Listen for the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse”

“Silence and Violence . . . they create connection, right?”
Villain / Victim / Martyr / Helpless / Surrender – all your “friends” are here


This phrase is a biblical reference; the Four Horsemen are the forces of man’s destruction (Conquest, War, Famine, and Death).  In the below case, picture four black horses and four horsemen in black, riding across an open, barren desert.  When they hear their names (below), they will ride closer to you. 



Complaining and whining are not helpful, but suggesting/telling someone that there is actually something wrong with them is acidic.  You’re saying that the person you’re speaking to or about has some trait or character flaw.  “It’s silly to do it that way (you fool).”  “Don’t you see what’s going on (you idiot)?”  “You’re wearing that (tasteless boob)?”  “You’re slow, hurry up (disorganized)!”  “How come you don’t say as many nice things to me anymore (inconsiderate/uncaring)?”  “You’re always so busy (I’m not important).”  “You used to be more _____ and _____, what happened?”  Judgment / evaluation / labeling / diagnosis.



You’re warding off an attack in some manner.  Sometimes the intent is “How can I help you realize that you’re wrong?”  Whining is a common defensive response as well:  “I was really listening!”  “I’m the innocent victim!”  “I’m doing good stuff here!”  “You don’t appreciate me!”  Another acidic response is “I haven’t had this problem before; it must be you!”
“MASKING” is a subset of this Horseman . . . being deceitful / covering up / elusive / evasive / controlling.
“ATTACKING” is another subset – go on the offensive in one’s effort to be defensive.



You take the stance of moral superiority. “I’m on a higher plane.  I’m a better human being.”  Insults fit here. Sometimes contempt is more subtle: “Here, I’m going to do that, because you can’t” or correcting someone’s behavior or grammar. Nonverbal contempt looks like an eye roll, or a corner of the mouth turned up–this can take a split second. The other 3 “horsemen” are all acidic, but this one is sulfuric acid. 



Disengage and wait for things to blow over.  Offer meager responses.  Placate.  Arms folded.  Look down.  Walk away.  Contemptuous stonewalling – “Just tap me on the shoulder when you’re done.”  “Okay, okay, just get off it!”  “Yes.”  “No.”


So What

The above version was coined by John Gottman, Ph.D., who has been studying healthy dyadic relationships for over 30 years (  He’s famous for his ability to predict the dissolution of close relationships with 94% accuracy.  Pretty good!  The above four horseman are not the only element of his rubric, but they are one of the three pillars.

What’s also interesting is that the above horseman are toxic to more than simply couples . . . they do not engender connection or warmth in momentary interactions . . . with friends, strangers, children, adults, politics, negotiations, consensus, small groups, or large audiences.



Now What

This is likely a truth that is self-evident to you.  Surprised?  Probably not.

The antidote is being Giraffe . . . embodying NVC . . . connecting with your ideal self.

When you really need this knowledge, it likely won’t be available/remembered by you.
You can change that.  And, both yourself and everyone you come into contact will be glad you did.
Be mindful. 

Come back to these thoughts. 

Make a little sign and place it where you’ll see it daily.


The more you experience peace, joy, and connection with this awareness, the more you’ll rejoice
in the absence of the horsemen, and the presence of love.