Complaining is a skill, so here are a few suggestions on how to complain more successfully!
In this stressful and complicated time, when there is more restrictions around us and some of us are quarantining, we are living much closer and seeing each other more often than we used to in our everyday lives. Because our lives are much more restricted as they used to be, we have more reasons and bigger desire to find something to complain about. There are better and worse ways of doing that, so it is important that we choose the right method, so that we don't offend or annoy others around us. Complaining is a skill, so here are few suggestions on how to complain more successfully.
- 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:– You know your breath stinks. It’s disgusting.
As opposed to:– I love giving you a kiss, but there’s just this one tiny thing: it’s even nicer when you’ve just brushed your teeth.
Or:– Why the hell were you flirting with that idiotic person?
As opposed to:– 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.
- 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 ‘good’, while (obviously) we are ‘bad’.
We say:– No-one on the planet has to put up with this, why can’t you see that obviously it was your turn to take the bins out?
Instead of:– Taking the bins out is obviously about the most boring task imaginable. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to get out of it, but it occurs to me that maybe yesterday it was actually your turn.
Or:– You’ve become probably the least imaginative person in the world in bed. Martin and Jannine are fucking like crazy, what’s wrong with you?
Instead of:– I don’t know anyone whose sex life has stood the test of time, but maybe we could slightly buck the trend
- 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.
Compare:– 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.
With:– It sometimes seems to me that maybe you haven’t entirely got in focus the reaction you are hoping to elicit from others.
Or:– You are such a revolting snob, I want to die of shame when I hear you pontificating in front of other people.
With: – I wonder if it’s just possible that at times not everyone fully identifies with the interesting point you are making.
- 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: we lash out and condemn our partner in their whole being, rather than surgically addressing a very precise problem.
We might say:– You’re such an A-hole.
Rather than:– When you were slightly abrupt with my mother, it made my unhappy. I totally understand: she’s not your best friend and she can be pretty annoying; but I feel I have to be loyal to her, I can’t emotionally afford to alienate her more than I already have. I hardly dare ask, but I’d love you to grit your teeth and be sweet with her. I know its a lot to ask but it would mean so much to me.
Or even:– You’ve ruined my whole life!
Rather than:– It’s pretty difficult to explain, but I have this quite intense thing about cutlery. I know it sounds weird, but it does bother me when the knives and forks don’t match. Ultimately I suppose matching means harmony for me. It’s a little detail that speaks about a grand theme. When you bought those new knives, I know your were thinking they were a bargain – but would you mind very much if we kept them in reserve. Maybe on Saturday we can go and look for some others.
- 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.
We opt for:– You promised you’d be here at seven and it’s seven fourteen, you drive me mad!
But don’t dare admit:– 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.
We say:– Did you really pay that for a haircut, I can’t believe how vain you are.
Because we can’t admit:– I’m worried that you don’t think I’m attractive, so when I see you taking an interest in your own appearance it makes me feel you are too good for me. I feel very unsure about being liked or found interesting or appealing and I want you to understand this about me.
In each pair of statements the underlying criticism is exactly the same but it is delivered in radically different ways. So to conclude everything, we understand that it is really important to say our thoughts and opinions to other people around us, but even more important is finding the best way to do that. Saying our opinion may be too critical or maybe too harsh for the others ears, because people don't like hearing criticism, and it almost always will be associated with negativity. By doing it the right way it can be a healthy part of every relationships, because we express our opinion to the other in an inoffensive way.
P.S. We've created clothing for hugs to remind us of hugging every day in a fun way! Check it out: