7 Deadly Habits that Destroy Relationships and 7 Connecting Habits

According to Dr. William Glasser, noted psychiatrist and author of numerous books, all relationships have the same fundamentals.

When we behave in a manner that yields more connection between the two parties, then we are engaging in connecting habits. On the other hand, if we were to act in a way that promotes disconnection, then we would be doing one or more of the seven deadly habits.

The 7 Deadly Habits are:

  1. Criticizing
  2. Blaming
  3. Complaining
  4. Nagging
  5. Threatening
  6. Punishing
  7. Rewarding to control (as in manipulating)

The 7 Connecting Habits are:

  1. Caring
  2. Trusting
  3. Listening
  4. Supporting
  5. Negotiating
  6. Befriending
  7. Encouraging


Do you recognize your own actions anywhere in these lists?

If you have not yet read Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom then I urge you do do so now. It is available in a variety of formats including paperback and on Kindle as well as many other options.

In my next article, I will address a common question: “But if I don’t nag/threaten my daughter, then she doesn’t listen to me!”

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  1. So what do you do when your teen won’t listen without nagging or threats? I guess I have to stay tuned for the next article!

    My first marriage fell apart due to nagging and complaining, so I can totally get how those nasty habits are capable of destroying relationships. Are you saying that there is NEVER a place for nagging or complaining in any relationship? That sounds kind of extreme.

    • Hi Sylvia,

      It’s important to remember that we are all human, and none of us are perfect!

      However, each time that we nag or complain (to a spouse or child), we are driving our relationship further apart. If the relationship is very solid and strong, then an occasional nag or complaint can be tolerated without any serious adverse effects. On the other hand, if the relationship is already on shaky ground, and we are consciously looking to repair it, then it is wise to be aware that each complaint and each episode of nagging drive the relationship further apart.

  2. You’re so right, Ellen: Nagging weakens.

    I’ve found, working with teens, that consistency is the most important “secret ingredient” to achieving real communication. Nagging usually means that your threats are empty and powerless, because you have to repeat them.

    Say once, stating consequences clearly, carry through if disregarded.

    Sounds so simple, but like all human interaction (especially between people who know each other well) much harder to put into practice and easy to “trip” over, due to our own habits. And the fact that we’re really hoping our beloved children *won’t* make it necessary for us to carry through on disappointing or unpleasant consequences.

    Thanks for a thoughtful and well-timed article.

    • Thank you for the insights, Marya.

      Just to clarify: A consequence is different (although similar to) than a threat.

      A consequence is usually a natural result of a behavior. i.e. “If you are not in pajamas by 8:00, then we won’t have time for a story tonight.” A threat is generally unrelated, and its point is to instill fear. i.e. “If you are not in pajamas by 8:00, then you’re not coming with us to the zoo tomorrow.”

  3. Ellen-
    Do you have a good resource for working on ourselves to recognize these deadly habits and guide on how to undo our tendencies (like for criticism)?

    • Hi Naomi,

      I think Dr. Glasser’s book Choice Theory is an excellent resource for this type of self growth.

      P.S. If you don’t care for the book, I’ll buy it from you- I’m always lending out and losing my copies!

  4. As extreme as it sounds there really isnt a place for nagging and complaining unless you can honestly acknowledge that it is something that you get something out of and not to actually achieve the perceived goal. It NEVER works and when it appears to work it reinforces an “us” vs “them” relationship instead of an inclusive one.
    I am a psychotherapist working with children and parents daily and although I dont call it “Choice Theory” there are many approaches to life and relationships that ask you to challenge your story about any given situation… Byron Katie has a lovely simple approach that can be helpful in parenting.
    I have found that making an agreement with your kids (and spouse) that instead of nagging you make a commitment to only asking anything ONCE but ensuring you have their full attention at that moment and they must acknowledge having “heard” you… and then you must let go and make the problem theirs not yours.