In any relationship, there comes a time when you want to tell your partner that he is doing something wrong: eating the wrong food or choosing the wrong clothes, telling unfunny jokes, or playing computer games instead of playing sports. At such a moment, you feel as if you know how to live correctly (unlike a partner). It is this feeling of superiority, which you cannot always notice behind yourself, that offends and repels your partner and not the essence of the remark itself.
What is constructive criticism?
Constructive criticism is important for relationships. If you want to build a strong connection, you need to be able to discuss what you do not like without destroying intimacy in the process. Ethics and philosophy teacher Tatyana Vaiser believes that constructive criticism is one of the main and most productive tools for developing relations between people and society as a whole.
What signs and principles distinguish it from destructive criticism
Constructive criticism is, first of all, appropriate and friendly feedback about the actions or work of a person, expressed in a respectful tone. The right to this appears when the product of the partner’s activity is directly connected with you and your life, and also in cases when it is you who have to deal with the consequences of other people’s mistakes.
- appropriate – the addressee has the desire to hear something addressed to him and the opportunity to keep the conversation going;
- does not mean a transition to the individual;
- does not hurt the self-esteem of the one to whom it sounds, does not hurt, does not ridicule;
- does not imply the possibility of self-assertion at the expense of another, demonstrating one’s superiority;
- broadcasts the principle “we are on the same team”, shoulder to shoulder;
- comes from your desire for good to another and is aimed at helping him.
The Dangers of Criticism and How to Avoid Them
Addressing even constructive criticism to a loved one can be difficult. It is important to strike a balance between expressing your thoughts and not offending, forcing your partner to close down, or provoking retaliatory remarks. Therefore, such conversations are best started when both of you are in a calm state. If you criticize your boyfriend or husband, feeling irritation, anger, envy, or resentment, he may perceive your emotions as attacks, and the conversation will escalate into a quarrel.
Before making comments, deal with the motive. Why are you critical? Do you want to help the other person make a difference to improve your relationship? Or is the subject of criticism not directly related to you and does not affect your life? In that case, keep your opinion to yourself.
The main rule of constructive criticism is considered to be the “rule of the sandwich”: think over the remark in such a way as to wrap it in positive statements. First express gratitude, praise, and approval, then remark, and end with praise.
How to receive constructive criticism
Let’s try to figure out how to properly express dissatisfaction so as not to quarrel. As an example, let’s present common causes of conflicts in a couple. Let’s say a man leaves his things all over the apartment. Or always late. Or does something else causes you protest, irritation, resentment, or other unpleasant emotions? How to voice constructive criticism? Rules for making claims to a partner:
1. Avoid defensiveness
If you start a conversation with harsh intonations and phrases like “How long can I tell you that things need to be put in the closet” or “You are late again, you are always like this”, they will immediately charge the dialogue into conflict, and it is difficult to move from it to constructive criticism.
2. Listen actively
Blaming attacks won’t help the situation, but I-messages can. Talk to your partner about yourself and your feelings, trying not to get personal and not roll into accusations. “I feel annoyed when I see things out of place. At home, I restore my strength and it is important for me that there is order here. Or: “When you’re late for a meeting, I feel like my time is not valued like I’m not important.” When you talk about yourself, it is important to transfer your partner from the role of the accused to a role where he can show understanding, and sympathy, admits that he was wrong, or offer options for a way out of the situation.
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3. Find the source of the problem and come up with a proposal
Focus not on listing to your partner everything that does not suit you, but on what changes you would like to achieve. To do this, you need to look for possible solutions. Think: does he have enough space in the closet, or is there only one shelf allocated for his things? Are there shirt hangers, or are they occupied by your dresses, and that’s why his shirts are hanging on the chairs? Is there a laundry basket in the bathroom where you can leave your laundry? If so, then after the I-messages, gently ask the question: “Could you please put your things in place right after you shoot?”. In the case of lateness, this may be a direct request: “Please come on time, this is very important to me.”
4. Be ready for counter requests and compromises
If you decide to have a confidential conversation, in which criticism, albeit constructive, will be addressed to your partner, keep in mind that he, too, may be dissatisfied with something. Be ready to hear complaints and comments addressed to you. If the motive of each of you is to improve the relationship, then the dialogue can be productive and help you get even closer. This happens when you realize that you have been heard and are ready to make concessions. If you, your partner, or both of you are determined to prove yourself right and force the other to submit, nothing good will come of it.
5. Watch the frequency of criticisms
Constructive criticism cannot be permanent. If you feel a constant desire to point out your partner’s shortcomings, it is important to deal with the true reasons. The desire to criticize day in and day out can be a symptom of relationship problems or a distortion in your perception of the other.
6. Ask for help
Sometimes you can’t resolve the situation on your own. Instead of compromises, conflicts arise between people and aggravate mutual claims. In this case, you should contact a specialist – a psychologist, psychotherapist, or mediator, and get help in building relationships.
1. What is constructive criticism?
This is an appropriate response to the work or actions of a person that is expressed in a friendly way, out of respect and a desire to help, and not to humiliate, assert oneself, or ridicule. The one who criticizes correctly makes it clear to the partner that they are on the same side.
2. How is constructive criticism different?
Constructive criticism does not get personal, does not hurt another, does not exalt the critic, and does not allow him to feel his superiority. It is appropriate, careful, and aimed at the desire to improve something.
3. What is the difference between criticism and condemnation?
By judging, you not only give a negative assessment of the actions or deeds of another person, but you also demonstrate your superiority to him. Competently criticizing, you play on the same team as the addressee of the comments, sincerely wishing him well and growth, and intend to help him achieve more, the best for himself or the two of you.
Remember that constructive criticism is a form of communication, not a monologue of the accuser in court. Maintain a calm, respectful, and friendly tone, choosing words that convey the essence, not the emotion.