I call contempt criticism+. That would be criticism plus a judgment of the person a whole. Contempt happens in many ways including judgment, sarcasm, and anything that makes a generalized statement about a person's character or behaviors. This is the most damaging of the four things that happen in fights which we have discussed so far.
According to John Gottman, Ph.D., the antidote to contempt is stating our needs. When we make a judgment about somebody, we are actually trying to get our needs met by expressing a desire for the other person to change. The "problem" we run into is that stating a need is not only a more vulnerable act, this also gives the other person the opportunity to reject us! How awful!
This is not as awful as the person feels when they are on the other end of contempt. Contemptuous comments and behaviors (usually passive aggressive) make people feel terrible. When we use contempt, we are usually commenting on the entire person, which can lead to the other person feeling entirely worthless!
When we are hurt and want a need met, it can be very hard to resist the temptation to judge or be contemptuous. However, it is always worth any effort we put forth. Resisting this requires us to stop a minute to find the little wish we have that we are too afraid to share. Sharing this and being willing to be a little vulnerable is the only way for our wish to come true.
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