In the last blog, we looked at two of the six most commonly used connection busters I see in relationships. In this blog I’m going to dive deep into the difference between Criticism and Complaints, I hope you will find the information helpful.
Using Harmful Criticism Instead of Helpful Complaints
Conflict occurs in the best of relationships. When conflict happens, some of us would shut down and withdraw, others would push for resolution deep into the night and refuse to let the matter go which often results in resentment, rumination, increased tension, feeling like our partner doesn’t love us enough to want to engage etc.
The Bottom line is that conflict is inevitable, so it’s worth our while to learn how to engage in ways that results in you feeling heard and met. This doesn’t necessarily mean the matter will be resolved straight away but at least you’ve started a dialogue.
Here are the basic rules of engagement: Complain when you must, but don’t Criticise.
What is the difference, you ask?
A compliant focuses on a specific problem, it addresses the other person’s behaviour NOT his or her perceived character flaws. Criticism on the other hand, is more judgemental and global, phrases such as “you always…..you never….” A criticism attacks the other person’s character, often with negative labels and/or name calling. It’s a way of assigning blame.
An example would be “You said that you would drop off the kids this morning and you didn’t, I really needed your help” is a compliant. “You totally forgot about dropping the kids off this morning, all you think about is yourself!” is a criticism.
Remember, if you want to be heard then engage by way of a complaint not criticism. Below are some of the basic things to keep in mind.
State your needs without attacking or blaming the other person
Criticism: “You never do anything to surprise me, I don’t even know if you love me anymore”.
Complaint: “I wish you would surprise me sometimes, I know it’s not your thing but it would make me feel really loved because you’ve thought of me”.
Describe your perception of the experience, not the ‘absolute truth’
Criticism: “You are so anti-social, those are people I have to work with and you totally embarrassed me by being so stand-offish”.
Complaint: “I know you are not good at small talk but I need you to try because I want to leave a good impression”.
Focus on specific behaviour, not global statements
Criticism: “You are like a stone, I can’t talk to you about anything”.
Complaint: “It really hurts when you shut down like that, sometimes I just need to talk, I don’t need you to solve the problem, I just need to know you’re there for me”.
And lastly, if you’re thinking “it’s easier just to let it go”, I’m here to tell you it’s not.
I understand that complaint can be difficult to express and hear at times, but they are generally worth the discomfort because it allows you and your partner to better understand one another’s perspectives. It helps deepen the bond and the sense of team within the relationship.
Criticism, on the other hand, does just the opposite. It hurts people’s feelings, resulting in the people becoming defensive. When that happens, the partner is not open to any new information which ultimately gets in the way of any emotional connection.
Related Tag: Relationship Counselling Sydney CBD