to next steps at the end of this meeting instead of just talking about one topic.

CrisMarie: Yes, that’s great. So I feel frustrated. I feel anxious. I feel whatever, so be willing to locate your feeling and reveal it and then the I want. So that’s what you do if you’re stuck in criticism.

Susan: Now, if you’re stuck in contempt that really is where you have to work to build your bids, recognize bids for connection, do things to build your bank account of goodwill.

CrisMarie: Yeah, and appreciating this person is not a loser. They have other attributes that you admire and are doing their job well. Find ways that you think they are actually doing things well and recognize that.

Susan: And if you say them when you’re still in the contempt it’s going to sound phony. But if you just recognize them then when you’re feeling different you can come back and say something to this person about what they do, do well. You might find that’s much better than just carrying on with your oh my God, these people are worthless.

CrisMarie: Because when you’re in your contempt you’re in that stress spot where your IQ has dropped 10 to 15 points and you’ve got a narrow focus. So you’re only focusing on they couldn’t answer that question, or they’re not doing this. And you’re missing the larger picture of who they are and what they contribute.

Susan: So with defensiveness, this is, you know, to me this is classic leadership stuff, you’ve got to own your part. And this as a leader can be really hard because people want to only tell you the good stuff. And your defenses, I can almost guarantee you, we all do them. And you need somebody who’d going to tell you. And then you need to be willing to own, I do, do that, yeah.

CrisMarie: Or I am doing that right now, I feel defensive.

Susan: Yeah. But it’s not like you have to get rid of it. You just need to own it. And that can be, well, I am defensive.

CrisMarie: I think I would actually say you’re not going to get rid of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling in yourself. But the key is to recognize them as red flags and ask yourself, what do I really want here? And then use these other pieces that we’re telling you with the criticism, I feel I want, with the contempt, build that bank account of appreciation, defensiveness, own your part. And then stonewalling, take that distracting break.

Susan: Yes. So we hope that you found this helpful. And we will continue to bring things out about from our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Teams.

CrisMarie: And couples and teams from our perspective aren’t that different. There’s so many human dynamics that are the same. So if you would like us to speak at your organization or work with your team, or a couple, or coach you, please reach out to us at, that’s And you can find out more about us at our website Alright, take care.

Susan: Wow, CrisMarie, I have sure been enjoying doing this series for teams and utilizing our chapters from our book The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage. It’s been fun to go back and review the material and apply it to virtual teams.

CrisMarie: It’s true. And it’s so much good bite sized material in these chapters, I mean if I do say so myself. And if you want us to speak at your organization, or work with your team, yes, virtually, we’ve been doing that, team sessions, or coach you or leaders on your team, please reach out to us. You can check us out at our website, that’s or send us an email, write to us directly, we’re happy to chat,, that’s Okay, take care.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Download the eBook, How to Talk About Difficult Topics, today!

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