Partners who get stuck in critical judgment of their partner risk everything.
Conflict within a relationship is normal. It provides an essential opportunity to step back and learn how your relationship can grow and change whilst working through the differences.
However, constant criticism creates a toxic relationship.
Criticism destroys relationships.
The most damaging aspect of criticism is when it’s:
- About personality or character, rather than behaviour
- Filled with blame
- Not focused on improvement
- Based on only one “right way” to do thing
- Belittling the other
Criticism often escalates over time and forms a downward spiral of resentment. The criticised person feels controlled, which frustrates the critical partner, who then steps up the criticism, increasing the other’s sense of being controlled, and so on.
Why Criticism Doesn’t Work
- Criticism fails every time at getting positive change. Any short-term gain you might get from it builds resentment down the line.
- Criticism fails because it demands submission, and most of us hate to submit.
- Criticism fails because it devalues, and we hate to feel devalued.
Criticism or “Feedback”?
Critical people often delude themselves into thinking that they are merely giving others helpful feedback.
Here are some ways to tell the two apart.
Criticism focuses on what’ s wrong:
“Why can’t you pay attention to the bills?”
Feedback focuses on how to improve:
“Let’s go over the bills together.”
Criticism implies the worst about the other’s person:
“You’re stubborn and lazy.”
Feedback is about behaviour, not personality:
“Can we start by sorting the bills according to due date and go over them every month?”
“I guess you’re just not smart enough to do this.”
“I know you’re very busy, but I’m pretty sure we can do this together.”
Criticism implies blame:
“We’re in this financial mess because of you.”
Feedback focuses on the future:
“We can get out of this mess if we both give up a few things. What do you think?”
Criticism attempts to control:
“I know exactly what’s the right thing to do. I’m smarter and more educated about this.”
Feedback respects autonomy:
“I respect your right to make that choice, even though I don’t agree with it.”
Criticism is coercive:
“You’re going to do what I want, or else I. . . (won’t connect with you or will punish you in some way).”
Feedback is not coercive:
“I know we can find a solution that works for both of us.”
If you’re angry or resentful, however, any feedback you offer will be heard as criticism, no matter how you put it. That’s because people respond to emotional tone, not intention.
It’s important to regulate your anger or resentment before you try to give the following steps:
7 steps to become less critical of your partner
Focus on how to improve.
Focus on the behavior you would like to see, not on the personality of your partner.
Encourage change, instead of undermining their confidence.
Offer genuine help.
Respect their autonomy.
Resist the urge to punish or withdraw affection if they don’t do what you want.
Criticism is to your relationship what smoking is to your health.
If you’re a critical person have you got a handle on your impulse to criticise, before it ruins your relationship?
Adapted from an article by Steven Stosny PHD