Positive, productive communication is vital to a romantic relationship, but it’s not always easy.
We live in a world of feedback.
Our stereo speakers give us feedback if we point the mike in the wrong direction. When we eat something we don’t like, we burp. Our computers give feedback when we boot up. But, a lot of us have trouble giving feedback to one another. Especially really good, genuine feedback in romantic relationships. Sometimes it comes in the form of critical, snarky remarks that attack character.
You can use the following strategies to help each other instead of hurting.
When Giving Feedback...
Know the Four Qualities of Good Feedback
Specific: Feedback should be based on observable behavior (rather than feelings/conclusions drawn). Like, “Thanks for helping the kids build their Lego tower.
Timely: Don’t let criticism or resentment fester—talk about it now.
Actionable: Make sure the person can control the aspect you’re drawing attention to. “The color of your eyes scares me!”—not helpful.
Positive: You can give critical feedback, but try tipping the balance in a positive direction!
QUIZ: How Do You Act in Relationships?
When Receiving Feedback
- Listen without comment, looking directly at your partner. When he or she has finished, don’t start with your statements. Ask questions if you want clarification. Don’t accept, deny or rationalize. We’re rarely taught to give feedback well. We’re more likely to receive feedback when the giver is angry, in the heat of the moment.
- Recognize the courage it took to give you feedback, and consider it as a genuine gift that will help you grow. Thank the giver. Make it short, but sincere. Something like, “You’ve really given me something to think about, thanks.” It’s hard to feel appreciation when you hear negative messages about your appearance or behavior. So think of simple words of gratitude ahead of time.
- Know that feedback can be tough to receive, even if we solicit it and are grateful for it. Feedback can seriously shake up your feelings about yourself, even if it’s simply another’s perceptions. Plan to do something nice for yourself when you’ll be facing tough feedback. Try self-esteem boosters like having dinner with friends or engaging in something you’re good at.