I like to think that I have saved some marriages while teaching my public speaking classes.
Well, not through my own words of wisdom, per se, but by the sharing of the wondrous works of Dr. Paul Ekman which in turn led me to those of Dr. John Gottman.
Not familiar with Dr. Ekman? Do you recall the television drama Lie to Me that aired from 2009-2011? The show was loosely based on Dr. Ekman’s work; he actually served as an advisor on the show.
Dr. Ekman was named one of the world’s most influential people by TIME Magazine in 2009. He’s the psychologist credited with proving that the facial expressions of fear, anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, surprise, and contempt are universal.
Along with three other psychologists, he co-discovered micro expressions. According to Dr. Ekman’s website, micro expressions are “facial expressions that occur within 1/25th of a second. They are involuntary and expose a person’s true emotions.”
So while we may be faking an emotion with our words, our truth is displayed on our faces if someone is watching closely and has studied how to read faces.
Dr. Gottman is an expert in couples’ relational work. He’s been nicknamed “the divorce guy” because, with astonishing accuracy, he predicts divorces.
According to his website, he identified four main negative communication patterns that lead to divorce. They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
But contempt is the worst. It’s disrespectful and destructive since when we are contemptuous of another person, we’re purposefully attempting to make that person feel worthless and despised.
Sarcasm is a form of contempt. I detest sarcasm. I don’t think it’s funny; it’s just plain mean. Sarcasm is used when someone says something mean in an indirect way. If the receiver of sarcasm expresses feelings of displeasure, the sarcastic person’s comeback is typically something like, “Chill out; I was just kidding.” “What’s the matter with you; can’t you take a joke?” “Why do you always overreact?”
That makes the sarcasm even worse, since the receiver is now supposed to figuratively wear a sign that says, “I’m just too sensitive.”
Rolling our eyes at another person is a form of sarcasm as is the one word response of “whatever.” (Persons who combine those two double the sarcasm.) I’m upset to know there is an eye roll emoji. 🙄 What, we don’t get enough eye-rolling sarcasm verbally that we now have to have an emoji? Oh wait, I’m being sarcastic. Can’t you take a joke?
Here’s some great advice from the Huffington Post piece noted below:
“Make it your goal to become aware of what contempt is….When you feel the urge to go there, take a deep breath, and say ‘stop’ quietly to yourself. Find another way to make your point. Contempt is a bad habit like smoking or nail biting. With work, you can break it.” — Bonnie Ray Kennan, a psychotherapist based in Torrance, California
Just remember the next time we speak face-to-face, know that I’m going to be watching you. And now you’ll be watching me too.
Links to articles noted above: