Criticism: Four Tips on How to Stop

Ok so you criticize…a lot. At least you acknowledge it and you admit it. Honestly, that’s a huge step right there! But as we know, and as Gottman has proven repeatedly, overuse of criticism as a way of communicating your frustration makes problems much worse.

So what’s a better way to say, “You’re such a moron”?

1)      First, don’t let it get so far that you think of your spouse as a moron! The best way to stop the cycle and to prevent the problem from escalating is to deal with the problems as they arise instead of letting them stew. If your partner has rejected an invitation to go out with friends for the third or fourth time, explain why you’re upset about having to stay home for the 3rd Friday night in a row and how you miss having a social life.

It may be less pleasant in the short run, especially if you aren’t used to doing so or have been taught not to say anything when you’re upset. People, especially women, often minimize how upset they are. We make excuses for behavior that irritates us and later it comes out when we least expect it. But more on that later…

2)     Whenever you choose to have this conversation, express your annoyances in a soft, fair and clear manner. As mentioned in the previous post, complaints are very healthy and a necessary part of any relationship.

3)     Third, talk slowly. It might seem odd and unnatural at first, but it forces you to evaluate all of the words you are using before they come out of your mouth and potentially make the problem worse.

4)     Use sentences that begin with “I” instead of “you” help to really slow down the conversation and make your complaint easier to hear. Think about it. What you really want to say is, “You’re so stupid. How did you not know to separate the whites and the colors?” And you probably have every right to be furious at your husband for making the mistake that you would never have made. But when the emotions are behind it and you already have that sentence in your head, there is nothing stopping that thought from coming out of your mouth! And then you will have a big mess on your hands.

Saying something like, “I’m really angry that you mixed the colors and the whites because I needed my white sweater tomorrow” you’ll see, the conversation will be much different than what you’ve had before. Just keep expressing how you feel about your partner’s behavior.

To say the exact same thing but beginning with an “I” is much harder. You might think at first, hey I didn’t do anything wrong why do I have to be a part of this? Well, because you’re the one that’s upset. If you didn’t care about having shrunken, pink clothes, then this wouldn’t be an issue, would it? 🙂

It’s hard and it often goes against instinct, intuition and the intensity of emotions in the moment. But, in the long run, you will reap the benefits of the work you put into each conversation.

It’s either that or you go back to: “You never listen to me!” “Of course I listen to you. I’m listening to you right now!” And, well, you know how the rest of that conversation goes…. 🙂

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