A New Approach to Criticism Most of us have that one family member, coworker, or aquaitance that just cannot help but say negative comments. We usually avoid that person like the plague! One of the most common challenges I see to relationships is how people express concerns or displeasure without being critical. I have never met anyone, especially teens, who do not shy away from criticism. It can cause communication to immediately shut down.
As parents and partners and friends, we still need to express ourselves and communicate. We cannot avoid conflict, but we can learn to express our needs and feelings without judgement or attack. So how can you have a difficult conversation without sounding critical?
- Focus your conversation so that it solves problems instead of laying blame. Placing blame is usually completely unproductive and usually irrelevant to the topic at hand. It is pointless to blame yourself or the other person in your relationship for the behavior at hand. Focus on the desired behavior and how you can both get to the place you want to be.
- Discuss the behavior and not the other person's character. Its easy to go to name calling or judgements when addressing your concerns. Its easy to call your husband lazy if he walks right past the laundry basket you set out for him to take upstairs. Its easy to say your child is inconsiderate when they waste all the food you cooked for them from scratch. Its easy, but harmful and will not solve them problem nor invite the person to participate in solutions. Who wants to work with someone who thinks bad things about them? Focus on the behavior. Set up reminders or tell the person what behavior you want without attacking their character.
- Pick your battles. You do not have to accept every battle you are invited to. If you have children, you are invited to a lot of battles! You can simply ignore behavior or statements unless they go against your personal or family values.
- Limit your speeches. Unless you are getting paid to give a speech, avoid it. Most of our friends and collegues and all of our children are not interested in our long winded speeches. The longer you talk at the other person, no matter how well intentioned, the more likely you are going to sound critical and judgy.
- Be a good role model. Gandhi famously said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world". The same thing apples to relationship communication. Show your friend, coworker, lover, and child how you want them to behave and communicate by providing shining examples with your own behavior. We cannot expect the other person to speak calmly if we yell. We cannot expect respect if we do not show it. We cannot expect hard work if we do not give our full effort too.
Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT
Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapy, family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.