Do you know someone who brings dread to your heart whenever you see him approach?
Chances are you do.
What marks that kind of person?
First, he complains about everything.
It might be the weather. Maybe it’s his home life. Or the conditions at work. Or the neighbors, the city council, the President, and the Congress.
Second, he always has something negative to say about your performance.
“You know, it’s good that you sold that customer we’ve been working on the past three years. But if you’d just got him before the end of this year, we’d have had a bigger bonus.”
“Son, that’s good. But you missed a spot next to the door over there.”
“I love that dress, but bless your heart, you really need to do something about your weight.”
Third, he loves to put you down so he looks better.
“He may have driven 300 miles, but I did more work and got done faster.”
“You may have sold that big account, but my customers like me better than they would you.”
“Hey, I may be dumb, but you’re ugly. There’s no cure for that.”
Hopefully, you don’t have anyone in your life that is so crass. But maybe you can relate to some of these experiences. If anyone has said something like that to you, you know how much it can hurt and even alter the course of your day, maybe even your life. At the very least, when it happens you’d probably rather consent to elective surgery without pain killers.
This is the first principle of human relations in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People: Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
Now, ask yourself: Are you guilty of these three sins of communication?
We all have conversational habits. We get into ruts of doing just about anything. We’re so used to the ruts that we don’t even know we’re driving in them.
Routines can be useful when they serve us well. But when they don’t, it’s as painful as hitting a wall at ninety miles an hour. We find ourselves scrambling to put our lives back into that rut we’re so familiar with. Sure, we could take another road. But what if it’s not the right one? How will we know if it will still get us where we want to go?
Well, we could ask for directions.
Now that you know you’ll be unwelcome anywhere if you consistently criticize, condemn, or complain, what should you do differently? Should we avoid the three at all costs?
Well, that might be near impossible.
Here’s what you can do.
When you criticize, focus on what can be changed for the better. Don’t attack the person. Strive to be helpful. If he listens, great. If he doesn’t, at least you tried. And if you were friendly when you did it, he will probably still like you later.
When you complain, be solution-conscious. Don’t just gripe. Offer to help. And if the issue is bigger than you, rally support to change things.
When you condemn, focus on behavior. God is the judge of people, not you. Criminals get punished for behavioral infractions, not just because they are rotten people.
If people got punished for being rotten, more of us might live behind bars!
Avoid these three costly relationship mistakes. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. Strive to help. Focus on behavior, not individuals. If it’s not worth mentioning, don’t. Do this and you’ll be more welcome wherever you go!