Complain vs Criticize

These two words may seem to have the same meaning but there exist a hairline difference and knowing this difference can make or break a relation, may it be a professional one at our workplace or a personal relation with someone.

There are times when we do not agree with another person, maybe about work or about some other issue and these differences will remain and cannot be fully eliminated from our lives because everyone has their own perspectives of the same situation. The thing that matters the most is how we deal with these differences and how we convey our opinion or feedback in such a way that it reaches the other person and has a positive impact rather than some negative impact. This is where the difference in these two words comes into the picture. 

Complaining can be considered as a act of sending someone a message that they did something that we did not like and we would rather like them to do that thing is a different manner. It focuses on the problem at hand rather than the person. But most of the time when we want to complain about something, we end up criticizing. 

The difference is that when we criticize something or someone we are directly or indirectly attacking on the character of the other person. We shift our focus from the problem or the task at hand and end up making judgements about the character of that person. And when that happens, the other person out of basic instincts, starts to play defensive to protect his/her character. The situation gets intense and both sides now start to focus on protecting their positions and their identities. When we are busy attacking and defending ourselves, both the parties lose the ability to listen and comprehend the points of the other person and this so called meaningful discussion leads to nowhere.

This is where mindful speech comes into play. If we are aware of every word we utter and take note of it, we can prevent ourselves from criticizing someone else’s character and focus our message on the task at hand. Next time, when someone makes a mistake and you wish to have a discussion about it, try to be aware of everything you say. Try to avoid words or phrases that can be perceived as an attack because it is never fruitful. 

There is a technique suggested by some psychologist that can help us complain about the topic at hand and still avoid any attack. It is the “XYZ method” and it goes something like this.

“When you did X, I felt Y and I wished you would have done Z instead” 

So instead of saying “How foolish it was of you to add this thing is the system. Don’t you know how to do it” you could refrain it in this way:

“When you add this feature to the system, I feel that it would not be as effective as we want it to be. I think it would be better if you did this so as to make the system more stable”

This technique in general could be applied anywhere and would be rather effective as the other person would actually listen to your feedback or complaint rather than defending themselves. But it needs mindful efforts from our side. We need to catch ourselves criticizing the other person and bring back our focus to the main issue. Also while receiving feedback it is equally necessary that we remain mindful and listen to the other person’s complaint and not consider it as an attack and understand the underlying issue that is pointed out. 

All this comes from deliberate mindfulness practice and open-mindedness but once we start to see it through a different perspective, we begin resolve our problems in a more mature manner and come to logical solution rather than just raising our voices to prove our point

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