I was recently reading the Gottman Institute’s newsletter Marriage Minute and the Gottmans’ shared a story about their relationship. Dr. Julie Gottman shared feeling upset at her husband Dr. John Gottman. Rather than responding defensively, he said “What do you need?”
If Dr. John Gottman responded defensively to his wife’s upset, e.g., “Why do you always make such a big deal of things?”, that comment would be dismissive. What’s so skilled about his actual comment is how responsive it is to his wife’s issues. Dr. Julie Gottman felt his response recognized her upset, validated it, and she felt she mattered. We can always learn from successful relationships.