How to Criticize and be Heard

criticize_and_be_heard_pm-thumb-270x270There it is. That giant silence between you and your partner. You know you want to tell him what’s bugging you. But will he tune you out, respond with a wall of defenses, or might you actually be heard?

Criticizing in a healthy way is a delicate business. It’s so easy for the recipient of your “gentle shaping” to perceive it as an attack, and shoot back with a strong defense before the full value of the words sink in. It’s also really hard for the communicator of a criticism to use kind enough language. Too often, our criticisms come in the form of an angry explosion after a buildup of irritation. Or, perhaps you have been taught not to express your needs, so that when you finally do, guilty feelings cause a kind of confrontational tone — as if you are trying to convince yourself that it’s okay to criticize.

Here’s a foolproof way to be heard. While this technique won’t guarantee that your partner will change the behavior in question, I will at least promise that he’ll be receptive to your words.

GET FREE VIDEO: “3 Secrets about love that nobody talks about.Sign up for my newsletter!

First of all, timing is crucial. Find a quiet moment when he is not multitasking, the team is not in the play-offs, and he’s had a relatively good day so far. Next, make a communication sandwich. It’s a compliment as the base, followed by a carefully worded criticism in the middle, followed by another compliment on top. The theory is that his mind will be so fortified by the goodwill you are sending that he’ll be more open to the sour note in the middle.

Here’s an example: Your husband isn’t participating enough in the children’s school life. You’d like to see him at more events. First, here’s how the conversation might go badly: “You never come to school functions! I feel like a single mother out there. You need to start being a better father, or your kids won’t be there for you when you get older.”

If I was a betting woman, I’d put money on the fact that the only response a guy would offer to the above is an attack on your mothering skills. Men like to compete. Now here’s how that criticism sounds as a communication sandwich: “Honey, have I told you lately what a good provider you are? I am so grateful that you work so hard and give our family so much. I know you are really, really busy at work, but if you can swing it, the kids and I would love for you to attend the welcome-back school family picnic. You know, I still think you are one of the sexiest men I know, and when you find the time to participate in school activities, you are even more beautiful to me.”

Yes, it’s wordy. Yes, it’s a bit mushy. But, trust me. All humans listen when there’s flattery invloved. Kindness, empathy, and goodwill can go a long way in relationships. Just because you’ve been together for a long time doesn’t mean you have to fall into insulting verbal shorthand. Respect your partner and you’ll be heard more often. It’s all in how you make him a communication sandwich.

Picture Ad - 10 Secrets to Mindfulness Reationships

I’m looking forward to helping you finally get the love you deserve! I hope you’ll join my new online workshop on, 10 Secrets of Mindful Relationships. Registration is open now:


FREE VIDEO: “3 Secrets about love that nobody talks about.” Sign up for my newsletter .

One thought on “How to Criticize and be Heard

  1. One of the key words in the attack version “Never” is one over-generalization which will also help close off a listener’s ears and get them into an argumentative state. Few things are more erroneous than the over-generalization terms of “Always” or “Never”. Few people have the ability to be that consistent and use of those terms guarantees rebuttal by demonstrating exceptions.

    Your sandwich idea is great, but also doesn’t take into account the ever shrinking attention span of the American populace. Many can’t listen to that entire paragraph and collect the meaning therefrom.

    Positive reinforcement of small acts also helps.

    Some people are also put on the defensive by obvious flattery, believing that some unpleasant request is to follow. It is a tool best used sparingly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *