It’s natural to get angry at someone when they do something that you see as wrong. But what happens when this anger turns into outright contempt? Contempt is not just an emotion, it is a toxic weapon that can be incredibly harmful to your relationships if not handled correctly. In this article, we explore the triggers of contempt and offer ways to address the issue.
1. What is Contempt?
Contempt, at its core, is an attitude of superiority and disdain. It can be evident in both verbal and non-verbal communication. Allowing it to continue unchecked can have a devastating effect on relationships and must be addressed in order to foster understanding and connection.
Common Signs of Contempt:
- Rolling Eyes
- Cold Shoulder
- Feigning Ignorance
Contempt bullies its way into conversations and can lead to the other party feeling unwelcome, unprotected, and devalued. In a toxic way, it robs people of their dignity. Overcoming contempt takes two willing participants. Acknowledging it and understanding its impact is the first step to avoiding it.
Identifying & Understanding Contempt Triggers
- Take a step back from the situation and use self-reflection. Recognize what could have caused the contempt, and why it might have been triggered.
- Think about the events that have taken place in recent days or weeks. Often, contempt can be the transaction of a prior event. What has been going on in life that could have caused the contempt to be created?
- Empathize with the other person in the conversation. Seeing things from their perspective may help to identify the root cause of the contempt.
- Think about how to approach the other person. Acknowledge the contempt and try to move the conversation towards finding a resolution.
- Focus on coming to a mutual understanding. Talk out loud how it is impacting the both of you and try to find a way to address it.
- Reassure the other person and recognize that contempt is not indicative of the relationship or how the other person truly feels.
Identifying and understanding contempt triggers helps people to face them and find a more productive way to address the discomfort without further damaging the relationship. That can start with a frank conversation and a commitment to meet one another in the spirit of understanding and forgiveness.
2. Identifying Contempt Triggers
Contempt can be incredibly damaging to relationships if left unchecked. Many couples experience contempt on a regular basis without even realizing it. Understanding the triggers behind contempt can help couples identify moments when it is present and take steps to address it.
1. Judgement and Criticism
Judgement and criticism can be one of the most common triggers for contempt. When one partner passes judgement or criticizes the other, it can lead to feelings of contempt. Judgement and criticism can manifest in terms of body-shaming, questioning intelligence/abilities, or being dismissive. It’s important for couples to understand this type of behaviour can be unacceptable and take steps to address it.
Another sign of contempt can be belittling or mocking behaviour. Some partners may attempt to use sarcasm or light-hearted digs to make a point, but this type of behaviour can often be seen as a form of criticism or judgement, which can quickly lead to contempt. Couples should remember, little jabs at each other, even if taken as jokes, can cause serious damage.
3. Being Cold and Detached
If one partner acts in a distant, dismissive manner, it can lead to contempt in a relationship. Coldness and apathy can be incredibly damaging, as it can indicate that the partner is no longer respecting or valuing the other. It is important for couples to recognize these behaviours and address them quickly in order to avoid creating a contemptuous environment.
4. Nagging and Yelling
Nagging and yelling can also be signs of contempt. It’s normal for couples to argue from time-to-time, but if the arguments become more intense and there is a feeling of one partner constantly nagging or yelling at the other, it is a sign that contempt might be present. It’s important for couples to remember to communicate with each other calmly and with respect.
Ultimately, it is important for couples to recognize every sign of contempt. Once identified, couples should take steps to address it before it becomes too damaging. Talking openly with each other, compromising, and understanding each other’s needs can all help prevent contempt from arising or getting out of hand.
3. Relationships and Contempt Triggers
When two people are in a relationship, it’s understandable that both will occasionally experience moments where their buttons are pushed or feel confronted or uncomfortable. Usually, this is just the normal course of misunderstanding in a relationship. But, at certain times, a disagreement or a mistaken assumption can cause strong feelings to manifest, including contempt. Understanding the most common contempt triggers can help us shield ourselves from the lasting damage that contempt can inflict on a relationship.
Being Unmindful of Your Significant Other’s Needs
When we are in a relationship, it’s important that each partner recognize, honors, and respects the needs of the other. When those needs go unaddressed, either on purpose or by accident, contempt can arise.
Failing to Express Gratitude
Expressing appreciation for the positive actions or thoughts our partner or significant other shows us shows gratitude and can help spread feelings of contempt. We all have a desire to be seen for the good we bring to a relationship.
The best way to avoid any misunderstands is by being open and honest with the other person. Not engaging in open and honest communication stifles the chance to resolve issues in a clear manner.
Trying to Control Outcomes
When we try to control how our partner or significant other ought to feel or CAN feel, contempt is more likely to set in. This isn’t to say situations shouldn’t be managed - it just means that the solutions should be based on mutual understanding and respect.
Making Unfavorable Comparisons
No one likes to be compared in an unfavorable way to someone else or something else. When comparisons are made, and those comparisons say more about the one person than the other, contempt is usually not far away.
Verbal and emotional abuse from either partner can lead to contempt from the other. Research has shown that when a person is angry they are less likely to listen and be understanding, leading to increased feelings of contempt.
We all have triggers of feelings of contempt, whether it’s something that is done to us or something that we do to the other person. But, by taking the time to recognize and address these triggers, we can reduce feelings of contempt in our relationship or relive any tension present.
What To Do When You Feel Contempt
- Take some time to be away from the situation to calm down.
- If necessary, discuss your feelings with a therapist or an impartial third party for help with outbursts.
- Take a step back and try to look at the situation objectively.
- Communicate openly and honestly about the triggers and feelings.
- Be mindful of each other’s needs and do your best to respect and honor them.
When it comes to contempt triggers, it’s important to identify them and address them in order to keep the relationship healthy and loving. Take the time to recognize the contempt triggers, and your relationship could benefit from it.
4. How to Address Contempt Triggers
1. Identify the Contempt Trigger
When a particular situation or event sets off feelings of contempt, the first step to addressing the trigger is identifying it. Pay attention to the events that precede your feelings. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Am I feeling angry or contemptuous when this situation arises?
- What circumstances could be contributing to this feeling?
- What thought patterns might be associated with this reaction?
Once you have identified the trigger, you can start to take steps to address it.
2. Change your Perspective
One way to address contempt triggers is to change your perspective. Consider the situation from a different point of view, such as the other person’s, and think about what might be motivating them. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Am I missing any important information about this situation?
- How would I react if I were in the other person’s shoes?
- What needs might the other person have that are going unmet?
When you understand what’s motivating someone else’s behaviour, it can be easier to handle the challenges associated with the situation.
3. Find Healthy Ways to Cope
Once you have identified and changed your perspective on a contempt trigger, you may still need to find healthy ways to cope with the difficult emotions that accompany the situation. Techniques that have been found to be helpful in managing emotions include mindfulness, self-care, seeking support from others, and problem-solving.
Mindfulness enables you to become aware of and observe your emotions without judging or becoming attached to them. Incorporating self-care strategies, such as relaxing activities or practising gratitude, can help to reduce feelings of contempt and make them easier to manage.
Reaching out to friends, family, or a professional, such as a counsellor or therapist, for support and guidance can provide the emotional boost needed to manage the emotions that are triggered by contemptuous situations. Practising problem-solving can help to actively address and manage difficult emotions, as well as create positive outcomes from challenging situations.
By identifying contempt triggers, changing your perspective, and finding healthy ways to cope, you can begin to address these triggers and manage the difficult emotions that come with them.
5. Tips for Managing Contempt Triggers
Recognize Potential Triggers: The first step in addressing contempt triggers is to understand them and recognize when they are present. A trigger is anything that taps into a person’s underlying emotion and causes a reaction, regardless of the current context. Identify dated hurtful behaviors from past relationships or hurts that linger in the present relationships. Observe your own emotional reactions and look for similarities between them.
Set Boundaries: Develop a plan that outlines boundaries for interactions, and explain to the other person that the boundaries are in place to protect both of you. Have an open discussion about which behaviors or comments should be avoided, stay focused and be mindful not to get off course. Remember that the goal is to address the current anger without stirring up any of the past hurts.
Communicate Openly: Establish a safe environment for open and honest communication, so the other person does not feel attacked or judged. Choose a time and place to talk when there will be no distractions or interruptions. Don’t allow the conversation to become heated or hostile, and don’t allow yourself to be baited into a reactive conversation.
Choose Words Wisely: Try to avoid phrasing requests in a way that cast blame or suggest criticism. Speak from the “I” perspective instead of the “you” perspective to emphasize that there is no intent to attack the other person. Even though the conversation may be difficult, ensure that it remains respectful and shows understanding and empathy.
Look for Common Goal: It is important to approach the situation with a commitment to finding a solution that both parties can agree on and work towards. This requires open communication and being willing to consider solutions that may be different from your ideal outcome. Focus on the common goal of finding a resolution that both parties can live with.
6. Strategies for Overcoming Contempt Triggers
Identifying Contempt Triggers
- Be aware of the underlying emotions driving your behavior when there is a conflict.
- Notice when you feel yourself looking down on others or feeling superior to them.
- Be aware of when you feel like you’ve been wronged and are looking for payback.
- Observe when you feel that someone is taking advantage of you or not taking your concerns seriously.
Moving Past Contempt Triggers
- Be mindful of your assumptions and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Remember that everyone has a unique perspective and that each person’s viewpoint is just as valid as yours.
- Work towards understanding why the issue is so important to the other person. Ask questions and do not offer judgments.
- Find common ground. See what can be agreed upon, and the areas of compromise. This shows respect for the other person, and will hopefully lead to constructive solutions.
- Be willing to admit and apologize for mistakes. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with the other person, admitting that you may have been wrong can help cool down a heated situation.
- Speak calmly and avoid accusing language or putting someone down. Tone of voice is very important in these situations, as it can very easily undermine your message and make it more difficult to reach a resolution.
- Resist the temptation to retaliate or hit below the belt, and maintain a positive attitude. Reverting to insults and passive aggressive behavior will not do anything to help the situation.
Insights and Conclusions
At the end of the day, recognizing and addressing contempt triggers is essential for maintaining mutually respectful and rewarding relationships. When something or someone triggers contempt in us, it’s important to express our feelings in a constructive and non-accusing manner, and to ask for help if necessary. Furthermore, understanding the source of our contempt can help to minimize our triggers in the future, helping to strengthen relationships and communication.