It is so easy to criticize somebody. And it is so difficult to say what we want instead. Why? Because criticism is an oblique way to avoid rejection. To tell you that you did something wrong is safer than to tell you what I need and to show you who I am.
Disclosing a desire is a quite vulnerable thing to do. When I express a wish, I might get hurt in not receiving what I ask for. When I throw a criticism at you, I am protecting myself (and potentially hurting you).
When I complain to my partner: you are working all the time and you never do any fun stuff with me, what I really mean is that I feel not seen or even neglected and I would love to spend more time with you.
When I criticize that my colleague is always late, what I mean is that I feel not acknowledged for the work I do. And that I want a salary rise, or to simply redistribute the work in a different way.
Realizing this is a huge game changer. When we start to say what we mean and want, instead of what the other person does wrong, our relationships change tremendously.
“Behind every criticism is a wish” – Esther Perel