Reality Check: The Critical Eye

Many people are now spending more time at home. While that may be with people you love and care about, it may also be in close quarters and for some, it must be quite a change.
There’s an interesting difference between being forced to spend time with people versus choosing to do so.
For example, people vacation together. Sometimes they share tiny spaces: campers, hotel rooms, even tents, and they happily get along.
However, require that the same people stay together in a full-sized house for a few weeks with no definitive end in sight, and the dynamic may change.
All of us have a need for freedom. When that need goes unsatisfied, we get frustrated. There are effective, helpful ways of dealing with that frustration, and there are certainly less effective, less helpful ways.
One of the less helpful ways that might pop up is criticism. Dr. Glasser lists criticism as one of the seven habits deadly to relationships, and he sees it as so important that he devotes an entire chapter to criticism in, “Take Charge of Your Life.”
It is easy to find fault with someone. Anyone. We can even find fault with ourselves! Any simple action can be criticized if we choose to look through a critical lens.
The idea of “constructive criticism” is particularly insidious as we sometimes have a tendency to use the term “constructive” to justify our criticism. In that guise of being constructive, we can convince ourselves that we are not actually criticizing; we are just trying to help someone become better.
As strongly as I believe in the principle of continual improvement, I know that there’s a significant downside to trying to “improve” other people. In these difficult times when many folks are stressed and concerned, it’s even more important than usual to be aware of that impulse to criticize and think twice before doing so.
One helpful criteria to use if you get the urge to let loose with a critical comment is the better:worse question. Ask, “Is what I am about to say or do going to make this better or worse? Will this bring me closer to or drive me further away from this person?”
When we get in the habit of asking ourselves that, it becomes easier to recognize that we don’t always need to speak up when we see something that could be better or different.
What if you perceive that you are on the receiving end of critical comments? Here are a few suggestions.
Choose not to take offense. Our first response when we are stressed, unhappy, or feeling trapped can be to take any seemingly critical remark as if it was intended to be critical.. But we have a choice in how we perceive what people say. Choose not to take it as being offensive. Even when we’re sure something is meant critically, we can still control how we choose to take it.
Retreat to a neutral space. For some, especially the introverts among us, just being around other people all the time can be tiring. Find some space to be alone for a bit if you can possibly manage it.
Practice common courtesy. This could be a great time to teach your children, and to remind ourselves, of the value of good manners. Say “Please” and “Thank you.” Practice the same respectful behaviour with family as you would with a stranger or your boss.
While we’re at it, extend that respectful and appreciative behaviour to the grocery clerks, pharmacy techs, and delivery drivers who may be frightened, stressed and overwhelmed, but are still showing up to do their jobs. Many might rather be at home but they are working. Say thanks.
How are you coping in this current reality?

This entry was posted in Relationships and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.