What originator Dr John Gottman terms The Four Horsemen will crush any relationship.
Research into marriages found that the presence of these four meant to split in 90 per cent of cases. Namely;
criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling.
Worse still, one stands above as over-riding worst offender to fatally poison our relationships; contempt.
Useful as a lens to add to your 'farming' forecast routines. Whether through existing long-time Account Management or within ongoing Customer Success checks.
It's one thing recognising such debilitating equestrians. Quite another to halt their progress, even instigate their about turn.
Simply having these as four flags during an account review may well help.
Gauge the extent to which any have occurred. With whether they're currently in train. Or linger and require tackling through a different approach. Or have been happily, tacitly resolved.
The best form of protection is prevention in the very first place. To forestall the deadly quartet's arrival at all. Yet fiendishly tricky should the cause be structural from your side.
Proposed treatment building on the interpersonal partnership tips of Californian psychologist Dr Kathy Nickerson would include;
Criticism :: Trying to create a method for bringing up negative feedback in a structured, objective manner which generates a shared path to remedy
Contempt :: Bring it out in the open, in a measured manner, focusing on the problem at issue and as hard as may be, never related to any specific person
Defensiveness :: Verify whether they feel their thought has been fully expressed; I once heard a superstar seller disarmingly get great results in such situation by asking, "arh, what's the question behind the question?"
Stonewalling :: Versions of the recommended 'take a break' for us include deliberately suggesting an adjournment, with suggested plan of later recommencement - whilst many would doubtless suggest the classic 'stall' objection routine might be a neat tactic (incorporating along the way, 'I sense you feel there's bad news that'd be tricky to share...')
Interestingly, she adds a fifth trait to be wary of.
Whilst not quite an extra doomsday jockey, she suggests that constant bickering is an amber alert.
Her toxic metaphor; 'can a plant survive if you pour bleach on it every day?'
So sounds like it goes beyond the daily 'challengings' of a healthy one-to-one.
Spot this and you may just be able to head-off the unwelcome foursome from following on in behind.
The remedy proposed involves not letting anything hanging. Investigate a hint. Make it explicit. Get on top if it. Don't let their occurrence became standard behaviour. After all, 'it's not what they say, but how they treat you that matters'.