If I had to summarise my work, it would be this, “If I can’t help your save your relationship, I want to save your divorce.”
And my podcast recommendations skew towards this goal. But the podcast also has to be a great listen. Because let’s face it, if you’re in the relationship swamp, you need that. You need something engaging, thought-provoking and captivating – and the captivation factor, for me, is usually found in the rapport between the host & the guest.
This week’s podcast interview checked all those boxes. It’s Dr John Gottman being interviewed on The Armchair Expert by American actor, director and writer Dax Shepard and Emmy-nominated Monica Padman.
As we say down-under, it’s a cracker!
Because I’m so immersed in relationships and separations, I assume everyone’s familiar with the work of Dr John Gottman, Dr Julie Gottman and The Gottman Institute. One of their most well-known theories is “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”. These are 4 negative communication patterns that can predict the success or failure of your relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
And what do The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse have in common? They’re all negative communication patterns. But because the Gottmans and The Gottman Institute is directed to strengthening relationships, they don’t just identify the problem, they provide solutions. Research-based solutions. Here’s an overview:
- Criticism - Most of us are super-sensitive to criticism so I’m sure you don’t need many examples (You’re so selfish, You’re always late, You never...) One of the problems with criticism is its an attack on the character of the other person, not the specific behaviour that caused the problem. So, one remedy for this negative communication habit is to talk about your feelings using “I” statements and then express a positive need.
- Contempt - This is an expression of superiority shown in many forms e.g. sarcasm, hostile humour, sneering, cynicism, eye-rolling, name-calling. And guess what? Contempt is the greatest predictor of relationship failure. Instead, you need to treat the listener with respect and “build a culture of appreciation in the relationship.”
- Defensiveness – This is a form of self-protection. It can also be an underhanded way of blaming your partner. Sometimes, it’s very obvious but it can show up as playing the victim or righteous indignation. The solution is to accept responsibility for the conflict or accept responsibility for your part of the conflict.
- Stonewalling – Recognise this one? It’s when the listener withdraws from the conversation before anything’s resolved. A solution? Have a break, calm down and then try again.
John Gottman is such an engaging speaker with so much knowledge, wisdom and humour to share, so it’s not surprising that he’s a popular guest on many podcasts. If you do a search of his name on any of the podcast platforms, you’ll find a long list of interviews. It’s harder to find interviews with his wife, Dr Julie Gottman who is the co-founder of The Gottman Institute. But wisely, John refers to and acknowledges his wife throughout the interview and I’m sure that this appreciation is one of the reasons it sounds like they have such a fulfilling and happy marriage.
Startling detail from the interview
During World War II, President Roosevelt conveyed 38 countries and asked them to take Jewish refugees. The Dominican Republic was the only country who agreed and that’s how Dr Gottman came to be born in the Dominican Republic.
More details about the podcast “The Armchair Expert”
Show summary: “Hi, I’m Dax Shepard, and I love talking to people. I am endlessly fascinated by the messiness of being human, and I find people who are vulnerable and honest about their struggles and shortcomings to be incredibly sexy. I invite you to join me as I explore other people’s stories. We will celebrate, above all, the challenges and setbacks that ultimately lead to growth and betterment. What qualifies me for such an endeavour? More than a decade of sobriety, a degree in Anthropology and four years of improv training. I will attempt to discover human “truths” without any laboratory work, clinical trials or data collection. I will be, in the great tradition of 16th-century scientists, an Armchair Expert.”
How I discovered the show: Through youth power.
This is one of my nieces’ favourite podcasts. Her favourite series is The Real Housewives of New York City. I’m still searching for the common link. Could it be.... entertaining? Mmm....
Start date and episodes to date:
The show began in February 2019 and, to date, there are more than 200 interviews with academics, journalists and celebrities. In fact, the first interview is with Dax’ wife, Kirsten Bell.
Popularity: Super-duper! (I’m currently working on a more refined popularity scale)
Want to have a listen? Set 2.5 hours aside, because it's worth it! Click here for the TGIP (thank God it's podcasting!) post.