Topic: Criticisms, Complaints and Requests
will always have some complaints about the person you live with. But
there’s a world of difference between a complaint and a criticism.
Understanding The Difference
of us are reluctant to bring up concerns or issues in our relationships.
We fear being perceived as “nagging”, “nit-picking”
or “too demanding”. We don’t want to offend another,
or risk conflict, friction and hurt feelings.
all know that little irritations have a way of growing into seething
resentments. If we don’t clear up issues as we go along, we
risk having a volcanic eruption over something trivial, at some point
in the future.
So it makes sense to learn how to raise our concerns in a constructive
manner. Understanding the difference between a criticism, a complaint
and a request can help us do just that.
bring up and successfully resolve an issue with my husband was something
of a mystery to me for years.
I was able to do it flawlessly. I expressed my concern, he heard what
I was saying, he told me how he felt, and we worked out a solution
we both felt good about.
Other times I felt like I’d put my hand into a meat grinder
from the moment I opened my mouth. He reacted defensively, justified
his position, pointed out my shortcomings and generally dug his heals
in. No “win-win” here!
now come to realize that the outcome of our conversations often depended
on whether I expressed my issue as a CRITICISM, a COMPLAINT or a REQUEST.
started with criticism, his back went up and we got nowhere. If instead
of criticizing, I simply expressed a complaint, he was somewhat more
receptive to what I had to say. And I got the very best response,
if I could translate my complaint into a request.
have learned to distinguish between a criticism, a complaint and a
request it has become much easier and smoother to raise my concerns
and resolve them positively. I share these distinctions with you,
in the hopes that they will give you a helpful road-map for dealing
start with the difference between a CRITICISM and a COMPLAINT
are two examples of a COMPLAINT one spouse might make of another:
“You left your dirty laundry all over the floor again and
I’m really tired of picking up after you.” OR
“I’m really ticked that you promised we’d go to
your parents for dinner tonight without consulting me.
addresses the specific action or behavior of another and your feelings
on the other hand, doesn’t simply focus on a behavior or action
of your partner. It adds an element of blame and even “character
as a criticism, the above complaints might sound like this:
“You’re such a slob, leaving your dirty laundry all
over the floor.” OR
• “You never think about anyone but yourself when you
make plans. You always put your parents ahead of me.
often contain accusatory words and generalizations like “you
never” and “you always”. They attack the person’s
character and personality. And there is an absence of “I”
statements. A criticism is all about “you” and the speaker
is not taking any ownership of his/her own feelings. The tone is
also more contemptuous.
tends to elicit a defensive response. The criticized partner often
justifies their behavior or tries to shift the blame by also going
on the attack. No one gets heard, tempers flare and a positive resolution
becomes very unlikely.
complaint is a definite improvement over a criticism.
is a negative comment about a BEHAVIOR, rather than the person’s
character. It is usually a statement of feelings, in which the speaker
reveals (and owns) his/her feelings. For example: “I’m
really angry about” or “I get so frustrated when”,
etc. A complaint is less likely to provoke a defensive, angry response.
a complaint is still a weak communication, in terms of creating
change. And it is often negative in tone. It tells the other person
what you’re unhappy about, however it doesn’t have the
positive power of a REQUEST.
REQUEST asks for a specific behavior change, that you desire.
the case of the dirty laundry being left on the floor, a request
Before you get into bed each night, would you put your dirty laundry
in the basket? And if you forget, do I have your permission to remind
in the case of the partner planning dinner without consulting their
spouse, a request might be:
Would you promise to consult me first, before you accept a dinner
invitation from your parents? riticisms often contain accusatory
words and generalizations like “you never” and “you
can be accepted, declined or negotiated. Perhaps your partner won’t
accept your first request; however she/he may offer an alternate
solution. In either case, loved ones are much more likely to respond
in a non-defensive and willing manner, if they are not attacked
We can voice our
concern via a criticism, a complaint or a request. I suggest that
if you do complain, stick to YOUR feelings about the BEHAVIOUR of
your spouse. Steer clear of generalizations and those global judgments
about her/his character. Criticism is corrosive to any relationship.
you can always choose to go straight to a request for what you really
desire. You might be surprised at how often you get it!
time you need to raise an “issue” with your partner/friend
Identify the behavior that you are unhappy about.
2) Formulate your request of them.
3) Make your request calmly and respectfully.
4) Be open to negotiation.
Vollett, Life and Relationship Coach, delights in working with pro-active
individuals who want to make positive changes in their lives, their
work/business or their relationships. Her clients appreciate her ability
to listen deeply, her compassionate wisdom and her support in moving
forward. Shirley offers a complimentary intro session for those who
want to explore how coaching works and how it can help. Click on a
link below to contact Shirley or visit her website at http://shirley.vollett.com
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