Learn to make SPECIFIC complaints & requests (when X happened, I felt Y, I want/need Z)
As I shared in the previous post. There is a difference between complaining and criticizing. It is okay to give a complaint to our partners, to share something with your partner that is frustrating. What is damaging is when we turn it into a personal attack and cut down our partner (or child, coworker, sibling, friend).
Complaining focuses on specific behaviors “When the garbage isn’t taken out, I get really upset.”, whereas criticizing focuses on the person, implying blame or a deficiency in who they are as a person. “You never take the garbage out, you’re so lazy”.
To avoid criticizing take out the ‘you’. Try to come up with the complaint without it being about the person. Below is a simple equation to help with a successful, productive, complaint.
The formula for effectively doing this:
- The Action or Incident: talk about the action or incident — when X happened/happens.
- Share your feelings: Share how YOU felt/feel — I felt Y
- I want/need Z: Express what you’d like to have happen in the future — I want/need Z
Example – (1) When the garbage isn’t taken out, (2) I feel ignored and that my needs aren’t important. (3) What I want is for the garbage to be taken out within an hour of when I ask.
I want/need Z – This is an okay time to use the word ‘you’. Letting the person you are communicating with know how they can succeed or be successful in the future.
- Example – (1) When the garbage isn’t taken out, (2) I feel ignored and that my needs aren’t important. (3) What I want is for you to take out the garbage every wednesday and saturday whether you think it’s full or not. – This example shows an effective use of “you” in expressing what one wants/needs.