The Four Horsemen: Signs Your (Business) Relationship is in Trouble

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The Four Horsemen

“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death. We use this metaphor to describe communication styles that, according to our research, can predict the end of a relationship.”

Elle Lisitsa

The Four Horsemen of destruction in relationships are:

Criticism – Verbally attacking personality or character

Contempt – Attacking sense of self with intent to insult or abuse

Defensiveness – Victimizing yourself to ward off a perceived attack and reverse the blame

Stonewalling – Withdrawing to avoid conflict and convey disapproval, distance and separation

These are often used in couple’s therapy, but are just as true in business relationships and the relationships on your leadership team.

The Antidotes

Have you noticed people using these in your leadership team meetings? Maybe they creep up in day-to-day interactions? Address them immediately – before they ruin your relationships, your culture, and your business. Here’s how:

Criticism – When a person uses criticism, they should use “I” statements to soften the communication and state what they need instead of what the other person should or should not do.

Contempt – If the team notices sarcasm, cynicism, eye rolling, mockery, or hostile humor, they should work on showing appreciation for one another. Find the good.

Defensiveness – When the team notices defensiveness, they should work to allow the each party to see their part in the situation and offer apologies.

Stonewalling – If someone has shut down, it is time to take a break to allow the person time to open up again.

The Elephant in the Room

Of course, in order to recognize these destructive communication styles, someone must call them out – to address the Elephant in the room. Have the courage to speak up and put words to what everyone is thinking anyway. EOS Implementers call this “entering the danger”.

Vision, Traction, Healthy

The tools of the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) address 3 things in your business:

  • Vision
  • Traction
  • Team Health

Your Vision is about where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. We define it and document it so it can be communicated and shared by everyone in the company. A clear, exciting, shared Vision is a powerful motivator.

You have Traction in your business when you are making progress toward that Vision. Progress takes discipline and accountability and EOS has the tools to make it easier.

Your Team is Healthy when there is openness and honesty between team members. Issues are solved more quickly and more permanently when people feel comfortable talking about them and getting to the heart of the matter. Business relationships are similar to personal relationships – in fact, they are personal and they can suffer from the same destructive tendencies.

Don’t let the Four Horsemen of destructive relationships ruin your business.

To learn more about The Four Horsemen:

Next Steps:

  • To learn more, you can download a free chapter of Traction here: EOS Traction Chapter 1
  • For a free overview of EOS and the tools that can transform your business, schedule me here: 90 Minute Workshop