We have been talking about safety in relationships. We know that we’re not supposed to criticize, but often one person feels criticized, and the other person has no idea why. Pardon me if I state the obvious in this post, but I would rather be redundant than leave out something this fundamental and important.
Criticism is NOT talking about a problem. You have to be able to discuss problems. Criticism is basically attacking the other person. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the problem rather than attacking the person.
So, for example, if the problem is that there are socks on the floor, focus on how to solve the problem. You could say, “I notice there are socks on the floor. Could you please put them in the dirty clothes hamper?” If the other person doesn’t do that, the problem remains. You can then decide that you will put them in the dirty clothes, or you will hire someone else to put them in the hamper, or you will morph into a bohemian artist who is completely unaware of socks on the floor, or you will create a new trend in flooring which is a rug made entirely of socks. All of those options focus on the problem. It is very easy to get carried away into attacking the other person, especially if the socks are always his/hers. You can then easily think that the other person is the problem. You might then say, “You always leave your socks on the floor, and I am sick and tired of picking them up. Pick up your own dadgum socks.” You have now veered off into criticism. You have attacked the other person.
You can also criticize the other person if you are just thinking “For the love of Pete, I can’t believe you don’t know you have once again left your stupid socks on the floor. You’re doing this on purpose to upset me, and I am sick and tired of it. You are so messy and disgusting!” while actually saying, “Dear, would you please pick up your socks? Thank you.”
So, what do you do if you are thinking critical thoughts while trying to control your speech?
[Tweet “The antidote to criticism is gratitude.”]
Be grateful for what you do have instead of critical towards the other person about what is not working. In the above sock example, you might be living with someone who, for whatever reason, is simply not going to pick up his/her socks. However, you can be grateful for his/her good traits that you do appreciate. He might be messy, but he smells nice. He knows how to fix stuff. She might be messy, but she knows how to make the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the world.
A final thought:
If you have any person whatsoever in your life, be it a spouse, friend, parent, or child, you will have annoyances, inconveniences, and even downright pain. The only way to “fix” that is to not have anyone in your life.