When you read some marriage help articles, they may advise things such as, “Don’t ever criticize your spouse!”
Well, that’s assuming you’re either a saint or super-human, right?
In this blog, I’m going to offer some marriage help and tell you it’s okay to criticize your spouse. However, you need to know that there’s a right way—and a wrong way—and 3 tips for creating a productive outcome. Keep reading…
Help Your Marriage: Learn the Two Types of Criticism
In a perfect world, we would never feel the need to criticize another human being—especially our spouse.
But criticism is a natural reaction when someone or something does not act in accordance with our expectations. Criticism is a way to express our opinion, and our disappointment in an event, outcome or circumstance.
However, there’s a way to express criticism that helps a marriage, and a way to do it that destroys the intimate and emotional connection with your spouse, ultimately eroding your marriage bond.
The worst way to criticize someone is to attack their character. For example, imagine your spouse has just broken a very expensive vase. If you say, “You are such a clumsy oaf! Why can’t you be more careful?” this is a very destructive form of criticism. It’s a personal attack, and will make the recipient feel defensive, angry, humiliated and/or hurt by your words.
If, on the other hand, you say, “Accidents happen. I recommend you not pick up a vase when your hands are wet—which I’m sure you know but just forgot.”
Do you see how this second way of phrasing the criticism doesn’t carry the same sting? It’s not personal, it’s just stating the facts with a little input on a “best practice” to remember to follow in the future. This is called constructive criticism, and it helps you to express your opinion or observation without hitting the recipient below the belt.
We’ve all seen television shows and movies about irate bosses who yell all manner of insults and abuse at their employees and co-workers. These people are portrayed as unpopular, right? They make people bristle from the criticism, and employees are likely to dig in their heels and to the opposite or grudgingly go along to get along.
However, those who treat everyone like a fellow human being who makes mistakes just like anyone else while being acknowledged for the capability of doing better tend to earn the respect and gratitude of those around them.
Next, I’ll give you 3 tips for successfully delivering constructive criticism.
Three Methods for Doing Criticism Right
To create a harmonious home in which your spouse will be more receptive to your words, learn and use the following three methods when you need to bring up something that is in the “criticism” camp:
Method 1: Stick to the Topic at Hand
Some people criticize, heaping everything together at once: “You just did this, and before you did that, the other, and another thing, and you’re always…” The recipient of this type of criticism is overwhelmed, and also feeling dejected before they’ve even tried to do better.
When offering a criticism, stick with the one thing that’s going on right now. Don’t bring up everything your spouse ever did wrong in the past six months, or you will be tuned out and there will also be hard feelings.
Method 2: Don’t Attack the Person
Remember the difference between good, constructive criticism and bad, destructive criticism: don’t make it personal. If you find yourself wanting to say something insulting, wait until you can manage your words better. To attack someone’s mental, physical or emotional being is not going to influence them to want to do better.
Method 3: Offer a Solution
If your expectation of an event or circumstance is not met and you feel the need to offer a critique, also offer a solution. This shows a spirit of cooperation and support, rather than leaving the recipient of the criticism to figure it all out by themselves—and maybe get it “wrong” again.
Most people do well when they feel that someone is trying to work with them, is not questioning their intelligence or capabilities and is offering some help in the form of possible solutions.
My best to you as you implement constructive criticism in your marriage.