Keeping Criticism Healthy

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“One mustn’t criticize other people on grounds where he can’t stand perpendicular himself ~ Mark Twain

blue flowersNo one likes to be criticized. When parents are angry or critical with children, the children feel rejected and unloved. This happens regardless of how much they truly know their parents do love them.

A partner who is criticized questions how much he or she is valued and loved. On some level we all crave unconditional love and acceptance. When we are criticized, it is as though our partner has assumed the parental role ( all-knowing, always right), and we are the chastised child. This can result in feelings of resentment and distancing from the critic.

We are human, however, and there will be times when we feel we simply must make a critical point. There are some steps we can take to minimize the damage, while still expressing our concern. The first thing we must keep in mind is the ratio of positive to negative comments we make to the person. Critical comments have the best chance of being received if ninety percent of our feedback to the person is positive. A person who feels our acceptance and respect ninety percent of the time can handle the ten percent that is not so wonderful. If the ratio slips below eighty/twenty, the individual and/or the relationship will suffer.

The second thing to think about is the way we deliver our message. If it is stated in an angry or derogatory way, or in the form of a put-down, it will be perceived as an attack, and the response will either be aggressive or defensive.

Finally, it is important to take a problem-solving approach. Let the person know the behaviors you would prefer and have a dialogue about how that might be achieved.

A couple or family should function as a team. A coach who just yells at the team does not engender loyalty, or get the desired results.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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