“Giving honest and well intended feedback is often confused with being mean. It’s not mean. It’s nice.” —Robert Kiyosaki
Good feedback is like good discipline. The process is not often pleasant, but it yields immensely fruitful results. Poorly communicated feedback is like rotten food — good for nothing and can make you sick.
Rather than dig into all of the horror stories of spouses tearing each other down, we’re going to focus on how to lovingly and effectively communicate critical feedback to your spouse.
Pop Quiz: Which of the below will receive a more productive response?
- “You are so insensitive! How you handled my mom at dinner is the same disgusting way you’ve always felt about my family.”
- “I appreciate how much you care about protecting me. Tonight at dinner I was hurt; the next time my mom aggravates you, would you please consult with me before responding?”
Now, let’s break down the components that can make all of the difference.
Create Opportunity: This is important to be in place before conflict arises. We strongly recommend a weekly Coffee Break so that you can address sensitive topics in a laid-back, scheduled place.
Having a safe platform for critical feedback enables spouses to discuss their concerns before they snowball and eventually spew in an explosion of emotions.
Identify the Issue: Scholars have long documented the value of describing behaviors and not traits. Finger pointing is hurtful; however, if you express concern over an action instead of a person, you will be setting yourselves up for success.
Don’t dwell on the past, keep your focus on the future. As you communicate this, be mindful of your tone. Keep in mind that you are a team and your body language should affirm your desire for a mutual, positive plan to grow together.
Timing: If you’re not ready to communicate with proper tone, it’s probably not the right time to bring it up. Take time so that you are not personally emotive or defensive. Whenever giving critical feedback, it’s also important to allow the other person time to process.
Also, be willing to solicit your own feedback. Marriage and marital conflict involves two equal people, allow time for a dialogue.
Assuming you and your spouse are honest and well-intended people, giving and receiving critical feedback will empower you to grow individually and together. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” — Proverbs 27:17
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