It has been so difficult for me in my life to respond in a positive manner when I felt criticized. This was particularly difficult for me as a child. I remember, "talking under by breath", when my father was saying something unpleasant or critical. I had better not say anything out loud. My response was very much survival based. I could keep from getting hit (maybe even demolished) and at the same time could also release some internal tension. Unfortunately or fortunately as I got older, I talked less "under my breath", and that led to other problems. Now I have a better balance of both talking under my breath, and speaking out loud. Hopefully my responses are more of an assertive nature, and I am responding instead of reacting. I know that is not always the case, but it is my intention. I mentioned this in another post, but sometimes we can reframe the criticism in our mind, and notice that there may be a positive connected with it. Something like the other cares enough about our relationship to make the statement, or remind ourselves that there is a hidden wish under the criticism. Active listening can always be a great tool, if it is timed well and used proficiently. Another possible response that I have been introduced to recently by Esther Perel is an "observational response", It might be something like, I notice that I get quiet when we talk sometimes, have you noticed that", This response also needs to be well tailored to the situation. Too often we just become reactive and retaliate as we experience anxiety, annoyance or anger. Sometimes we might even kiss our partner on the head, tell them we love them, or ask them if they would like a cup of tea, and then "talk under our breath". Although here I am referring to a couples relationship, however, we have many more options than we think to handle criticism in any relationship. When things are heated we want to settle things down and not inflame them in the moment. We can be more gently confrontational later when we both are less stressed. The most important thing to keep in mind is to communicate that we love and value our partner, and help them become aware that we are uncomfortable with their criticism and that we want to dialogue and find a solution to the problem. Quite often there is disappointment that is sitting under the criticism.
Responding to Criticism in Intimate Relationships
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