Criticism involves telling someone what they did wrong (or worse yet, telling them what’s wrong with them).

A request involves asking somebody to do something a specific way next time.

When you’re talking to a spouse, an employee, or your child, and they do something you don’t like, you have a few options.

1) Criticize them.
2) Criticize them and request they do things differently next time.
3) Request they do things differently next time.

The problem with the first approach (criticize them) is even after you tell them what they did wrong, they still don’t have any idea what to do differently next time.

For example, if you criticize someone’s work by saying, “Your report stinks. Fix it,” the only thing you’ve accomplished is making them feel bad. They still don’t know what to do differently next time.

The problem with the second approach (criticize + request a different approach next time) is when someone feels criticized, they’re so busy licking their wounds that they aren’t always able to pay close attention to what you want them to do next time.

The third and best approach involves only asking them to do something differently next time.

“Next time, use an 85-point font size for the titles on your slides.”

If you want to be an effective spouse, manager, or parent, it’s important that you make “requests.”

The criticism part is entirely optional… and often counter-productive.

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