We’ve all been on both the giving and receiving side of this one. It seems much too easy to see the negative side of situations and in others when things don’t go our way, but do not criticize. Admittedly, this is a tough one to discipline yourself on. All our lives we hear others criticizing us, and we then go and do the same to others.
We criticize others when they do things differently than we do, or if their viewpoints don’t match our own. We like to believe that our views and methods of handling situations are correct, and therefore by default anything else must be wrong. The closer someone is to us, the more important it becomes to insist that they agree with us. When two differing viewpoints come together, tempers can quickly flair if both sides are determined to push their way through.
Do not criticize in your personal relationships with family and friends. Do not criticize in your work environment with bosses, employees, suppliers or clients. There are much better methods available to deal with differing opinions. Remember that no one likes to have pointed out to them that they are wrong. Even if they are absolutely incorrect in their thinking, they will want to find a back door out of their argument so that they can save face. In the end it all boils down to pride, and everyone has a certain amount of pride.
The next time you find yourself approaching a confrontation, start off by immediately reminding yourself not to criticize the other person. Instead, hear them out. They may actually have an explanation which makes perfect sense. They may bring about a viewpoint from which you can learn. Why throw that opportunity out the window? So listen first. If you still feel that the other person is wrong in their thinking, don’t bluntly tell them “You’re wrong!” Instead start out by pointing out where you agree with them, if possible. There are most likely a few points where the two of you agree, so use that as a starting point for your discussion. It will immediately cause the other person to drop their defences and also listen to you. People like to hear how others agree with them. It makes them feel important.
Even if there’s nothing which you can agree upon, you can still compliment them on their well thought-out arguments. Then you can begin with some constructive criticism, or better yet, make some suggestions which will move the discussion slightly more in your favour. This can usually best be accomplished by asking questions, which can often lead the other person to begin to see your point of view in a clearer light. It can diffuse a tense situation as the two of you are now working together to find a common solution, instead of butting heads. Keep asking questions and you will notice that either you tend to understand them better and begin to agree with them more, or the other way around, and they start to see that some of your points make more sense than theirs. It really doesn’t matter, for in the end you both profit by achieving common ground. If you do not criticize, you have a better chance of having a real discussion.
Now of course, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the viewpoints are spread so far apart, that there is no way a compromise can be found. In these cases sometimes it’s best to back off by agreeing to disagree. Clearly let the other person know that you respect that they will have their point of view, and that you will too. In the end, everyone saves face, keeps their viewpoints and moves on. The tensions has been averted and mutual respect can be maintained.
One very important point to remember, is that sometimes you may outrank the other person and sometimes they may outrank you. This is clearly the case between parents and children, bosses and employees, and the company and its customers. Therefore depending on the individual situation, you may need to back off earlier in one case, whereas you can afford to push a little harder in another. This is where sound judgement must come into play. However the same basic rule applies: do not criticize!