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 else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
- What insights do you have?