The art of criticism
criticismI have a friend who never criticizes anyone. She has a lot of friends and she is very easy to get on with, she lives a life without commitments, goes from one relationship to another and does not let anyone to restrict her. She never tells anyone what to do but on the other hand many times it’s almost impossible to see with whom she lives.Certain amount of criticism belongs to life. It is a sign that we care about our partner, that we pay attention to him even not in the best way. I started writing this article with intention to show that criticism is not necessary, but while writing it I realized that everyone will find someone here: parents, friends, partner…and of course himself. Criticism itself smells bad. Children hate to be criticized, same as your partner, spouse, colleague or almost anyone. Even your dog when he hears from your tone that you criticize him, will be offended and will lie in the corner of your house. Do you want to disagree saying that you only speak the truth? So is criticizing same as being honest? Toxic ingredient of close relationships Criticism is often connected with effort to control someone. This combination is especially dangerous for close relationships and family. It usually hides inclination to perfectionism or fear that our partner may be better than us. The hidden message from critic is “You are not good enough (for me).” Parents often undermine the self-confidence of a child without even noticing it. They use sentences as:
  • Why have you colored the girl’s hair pink? Girls don’t have pink hair.
  • You should change your shoes, they do not match with your clothes.
  • It is a nice story what you wrote, but you did not use enough nouns.
  • Those trousers do not fit you. You don’t look good in them.
These everyday reminders will start to be too much for a child. They constantly remind him how clumsy he is. After this childhood they grow up to an uncertain person with low self-esteem. They will never be satisfied and they will learn how to criticize others. In a romantic relationship it is very similar. Does any of these sentences rings bell to you?
  • Your friends are kind of weird, I don’t understand what you see in them.
  • Can you once clean the house properly?
  • Anyway you hugged me just because we argued.
  • You don’t understand music, let me choose something.
Everyone knows examples from life. What is important to know? That criticism and control are toxic for relationships. People who are very critical of others and need to control others a lot, have often problems with their self-esteem. Because they cannot control themselves they try to control others. If you feel the need to behave like this yourself try to look for help. No one likes to be controlled or criticized. Instead of mistakes and imperfections try to focus on things which are good. Attempt for perfection around you is “mission impossible”. It is your flaw, not those around you. To tell the truth does not mean to hurt someone It is very important to be honest and open in relationship. It is necessary to share your problems and feelings, so they do not pile up inside of you. So where is the equilibrium between solving issues and complaining? Constant negative comments give your partner message: “I am OK, you are not!” That is the reason why is so hard to receive criticism. To listen to someone criticizing you is as pleasant as a dentist visit. If we have to, we’ll survive it – but we are truly relieved when it is over. How to change criticism into problem solving?
  • Focus on things that you can change instead of talking again and again what is wrong.
  • Say how you feel – don’t say to your partner what to do.
  • Talk about the particular issue, not about the person as a whole.
  • Swap “because of you I feel” with “I feel”.
  • Do not generalize.
  • Talk about yourself, not about the other one.
  • Do not bring back issues from the past (this advice is especially made for woman).
You can also skip the criticism totally and swap it with questions. Do not use questions starting with when, what and why. You could sound as your partner’s mother or police man during investigation. Try questions as:
  • “I would love to help you with finding your new job. Is there anything I can do for you?”
  • “I know you like different music than me. Can I play some of my choice for you?”
  • “I feel you like me when you hug me. Do you feel same good as me?”
If someone criticize you and you start to feel that you are losing control, think if you did do anything to provoke it. People tend to criticize if they feel that you are unsure of yourself or if they feel threat from you. So how to react exactly in this situation? Stop and think, where this reaction of your partner comes from. With distance you will keep your emotions under control and will not take criticism personally. Also you can detect situations which are threatening for your partner and try to minimize them. Sometimes helps if you explain to your partner that you know he means it in a good way and that you understand there’s space to work on it. That will usually take away the critic’s desire which aimed to create an argument or guilt.