Criticism can be an attack, a complaint, a form of aggression wrapped in words. It is a monster fueled by frustration, resentment, and anger. We criticize to change something, but all it really does is release tension and hit the other person where it hurts.
We often use criticism to point out what we don’t like about the other person, hoping it will change their behavior. But instead of encouraging change, it just knocks the other person down and makes them feel guilty and defenseless.
The person receiving the criticism feels attacked, and getting defensive, angry, or feeling guilty is often a first reaction. Like a constant wind that scours the earth and gradually erodes it, criticism in a discreet yet constant way will wear down the relationship.
The frustration behind the criticism
They say that the eyes are the mirrors of the soul, but in many cases, it is not so much our eyes that reflect how we are really doing, but our words. Criticism reveals anger, frustration, the inability to communicate, and the desire to control the other person.
We criticize and manipulate the other person. We throw insults around to get the other person to do what we want. Often, however, it hardly makes any difference.
Criticism comes from a variety of causes, from minor, unimportant actions to important aspects of the relationship. When the criticism comes in occasionally, it’s generally not that harmful, but it becomes problematic when it becomes a habit.
Criticizing is like a sword
Sometimes it’s small, subtle but constant, like drops of water falling on your head day in and day out to the point of causing a serious wound. Other times, the critique is more finely tuned and isolated, but at the same time blunt and intense, causing damage that cannot be easily repaired.
These attacks tend to be repetitive and extremely stereotypical and emotionally charged. They generally refer to past issues or the other’s habits, focusing on the person rather than the event.
Criticism is an attack that is often accompanied by hurtful words. In its most extreme form, criticism can be mocking, insulting or threatening, leaving the other person feeling defenseless, sad, guilty, worthless and insecure.
He’s getting exhausted, but he won’t change
In general, criticism produces the opposite effect to the effect one hopes to achieve. The more one person complains and criticizes, the less likely it is that the other will change. It drives people apart, which makes change and communication even more difficult.
Criticism and communication problems are two of the most important factors that ultimately lead to the end of a relationship. Criticism acts as a barrier that prevents the relationship from flowing properly.
Less Harmful Ways to Communicate
If you find that your emotions are choking you, you can also use the other person as a crutch instead of a punching bag. Even if what frustrates you has to do with the other person, you can lean on them and calmly and politely tell them how you feel, what’s bothering you, and what you’d like to see changed in the future.
Transform the attack into a request. “You’re always busy, it seems like you think about me less every day” is quite different from “I feel like we don’t spend much time together, I miss you, do you think we’ll have something together this week? can do?’
Below are some techniques that will help you transform criticism into messages that are a lot less hurtful:
- Your feelings are yours, no matter who arouses them in you. Don’t blame someone else for what you experience and accept your emotions as your emotions. Swap “I’m driving you crazy” for “I feel nervous when you do that.”
- Focus on the present or the future rather than the past. This gives you a chance to take action, while the past only keeps you trapped in a prison from which there is no way to escape. It’s better to say ‘can you do it next time?’ rather than ‘you never listen to me.’
- Be specific instead of generalizing. People don’t change who they are, but they can change what they do. Focus on specific actions rather than who they are as a person. This will help to solve the problem better. Try something like “you seem angry today, did something happen?” instead of ‘you’re a jerk, you’re in a bad mood every day.’
- Please say thank you and sorry without being sarcastic. The right words and tone can prevent further altercations.
We can’t always agree
Just because we express ourselves properly doesn’t mean we always have to agree. Even with good communication, there may still be things you disagree about or would like the other person to change. Agreement is simply not always possible.
In any case, dialogue and change are much easier when you approach the issue from an approaching and supportive attitude rather than a distant and hurtful one. Even if you can’t always agree, it’s still much nicer to have that other person as your ally than as your enemy.