Criticism Won't Change People

Criticism Won't Change People

Last update: 10 September, 2017

Criticism can be an attack, a complaint, a form of aggression hidden behind words. It’s a monster that’s fed by frustration, resentment, and anger. Its aim is to change something, but all it really does is release tension and tear the other person apart.

We often use criticism to complain about something we don’t like about the other person, hoping it will change their behavior. But instead of encouraging change, it just discredits the other person and makes them feel guilty and defenseless.

The person receiving the criticism feels attacked, and their immediate reaction is usually either defensiveness, anger, or guilt. Like a constant wind that gradually erodes the earth, criticism discreetly but continuously wears the relationship away.

The frustration behind the criticism

They say that the eyes are mirrors of the soul, but in many cases, it’s not our eyes that reflect how we really are as much as it is our words. Criticism reveals anger, frustration, the inability to communicate, and the desire to control the other person.

girl in jar

Its main functions are to vent one’s emotions and manipulate the other person. People who do it throw insults as a way to make the other person do what they want. However, it tends to produce little change.

There are various causes, from small, insignificant actions to important aspects of the relationship. When the criticism is isolated, it doesn’t come with too many issues, but it’s a problem when it becomes a habit.

Criticism is like a sword

Sometimes it’s small, subtle yet constant, like water droplets dripping on your head day after day until it causes a serious wound. Other times it’s narrower and more isolated, yet brusque and intense, causing damage that takes time to repair.

These attacks tend to be repetitive, stereotyped, and emotionally charged. They usually refer to issues of the past or the person’s habits, and they focus on the person instead of the event.

Examples include:
“You’re doing it again.”
“You’re never in the mood.”
“You should know this by now.”
“Will you ever change?”
“If you keep going like this I won’t tolerate much more.”
“You get on my nerves.”

people arguing

Criticism is an attack that’s often accompanied by hurtful words. In its most extreme form, it can ridicule, insult, or threaten the other person, making them feel helpless, sad, guilty, worthless, and insecure.

They get worn down, but they don’t change

Generally, the effect it produces is the opposite of the one desired. The more one person complains and criticizes, the less likely it is that the other one will change. It distances people from each other, which makes change and communication more and more complicated.

“Be aware of the difference between friendly analysis and destructive criticism. Observe whether the purpose of your words is to help, vent, or cause harm.”

-Napoleon Hill-

Criticism and communication problems are two of the main factors that lead to the end of a relationship. Criticism acts like a barrier that impedes the proper flow of the relationship.

Less harmful ways to communicate

If you find that your emotions are suffocating you, you can use the other person as a support instead of a punching bag. Even if something about that person is frustrating you, you can support yourself on them and tell them how you feel, what’s bothering you, and what you would like to happen in the future calmly and politely.

Transform the attack into a request. Saying “you’re always busy, it feels like every day I matter less and less,” is much different than saying “I feel like we don’t spend much time together, I miss you, do you think we could do something together this week?”

pointing finger

Read below for some techniques to help you transform criticism into less harmful messages:

  • Your feelings are yours, regardless of who produced them. Don’t blame them for what you’re experiencing and accept your emotions as your own. Swap “you drive me crazy” for “when you do that I feel nervous.”
  • Focus on the present or the future instead of the past. This gives you a chance to take action, while the past traps you in a jail that you can’t escape from. It’s better to say “next time I would like you to do it” instead of “you never listen to me.”
  • Be specific instead of generalizing. People can’t change who they are, but they can change what they do. Focus on specific actions instead of who they are as a person. This will help solve the problem better. Try something like “you seem angry today, did something happen?” instead of “you’re a jerk, you’re always in a bad mood.”
  • Say please, thank you, and I’m sorry without being sarcastic. The proper words and tone can prevent further arguments.

Agree to disagree

Expressing yourselves adequately doesn’t mean you have to agree with each other. Even with good communication, it’s possible that there will still be things that you don’t agree on or that you’d like the other person to change. But agreement isn’t always possible.

Dialogue and change are much easier when you come from a place of closeness and support rather than distance and pain. Even though you can’t always agree on things, it’s always more comforting to have that person as your ally instead of your enemy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.