Business relationship poisons cripple teams

The 4 business relationship poisons

There are 4 relationship poisons you can do to hurt or kill your business or other professional relationships

1. Criticism: this is not related to specific actions, a complaint: “You didn’t deliver on time, I need that delivery today.”, instead criticism attacks their character. “You are always late delivering, you just don’t care, you are an uncaring, heartless ….” It is these attacks that are the harbinger of doom in our business relationships. The “You should … ; You always …. ; You never …” are the phrases which put people on the defensive, engage stonewalling. I suggest you avoid these and rather talk about the issue – specific. Engage in balanced feedback. There is a reason for the Cliché “You can always catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar.” Remember even if they are under performing – they are still people.

2. Stonewalling: when we get overwhelmed or flooded (by adrenaline or other body chemicals) we can shut down. This is often the response to nagging or feeling “attacked”. We then tend to ignore all communication. This does not bode well for a business or professional relationship.

3. Being defensive: It is natural to feel and get defensive when attacked. “Well, you don’t always pay on time either. You always change your orders at the last minute, its your slap-dash attitude that makes our deliveries late.” This type of defensive escalation is aimed at distracting them from their attack or complaint and placing the blame on them.

4. Contempt: this is a step up from criticism. The intention is to insult, and ends up psychologically abusing the other person. Whether name calling, harsh teasing, mocking, eye rolling, sneering or hostile venomous comments this can cripple a relationship. “You are so self centred, you only care about yourself <with an eye roll and holier-than-though sneer>” Contempt is the leading indicator of a relationship in trouble according to Dr. J. Gottman. Contempt above all other indicators shows distress in the relationship.The 4 business relationship poisons Infographic

The combination of these relationship poisons are the death-knell of your business or professional relationships. Your clients or so-workers will vote with their feet and leave or refuse to work with you. By actively counteracting these, being kind and supportive you can grow your relationships, create customer loyalty and team cohesiveness.

Article based in part on the work by John Gottman – (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work & (2006) Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage.

Engage in balanced feedback (see article) to reduce relationship poisons. Demonstrate to your client/ co-worker you see them – give positive and constructive feedback. Taking into account the whole person, rather than only focussing on the negative.Performance feedback relationship poisons


Richard specialises in communication skills coaching. Self Esteem training and changing the communication culture in businesses.

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Richard Riche

Change Communication and Employee Engagement specialist at One Clear Message Consulting
Richard specialises in helping you build real human communication skills. Employee Engagement / Experience, Emotional Intelligence skills, building high performance teams and a great place you want to work. TED style speaking and presentation skills. Training, consulting and coaching.
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