The criticized partner often justifies their behavior or tries to shift the blame by also going on the attack. No one gets heard, tempers flare and a positive resolution becomes very unlikely.
A complaint is a definite improvement over a criticism.
A complaint is a negative comment about a BEHAVIOR, rather than the person’s character. It is usually a statement of feelings, in which the speaker reveals (and owns) his/her feelings. For example: “I’m really angry about” or “I get so frustrated when”, etc. A complaint is less likely to provoke a defensive, angry response.
However a complaint is still a weak communication, in terms of creating change. And it is often negative in tone. It tells the other person what you’re unhappy about, however it doesn’t have the positive power of a REQUEST.
A REQUEST asks for a specific behavior change, that you desire.
In the case of the dirty laundry being left on the floor, a request might be:
•Before you get into bed each night, would you put your dirty laundry in the basket? And if you forget, do I have your permission to remind you?
Or in the case of the partner planning dinner without consulting their spouse, a request might be:
•Would you promise to consult me first, before you accept a dinner invitation from your parents?
A request can be accepted, declined or negotiated. Perhaps your partner won’t accept your first request; however she/he may offer an alternate solution. In either case, loved ones are much more likely to respond in a non-defensive and willing manner, if they are not attacked with criticism.
We always have a choice.
We can voice our concern via a criticism, a complaint or a request. I suggest that if you do complain, stick to YOUR feelings about the BEHAVIOUR of your spouse. Steer clear of generalizations and those global judgments about her/his character. Criticism is corrosive to any relationship.
Remember, you can always choose to go straight to a request for what you really desire. You might be surprised at how often you get it!