This is one of those dangerous moments that can create all sorts of conflict between couples, friends, family members, co-workers ... you name a relationship and criticism is a great way to muck things up.
Or not, depending on how the two of you handle the situation. And this really is a matter for the two of you, because two related but entirely different skill sets come into play.
Let's suppose your significant other asks you this: "Hey Hon, what do you think of these shoes?" And let's further assume you don't particularly like those shoes. Which of these responses would be closest to your style?
- "They look great!" (Avoiding handing out a criticism, even if it means being less than truthful.)
- "Maybe ... what do you think?" (Does that fence hurt?)
- "Oh you know me, I really like your black shoes, so anything else just pales in comparison." (Trying to deliver the negative message so it sounds like a positive.)
- "You've always been terrible at picking out shoes!" (Hey, when you believe you're right, go in with all guns blazing. Hopefully you've got the divorce lawyer on speed dial.)
- You recognize the value of an honest opinion and are happy for the help.
- You feel an immediate flash of anger but you manage to stop yourself from responding in kind.
- "Oh yeah? Well what about those ugly brown things you always wear every time we go to your mother's?"
Are there are other factors for you too, such as whether the topic is something that feels particularly important to you? What if you're tired or already grouchy? How about if the two of you have been at each other's throats about other things just before the shoe debacle went down? Would you tend to react differently?
There are a number of actions that can reduce tension in situations like this, like making it clear you're doing everything you can to avoid giving offense, or offering a sincere apology. What have you found that works for when you need to calm the waters?
How important do you think this issue ranks in terms of factors that threaten the harmony of our relationships? I'd love to hear about your opinions and experiences.
All the best,