When you are experiencing a conflict in your relationship, it is normal to want to lash out and express the anger that is inside. But when you scream at our partner, or use insults and criticism to get your message across, you probably don’t see positive results most of the time.
Which makes sense, because no one like getting yelled at or being criticized. All that does is raise our defenses and make us less receptive.
Here is some ancient wisdom for you about criticism, too. All criticism equals self-criticism as it’s a projection of something I don’t like, accept, own about myself onto another human being. Ditto for love. All love (of another being) equals self-love. Criticism is the inflection of pain in order to obtain a favorable result. We learn this as infants, that criticism works. And yet it doesn’t, really, except when we’re under the age of three.
Conflicts can be incredibly valuable in helping relationships to grow and evolve and getting people to understand each other better. Unfortunately, when you criticize, you stunt this growth before it can even start.
What’s So Bad about Criticism?
Using criticism or negativity to communicate issues to our partner not only discourages them from making positive changes, it also can hurt their feelings and lower their self-esteem because it comes across as an attack. As you might imagine, attacking your partner can’t help but hurt your relationship overall.
What makes criticism so toxic to our relationship is that it attacks our partner’s character. It tells them that they are “bad.” And sending them messages that they are “bad” leaves less room for love.
Essentially, criticism kills love in a relationship. And it does so faster than you might realize. If reading this has made you realize you need the help of a relationship coach to get things back on track, contact our office right now.
What Can We Do to Communicate in a Positive Way?
So you want to remove criticism from your relationship. But how? Doing so is a lot easier said than done.
What happens when you are upset or frustrated by our partner’s behavior? How can you communicate what you want without using negative language?
The key is to learn to shift from a description of them as bad to a behavioral description of what they are doing (or not doing). Or to make suggestions for different behaviors that would not upset or frustrate you.
Here’s an example.
Your partner has been slacking with the laundry lately. When you asked them to do a recent load so you would have your nicest shirt ready for a party, they put off doing it until it was too late.
This feels like the last straw, and you have the urge to say, “You never take responsibility! Why can’t you do the laundry? It is a simple task!”
This, however, is criticism. It does not provide any solutions to the problem at hand. What it does do, though, is make grand, sweeping, negative generalizations about their character and mental abilities based on a single task. Ouch.
Instead, try something like, “When I ask you to do the laundry and you do not do it on time, I feel like I am not being heard.” Or “Let’s come up with a system that puts equal responsibility on both of us to get the chores and cleaning done.”
You still get the message across that you would like your partner to pick up the slack, but you do so without digging at their character or hurting their feelings.
Bottom line? Negativity never yields positive results. It not only never yields positive results, it literally changes my partner’s brain to associate me with danger and a lack of safety. As an experienced Houston marriage coach, I can say that with certainty. Make a promise to yourself and to your partner to get your messages across with warm, calm, solutions-oriented communication.