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Criticism - The Great Derailer

July 14, 2016



Dr John Gottman recognised one of the four detailers in our personal relationships as criticism.  His work is validated and well researched and helps partners build better relationships.


So what about our relationships at work? How does criticism impact our working relationships?


Recently I worked with a team who felt their challenging made them high performing. They believed and freely stated



“We challenge each other and it’s healthy”



Sadly their challenging was criticism just dressed in different clothes, and was limiting their ability to:


  • be solution focused;

  • view and acknowledge different perspectives;

  • find common goals and different pathway to those goals; and

  • see difference of opinion as opportunity.

Their use of language that was harsh and critical meant that they could never be truly high performing.


In Dr. Gottman's 'The Four Horsemen' analogy, Criticism attacks the character of a person. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame. Talk about your feelings using "I" statements and then express a positive need.


What do you feel? What do you need?



Criticism: “He just hijacked the project meeting again. He always thinks his issues are so much more important.”

Antidote: “I’m feeling left out after that meeting today. Can we please talk about what I'm dealing with?”



Criticism is the enemy of good relationships.  Working together to be constructive and challenge thinking is a different ball game all together. 


Where can you see you may have fallen into the 'Criticism' trap at work?



Further reading: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-the-antidotes/




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