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Criticizing others

One way that some of us cope when we are in conflict is to criticize the other person for something he or she is saying or doing. Criticism takes many forms. For instance, it may be by being condescending, pointing out and putting down things we don’t approve of, finding fault when things don’t suit or fit our perspective, ignoring the person or demonstrating a dismissive attitude, being sarcastic about or correcting things the person says, and so on. Criticizing in these and other ways often results in conflict.

At those times we choose criticism as a defense, we are likely unable to separate the person from the problem; we let emotions drive conflict; and we tend to choose blaming and criticism to make or ‘win’ the disagreement. Criticism for whatever reason derails an even-handed conversation.

Criticizers may lack self-esteem and feel more powerful by being critical. They may even be deflecting other matters, including some truth and contribution that is hard to admit. Criticizers may genuinely dispute the other person’s viewpoint but do so in a way that demonstrates intolerance, lack of flexibility, and a need to be right.

If you tend to criticize, this week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider the last time you did so, to be able to explore this inclination further.

  • What were you specifically being critical of the last time you criticized another person?
  • What were you aiming to achieve with your criticism?
  • What did you need from the person at that time?
  • How did you succeed in achieving what you needed?
  • What does your criticism in the situation say about what you were feeling at the time?
  • What was the impact of your criticism on the other person?
  • How did the criticism hinder the situation?
  • If you were to frame the criticism as a request instead, what would the request be?
  • When someone has criticized you, what was that like for you?
  • Looking back now on the above questions, what two new things have you learned  about the use of criticism?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

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6 Responses to Criticizing others

  1. Some excellent questions posed.

    I don’t believe most people who are in the process of criticizing care about their affect on the other person or always being entirely logical so asking questions related to those points, in the moment, may not prove effective.

    Those individuals, ourselves included, are often in their animal brain at that time, flooded with emotion and not much reasoning.

    My favorites from this post:

    How did you succeed in achieving what you needed?

    If you were to frame the criticism as a request instead, what would the request be?

    When someone has criticized you, what was that like for you?

    Those questions are getting to the heart of the matter and asking someone how effective their approach was, is or will be.

    Maybe they reconsider it next time, or maybe not. But, the seed can be planted to think first before going with the old way.

    Excellent topic today.

    Useful for us all.

  2. Cinnie Noble says:

    Michael..thank you as always for your thoughtful responses. I agree that planting a seed goes a long way and sticking with the metaphor, ‘possibility’ questions open up the space for the seeds to grow and blossom!

  3. John C. Turley says:

    Your questions are excellent food for thought. I find it hard to recover with some people after I have leveled a criticism against them. I subsequently apologized for hurting their feelings;however, my criticism stands. I realize that I should have framed my criticism as a non-threatening request rather what was perceived as a frontal assault. At the time, I was annoyed about her criticism of me coupled with some prior actions that caused my pent up resentment to erupt. I appreciate your coaching and I will do my best to keep your recommendations in mind as I move forward. In the long run, I enjoyed two minutes of venting to be condemned to an indefinite period of aloofness by the offended party.

  4. Cinnie Noble says:

    Hi John:
    Your experience is common unfortunately.

    The reality is that once something comes out of our mouths that hurts another person we cannot really take it back. Some comments – such as criticisms – seem to leave indelible marks as they often strike at our fundamental beliefs, values and needs. These sorts of challenges to our sense of self (our identities) make it difficult for many to forgive and forget.

    Thank you for sharing your situation as it applies to this week’s blog.

  5. Judy Ringer says:

    I love this question:

    If you were to frame the criticism as a request instead, what would the request be?

    Thanks, as always, Cinnie!

  6. Cinnie Noble says:

    Thanks Judy…I like that one too :). When you really think about what you are being critical of, an ‘ask’ is really a more productive route.

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