In this week's video, we talk about how kindness doesn't have to be hugely sacrificial, nor does it have to present itself with great extravagance. We're sharing some of our own acts of kindness...and how we knew our partner would appreciate them. We're also talking about "complaint" vs. "criticism." You're right—we're not supposed to be complaining OR criticizing our spouse this month, but chances are even though we aren't saying things, we're probably still thinking them. Watch the video below and then hop down for some definitions and idea on how you can figure out if you're complaining or criticizing.
(Knot Project note about Gottman's book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: We don't love the term complaining. Instead of complaining, as noted in the video, we use the term "feedback." Giving feedback to our spouse doesn't need to register in our heads as something like, "Oh, he's just complaining." That makes what our spouse is saying seem or feel less valid.)
Gottman's characteristics of complaint (or constructive feedback)
- Focuses on specific behavior.
- Has three parts: 1) Here's how I feel; 2) About a very specific situation; 3) Here's what I want/need/prefer
Gottman's characteristics of criticism
- Global in scope.
- Expresses feelings/opinions about the other's character or personality
- Often contain the words "always" and/or "never."
Sometimes, we don't even realize what we're saying when we're in a (heated) disagreement. This period of 30 days is for obtaining from saying negative things, but when negative thoughts arise, we encourage you to write them down in a journal or notebook. After a few days, come back to the thoughts you scribed. Evaluate your words: Are you giving constructive feedback (voicing a legitimate complaint) or are you attacking the very character of your spouse?
Don't worry if you realize you're criticizing—Gottman says this is a very common issue. But spend some time re-writing and re-framing what you would say so that you can begin to practice healthy communication.