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It’s easy to think criticism is a constructive process — one member of a relationship feels he/she knows the other in and out, and in making “suggestions” for how the other might change or improve, he/she is merely helping the other overcome his/her flaws and deficiencies.

The path out of this relational trap is to first take on an approach of zero negativity: for both parties to commit absolutely to refraining from put-downs, negative comments and behaviors.The other person, in a way, ceases to be a person, and is instead an object to be molded into the critic’s way of looking at the world.That said, a relationship without dialogue, without one person being able to express a concern, is also an unhealthy place.Knowing that you are going to express something critical takes away the element of surprise and defensiveness in the other person, and allows you to state your concern in a thought out, gentle way.It makes it much more likely that they will be willing to compromise and come closer to your side of the fence.

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