Our relationship lives and dies based on how we communicate. One of the more damaging ways we communicate is through criticism, and every relationship can benefit from removing it.
What does criticism look like? We are critical when we communicate our concerns in a way that can be interpreted as personally attacking or blaming. When you criticize you are looking to make the other person wrong or belittle them.
It is difficult to have any constructive response to a criticism. Instead of dealing with the issue at hand, your partner’s brains are going into threat mode and they now feel like they have to defend themselves.
That’s not to say that you can’t complain to your partner. Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. Critiques and complaints tend to be about specific issues, whereas criticism has to do with attacking your partner’s character and who they are.
How criticism is handled versus a complaint is all about your approach. As an example when you criticize you say, “You are such a mess.” A solution-based complaint looks like, “I keep tripping over clothes every night. Do you think we can get in the habit of putting clothes away or in the hamper before bed?”
Another example of criticism is, “You’re so lazy, all you do is watch Netflix.” A solution-based complaint looks like, “I’d really love to spend some more active quality time together this weekend. Can we go for a hike today?”
Here’s how you can avoid criticism in your relationship:
Complain Without Blame
This may seem impossible to do when you’re mad at someone for doing something. After all they are doing it, right? But blame is at the forefront of every criticism. Be sure to complain or express frustration at the situation, instead of pointing fingers or blaming your partner.
Focus On Solutions
We tend to focus more on what we don’t like, than what we actually need from our partners when we communicate and that can lead to criticism. Communicate a solution for the issue in your complaint so that your partner is clear on your needs. Encourage a different behavior with positive affirmation.
As S. Parker said, “People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.”
If you’re partner is the one doing the criticizing, don’t automatically get defensive. Let them know that you are happy to address their concern, but that you will need them to communicate their needs so that a solution is found in a more constructive way that encourages change rather then harbors resentment.
You and your partner must get a hold on criticism before it grows into contempt and kills your relationships.