John Gottman is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington known for his work on marital stability. By observing couples' emotions and micro-expressions he has been able to predict with 90% accuracy which couples will remain married and which will divorce four to six years later.
Gottman has determined there are four destructive elements that can lead to relationship failure. He calls them The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and they are:
Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness & Stonewalling
Criticisms often start with: “you always…” “you never…”“you’re the type of person who …” “why are you so …” A criticism differs from a complaint in that a complaint is about something specific & a criticism is a generalization about a person's character. A complaint says "I don't like that you did this"; a criticism says "I don't like who you are".
When we communicate with contempt we are being disrespectful or mean; often using sarcasm, mockery, insults, ridicule, &/or eye rolling.
Protecting yourself from a perceived attack without actually listening to what your partner has said. Making excuses, cross-complaining, yes-butting & seeing yourself as the victim.
Withdrawing and shutting down as a means to avoid conflict. This creates distance and separation.
Also, for some proactive ideas David Parkinson's most recent post points towards some principles we might adopt when trying to get something good happening with a group of people.