The Four Horsemen | Criticism
Couples Counseling | Columbia, Mo
Last week, we spent some time just talking about the four horsemen (of relationships). How they're terrible for successful, happy, long-term relationships and how they predict relationship dissolution.
And that's important because I'm assuming you're reading this based on things not going splendidly (#nojudgment).
The First of the Four Horsemen
The first of the four horsemen is criticism. Although don't trick yourself into thinking this one always pops up first. It doesn't. Although it's a pretty common horseman (and don't worry, we'll talk about all four here and during couples counseling).
Criticism takes a few forms, but often sounds like, "You're selfish, lazy, inconsiderate, (or) thoughtless." To further on that, "You don't think about me, you only think about yourself, (or) you're always putting yourself first no matter what I want or say."
Criticisms are attacks on your partner's character.
Let's take Joe and Judy, for example. Joe promised to unload the dishwasher before Judy got home, but then got sidetracked by something (or maybe just forgot). Judy gets home and has two options for addressing this thing. Her standard is criticism. So she says something like, "Ugh, Joe. What the hell? You never do what you say you're going to and you don't care how it affects me. You're so selfish!"
You think that's well received?
My guess is no.
Another option is for Judy to say, "Hey Joe, what happened? I'm a little bit let down because you promised to unload the dishwasher and didn't follow through. I feel burdened by a lot of other things right now and just want that taken off my plate. Can you please help me out?"
Whether it's well received is to be determined (by many other factors, actually), but it comes across as way less accusatory, while still voicing unhappiness with the situation.
Think of it this way. If the goal is to be heard (even when voicing anger), then the language we use and the way we voice our frustration should (in an ideal world) be intentional. AND in a way that actually can be received in a non-attacking way.
As per usual, much easier said than done. Actually, much easier with practice! It's very doable.
We'll talk about defensiveness next. Keep an eye out for your own horsemen, though. Take stock of whether you tend to use criticism and notice how changing up the way you approach something can impact the way the conversation goes!