Communication Killers: Criticism
Criticism – The 1st Horseman
- the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.
Criticism is when you judge a person’s character instead of just their behavior. In the context of relationships, it’s like character assassination. While the least damaging of the Four Horsemen, Criticism is still destructive to a relationship because it attempts to paint the other person as completely bad. You often hear exclusive language like “You always” or “You never” when criticism is happening. This paints your partner as not just doing something bad, but as consistently being bad.
What Criticism Looks Like in Relationships
Criticism is judging a person’s character, which can be hurtful and lead to defensiveness or contempt. It’s normal and healthy to complain about someone’s behavior, but it becomes criticism when you attack the person’s character.
What to Do About It: The Soft or Gentle Startup
The first three minutes of a conflict discussion predict the outcome with 98% accuracy. When a person starts with criticism, the other person is likely to go into their own horseman, usually defensiveness or contempt. This situation has a 98% probability of the conflict not being managed successfully and becoming worse. With a gentle startup, a tone of connection and understanding is established right off the bat. This helps your partner stay in an open, non-defensive place because they are less likely to perceive an attack. Softened startups often involve statements of the other person’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings, then asking how you can help. Expressing a sense of togetherness reaffirms that you are a team and that they are not alone. The soft or gentle startup creates a 98% likelihood of a successful outcome.
There are many other approaches to the softened startup, and the Gottman Method Couples Counseling helps you find methods that work in your unique relationship.
To learn more about red flags to look out for and how to fix them, please visit my Couples Counseling page.
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.