The word Complaint is inherently perceived as a negative emotions. Complaining carries such negative connotations, Sometimes, it can be hard to remember that there are better and worse ways of doing it and indeed, hard to realise that an essential ingredient of love is to know how to level complaints kindly.
So many of our critical thoughts are legitimate, yet they are let down by their method of delivery. For example – we nag, we harangue, we attack, we rant, we make cutting, sarcastic remarks, all of which make our near and dear ones to deny and escape rather than investigate how they can learn and address them.
Complaining is a skill. Typically if we haven’t carefully practiced a complicated task (like playing the violin or reversing an articulated lorry), we’ll do it very badly , But in principle, it can be done successful, if we develop the relevant skills. So too with complaining. The notion of a skill is generous to the inadequacy of our natural instincts. It proposes that many important tasks will be beyond us, unless we undergo a period of training.
In order to learn this art let me give you few perspectives on complaints and how todo it well by turning complaints into concerns:–
Rule No 1 . Layering criticism with reassurance
Any criticism (as we know when we’re on the receiving end) feels like a withdrawal of love. Therefore it’s extremely helpful to convey great admiration and respect as we’re announcing our negative insight.
Compare the effect of saying: –
Complaint– Why the hell were you flirting with that idiotic person?
As opposed to:
Turn it into a valid Concern– You are so lovely and I can’t help imagining other people finding you attractive. Don’t blame me for being selfish: I want to keep you to myself.
Rule No 2: Making it clear that it’s normal, and understandable, for your partner to have this failing
One of the things we are primed to resent is being made to feel freakish or being negatively compared to others who are perceived as comparably ‘good’, while (obviously) us as not so good .
We generally say:
Complaint – No-one on the planet has to put up with this, why can’t no-one see that bins need to be emptied out?
Turn it into a Valid Concern– I understand that taking the bins out is obviously the most boring task imaginable. I can imagine no one wants to do this one but it occurs to me that maybe yesterday it was actually your turn as per our mutual agreement.
Complaint– You’ve become probably the least imaginative and boring person in the world . what’s wrong with you?
Turn it into a Valid Concern– I don’t know anyone who is as adorable as you and it has stood the test of time, but maybe we could slightly reignite the fire ?
Rule No 3: Use qualifiers – maybe, perhaps, possibly, by chance
Often what we hate about criticism is its directness. In a secret part of our minds we’re not inherently unwilling to accept that we’re very far from perfect – but we can’t bear having certain truths stated to us bluntly.
Complaint– I hate the way you try to tell a story: you’re like some demented robot that has no idea what needs to be explained first, what’s an irrelevant detail or what the point of the whole thing is.
Turn it into a Valid Concern– I wonder if it’s just possible that at times not everyone fully identifies with the interesting point you are making.
Rule No 4: Explain what is genuinely at stake for you
We don’t realise it, but often our criticism doesn’t perfectly target the real source of our distress. Like, we lash out and condemn our partner in their whole being, rather than surgically addressing a very precise problem. We might say:
Complaint– You’ve ruined my whole life!
Turn it into a Valid Concern– It’s been quite a journey together , but it could have been worked out a bit differently if you would have conducted a bit differently.
Rule No 5: Reveal the longing beneath the complaint
Quite often, when we complain there’s a vulnerable part of us that wants to be recognised, appreciated and looked after. But we’re understandably nervous about revealing our deepest hopes. So instead we go on the attack.
Complaint– You promised you’d be here at seven and it’s seven fourteen, you drive me mad!
Turn it into a Valid Concern– I was counting down the time till you got here, I’m so excited and nervous that we’ve got this time just to ourselves, I worry that I’m keener on you than you are on me. I so want things to go well, that’s why I’m agitated – a few minutes doesn’t really matter.
In each pair of statements the underlying criticism is exactly the same but it is delivered in radically different ways.
Taking turns, each imagine you are an actor trying out for two different roles in a film. One option is that you’ll be cast at as a harsh critic and in the other, you’ll be skilled at delivering a critique surely but with minimal hostility. There are two versions for each scene: one in which the harsh critic appears, and one in which the gentle, skilled critic has a starring role.
You too can become a skilled critic too in your communications.
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