How Contempt Destroys Relationships


How Contempt Destroys Relationships
A dismissive stance invites relationship ills. Eye rolling is one sign. A curled lip is another.

3) Contempt signifies a toxicity dump.

Contempt dumps toxicity into a relationship.


As Eric Berne once wrote, relationships that convey “I’m OK, You’re OK” feel safe.  “I’m OK, You’re Not OK” feels unsafe.

We all want to feel positive about ourselves.  Negative messages of you’re-not-ok are in this sense toxic, poisoning our self-concept like mercury poisons a pool of water.

Tone alone can convey the contemptuous you're not ok message.  Even if the words are fine, when the tone sounds contemptuous, the tone will prevail.

4  Contempt sigifies rejection.

Rejection may be of what the other person is saying.  It may be also of the other person as a whole.

A baby who tastes rotten food immediately wrinkles his nose, curls his lips in an expression of disgust, and spits it out.  When someone speaks to you with a tone of contempt, you are likely to feel spit out from that person’s world.  “Get out of my life” is the subconscious message embedded in the "you're not ok" and "your concerns and your thoughts are not ok" tags that get communicated via contemptuous tone of voice or attitudes.

If you are the person who felt the contempt/disgust, you are likely to choose to leave the relationship, to spit it out from your lifespace.  If you feel you have been treated in this manner, you also are likely to exit the relationship.  That’s because most people react to being treated contemptuously with the thought “If you don’t want me, then I don’t want you!”

5.  Contempt signifies breaks in the flow.

A relationship connection is expressed and reinforced via information-sharing, that is, by talking and listening.  As soon as you say something to me and I respond in a way that indicates that I have heard and accepted your information, we both will feel connected.  In a good conversation, two people take turns offering and accepting information, braiding their connection all the while.

If, by contrast, you dismiss what I say, brushing my input aside as if it were unimportant or wrong, the break in the flow of information between us severs the connection.  Contemptuous spitting out or dismissing of what the other person in a relationship has said causes a break in the flow of information much like a broken pipe causes a break in the flow of a liquid.

6.  Contempt invites feelings of hopelessness.

Psychologist Martin Seligman clarified that when people feel depressed, i.e., hopeless, they regard a negative attribute as permanent and pervasive, i.e., as something that will always be there and cannot be changed.  Contempt conveys the sense that you have a quality that is hopelessly unfixable.

What’s the alternative to contempt?

LIstening to understand, appreciate and agree is the opposite of listening dismissively with contempt.

Another alternative to contempt in relationships is positivity.  Positive people enhance their relationships via positive communications such as, for instance, appreciation, gratitude, affection, agreement, interest and smiles.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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