I’m reprinting a brief article I received from the Gottman Institute about how to approach your partner with a complaint without the complaint getting experienced as a criticism, or an attack on their character. This “softened startup” is an approach I’ve been advocating for years to couples, but I thought it was very succinctly captured in the Gottman’s article. Here it is:
In the last Marriage Minute, we talked about Criticism, the first of the Four Horsemen. To review, criticism is an attack on your partner’s character or personality, often starting with “you always” or “you never.” Or you can be more direct with criticism: “You are so lazy,” or, “That’s just like you, finding any excuse not to spend time with me.”
Fortunately, it’s reversible.
The antidote to Criticism is what we call The Softened Start-Up.
To soften your start-up means to approach a conversation with how you’re feeling about the situation, not your perception of your partner’s flaws or behavior. There’s a difference between complaints and criticism. A complaint addresses a specific instance or action and acknowledges how it made you feel.
A good formula to remember is: “I feel [your feeling]”
“About [the specific behavior, not a pattern of behavior]”
“when I’m not invited to virtual happy hours with your friends,”
“when you don’t read the articles I send you,”
“when we don’t have dinner together.”
“And I need [state the positive need].”
“to know what your preferred evening schedule looks like and how I can be a part of it,”
“to feel like you’re interested in the things I care about,”
“to spend some quality time together this week.”
Practice softening your start-up.
You can even practice together with your partner, giving advice to an imaginary couple who struggles with criticism. For example, how would you soften “You always leave dirty dishes in the sink”?
You can also apply this formula to positive things—”I feel cared for when you check in to see how my day is going!”
In this half hour episode I explore the issues involved with being either a clueless spouse / partner, or one who has healthy, loving partnership skills. This episode taps into emotional intelligence, how highly you would rate yourself when examining your attitudes, knowledge and practices in your primary relationship, and identifying areas where you may need to improve to avoid misery, and to create more satisfaction for you and your partner / spouse. Tune in and take the 20 question test to get a better read on how the experts might score you, also to get a better sense of where you might be headed for avoidable trouble!
To join the conversation live with questions or comments call toll-free 877-497-9046. If you can’t make the live show you can hear the recording anytime afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
However you tune in, you won’t want to miss this episode! You’ll learn about relationship skills and practices essential to happiness and trust!
Don’t miss my next BlogTalk Radio episode on Thursday, August 24th at 8:00 PM EST. It will be 20 minutes of discussion about the signs of unfairness in relationships, and how to remedy the situation. Tune in live at 877-497-9046 to join me on the air with your questions or comments.
Don’t miss this 20 minute information-packed episode, especially if you’ve been accused of behaving unfairly, or if you’re on the receiving end of unfair treatment and don’t know how to handle it.
Lots of people, especially wives, complain about not getting enough of this in their relationships with husbands or children. “I get no respect!” I sympathize, then I ask them about how much they respect themselves, and often hear about their lifelong careers as doormats. How can anyone get respect if they don’t treat themselves with respect? Listen to Aretha, and think about it………..
I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with
skills and tools to transform your life.