Sometimes we dress it up with prettier names to make it seem less negative: honesty, feedback, sarcasm (I’m just so witty!), etc. But if we’re honest, what lies beneath our downer comments and attitudes is a critical spirit. Do you quickly dispense the unvarnished truth to your husband, your kids, friends, and coworkers? We know there’s a time and a place for straight talk, constructive feedback, and whatnot. But it’s not every time there’s an opportunity. As a matter of fact, the smarties from the Harvard Business Review tell us that your encouragements should outnumber your criticisms by about 6 to 1 if your goal is positive outcomes*. But learning how to stop criticizing can be difficult.
If your relationships aren’t what they could be—especially with your husband and kids—you may be shooting yourself in the foot with unchecked criticism. But even the most cynical among us can learn to curb our negative tendencies and encourage those around us toward the relationships we’d like to enjoy and the behaviors we’d really like to see. Learn how to stop criticizing and lay down your crown as the Queen of Criticism!
1. Get over yourself.
When you have the time and energy to always assess and grade the performance of others, you might be a tad diluted about how well you’re doing. By taking the time to criticize others, you signal that you feel you’ve taken care of things quite nicely in your own domain and have a little extra time on your hands to “help” the poor souls around you. The next time you’re tempted to criticize, ask yourself if your attention might be better applied to some of your own weaknesses. Ever wondered what’s behind your critical outlook? It’s a question worth asking.
2. Realize how many times per day others give you a pass.
It’s not that the people around you don’t think you get things wrong from time to time. It’s just that often they choose to quietly give you grace, rather than taking out their bright yellow verbal highlighter and making it known. If others capitalized on every potential opportunity to correct or criticize you, it would likely be very humbling.
3. Before you criticize, remember that you don’t know the whole story.
Even with your family, you don’t always know the whole story. You don’t know how hard your husband has genuinely tried to get finished at the office early to take care of some things around the house but to no avail. You don’t always know that your child really did study for the quiz; it was just really hard. And you certainly don’t know that your coworker is dragging his feet on the project because he’s quietly struggling with a serious health problem.
“Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” – Origin Unknown
4. Ask yourself, “Is this truly helpful?”
If it pains you to offer the critique, yet you feel it’s necessary, you’re probably coming from the right place. If you give thought to how to offer your feedback in a loving way that will be well received by the listener, you’re probably on solid ground. But if you delight in delivering the bad news, you’re not helping. You’re just criticizing. Learn to bite your tongue. It won’t kill you—we promise.
Tell us! What’s your criticism weak spot?