Posted by: silverliningsblog | April 27, 2016

The end of criticism

2016-04 Criticism - resultsI am sure there is more than one guy out there who would love to know why women criticize. And what they can do to stop it. Not that only women criticize—men do it too—but women tend to do it more often.

Whether you’re on the receiving end of the berating, or the one dishing it out, it helps to understand what’s really going on if you want to change the pattern.

What is criticism all about?

Criticism, at its core, is a request. It’s one person wanting something from someone else…perhaps a change in behaviour, or simply to be heard and understood.

The problem is that the request has an edge. It is often delivered in a harsh tone, blaming the other person. Even if it’s said nicely, it is delivered from a place of assuming it’s the other person who should change. A place of superiority.

As a result, the person on the receiving end doesn’t feel very good. They feel put down and belittled. They feel their dignity and very person has been assaulted.

Whether criticism is phrased in a gentle way or a cruel way, it comes from the same place of judgment. Unconsciously, the critic believes that their opinion is the “only” correct one. The way he or she looks at the world is the only reasonable way to see it…” —Harville Hendrix

Criticism rarely achieves a positive result. Even if the person does what the criticizer wants, they feel upset or resentful. They do not feel safe. Trust has been broken.

So even if you feel justified and that your criticism is “constructive,” it’s important to understand how damaging criticism is to the other person, and to your relationship.

There is a better way.

What can you do instead of criticize?

2016-04 Criticism - manIf you have a tendency to criticize, it’s important to know you are not a bad person. You are simply using an ineffective communication style, one you probably learned from one or both of your parents. You simply need to learn a healthier way to communicate your needs.

While I hate to admit it out loud, I have been guilty of criticizing others, especially in my romantic relationships. And I realize now why I did it. I was afraid to be vulnerable. I was afraid to ask for what I really wanted. It took a ton of effort for me to even voice my needs. So when I finally did, and the other person didn’t respond or seem to hear me, I felt rejected. Which made me feel hurt and angry. And caused me to lash out.

But I have made a commitment to end this unhealthy habit, and learn to be more assertive and positive in my communications with others. And I hope others will join me.

Since criticism is really a request (wrapped in an ugly, harsh exterior), the key is to learn to ask for what you want in a positive way the other person can hear.

Here are five tips to help you:

1. Be calm. Make sure you are calm and in a positive frame of mind first. Communication doesn’t work well when you’re angry. Go into this with the intention of learning something about the other person, and improving your relationship. Don’t assume you have all the answers.

2. Understand your perspective. Think about what is bothering you, and why it is bothering you. Get to the core of the issue. What memories from your childhood or past relationships does this issue bring up? Is this really that big a deal, or is it possible you are being triggered and over-reacting? Be sure to take ownership for your feelings, for your part of the problem.

3. See the other perspective. Think about how the other person might be feeling. How might their perspective be different? Realize the situation isn’t as black and white as you might at first think. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt: they may not realize what they’re doing is bothering you, and may have reasons for their behaviour.

4. Decide what you want. Think about what it is you really want, and why you want it. Come up with a request that includes why this matters to you.

5. Schedule a conversation. Tell the other person there is something bothering you, and that you’d like to discuss it with them to come up with a solution together. Ask them if now is a good time, and if not, ask them when would be a good time. Then use the feedback sandwich I describe in an earlier post to communicate.

Tips: Be sure to make your request clear, and not expect the other person to read your mind. Also, allow the other person to explain their point of view, and offer different solutions. The goal is mutual understanding, and to find a win-win solution.

How can you avoid being criticized?

2016-04 Criticism - person criticizedIf you’ve been on the receiving end of criticism (I know I have), you know it’s not a lot of fun. It feels demeaning and insulting and hurtful. You do not have to check your pride at the door and let people walk over you.

But you should also avoid slamming the door shut. Tuning someone out hurts them, and damages your relationship as much as criticism does. And it typically causes the other to become more aggressive. You need to understand your role in the unhealthy communication dynamic in order to change it.

“A relationship without dialogue, without one person being able to express a concern, is also an unhealthy place. Suppressed thoughts and feelings lead to passive-aggressive behavior, or to the gradual dissolution of affection for one another.” —Harville Hendrix

Here are some new tools for your communication tool belt:

1. Be assertive. The first step is to be assertive and establish a healthy boundary. Calmly tell the other person that their tone of voice/approach hurts you. Tell them you want to talk, but cannot continue the conversation until the other person is calm and is speaking respectfully to you. (The point here is not to shut the other person out or avoid the conversation. It’s to encourage them to change their communication style and allow you to feel safe.)

2. Ask what is bothering the other person. This next step is key. And it’s probably the one you typically avoid. It’s important to understand that, even if the other person is not communicating well, they are trying to tell you something. So it’s important for you to tell them you care what they are feeling and want to hear them out. If you do this—and set a time to talk so they know you mean it—it can take a lot of the heat out of their words. Because really, what they most want is to be heard and understood by you, and to know that they matter. So once everyone is calm, ask the other person what is bothering them. Yes, actually seek out the answer! This is the key to improving your relationship with anyone…to be concerned with and actively find out what matters to them. Keep asking them questions until they appear to be finished speaking and you feel you’ve understood.

3. Mirror, validate and empathize. Reflect back to them what you’ve heard (repeat back what they said in your words, as objectively as possible). Validate them by saying you understand why they feel the way they do (this does not require you to agree with them…you are simply acknowledging their right to feel the way they do and showing you understand the reasons why). Show empathy by saying you want them to feel better. (Whether you agree with their solution/request or not doesn’t matter…you are showing their feelings matter to you.)

4. Share your feelings. Explain your perspective, if it is different. Be sure to use “I feel” statements and own your feelings instead of blaming the other person. (See 3 steps to express yourself without conflict for tips on this.)

5. Find a win-win solution. Brainstorm together to find a solution you are both happy with.

Making a commitment to communicate better

Criticism really is harmful to others, no matter how it is delivered. It implies one person is superior, and the other inferior. It also implies one person has all the answers, and shuts down dialogue and understanding.

At the same time, avoiding conversations and shutting the other person out is damaging too. It causes them to feel like their feelings and needs are unimportant…like they are unimportant to you.

So if you want to have healthier, more intimate relationships, learn to be vulnerable and positively communicate what you want! And learn to make the other person feel safe and understood by listening to them and validating their feelings.

Can you imagine a world without criticism and avoidance, where we all just openly and caringly share how we feel and look for mutually beneficial solutions? I can. And I am excited to be creating a new kind of world for myself, my children, and others.

If you liked this post, please share with others. And please share your thoughts and ideas below…I love hearing from my readers!

Resources for further learning


Karen Strang Allen
Karen Strang Allen is passionately committed to helping single women take back their power after heartbreak and recognize their true value. She empowers women to rediscover who they are, feel sensational, and become a magnet for their dream partner! She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2.

Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com. Or contact Karen and ask for a free “Discover my Strengths” strategy session today!

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Responses

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve been putting off a difficult conversation, and I am realizing that I think it will be difficult because past conversations with this person have typically involved me criticizing and resulted in my request being ignored. I will certainly try to keep these 5 tips in mind going forward.

    • Thanks Samantha! Sorry for the delay in reply, this message got filtered to the wrong place. I truly hope this helps you…I’d love to know how your conversation went! 🙂


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