I’ve written before (part of an article containing very important basic info about relationships psychology) about the difference between complaints and criticism, and how criticism is corrosive to relationships –
To recap briefly,
A complaint is about a specific behaviour.
A criticism is
– An explicit or implied statement about some fundamental fault with the other person’s personality (e.g. lazy, useless, dependent, thoughtless, insensitive).
– Elicits defensiveness from others
The problem is that sometimes other people misinterpret complaints as criticism.
When this happens people get defensive.
A way to avoid this
A way to avoid this, get more of what you want, keep your self respect, and improve your relationship with the other person, is to use a technique psychology PhDs call “Validating the Valid”.
Here’s an example about communicating with your in-laws/parents.
Sophie and Jay are a married couple and have an 8 year old daughter Sarah. Jay’s Dad Rex has come to visit for a week.
Rex keeps Sarah up well past her bedtime playing games.
Jay and/or Sophie could say to Rex
“I love it that you and Sarah have so much fun together and have such a close relationship with each other but it would be helpful to keep Sarah’s bedtime consistent. What are your ideas for how the two of you could have some special time together and we could still get Sarah’s bath started by 7.30”?
“Validating the Valid”
Validating the Valid means finding the part of the behaviour that’s understandable and/or desirable, which in the example above is that Rex wants to have a close relationship with Sarah and have fun together.
The idea is to validate the valid first and then insert your complaint.
It’s true that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but validating the valid is a bit more sophisticated than giving a general compliment.
Validating the valid doesn’t involve lying or being inauthentic so it leaves the “giver” and “receiver” feeling good and allows everyone to keep their self respect.
Because you put the validating statement first, you can make a complaint without eliciting defensiveness from the other person – they don’t need to defend themselves because you just implicitly said “I think you have worth/value”.
By using “Validating the valid” you’re likely to get more of what you want, and enhance your relationship with the other person involved.
The Power of Positive Attention for Influencing Other People’s Behaviour and Enhancing Your Relationships
Anyone who has watched Supernanny or other similar programs will understand the positive of positive attention for influencing children’s behaviour and improving the parent-child relationship.
But, attention is one of the strongest motivators of everyone’s behaviour, not just children’s.
Positive attention is the one of the most powerful tools you have in your toolkit for influencing your relationships with your partner and other adults too. More here – 5 Parenting Tips That Also Work on Partners.
Easy DIY Psychological Challenge
Look for an opportunity to “Validate The Valid” and practice this skill once in the next 24 hours. You don’t need to want to make a complaint to use Validating the Valid. You can do the Validating The Valid part (Giving attention to desirable behaviour) without making a complaint.