asking for criticism

After Tim & I go out most anywhere, we usually turn to each other in the car and ask THE question.

We've asked it for over ten years now so we both anticipate it.

"What can I do differently?"

asking for criticism 1The intent of the question is to encourage both of us to think critically about how our actions affect each other. For example, I might say, "You embarrassed me when you said..." Or he might say, "I could see down your shirt when you bent over." We tell each other if we were too grouchy, too harsh, too flirtatious, or too careless. We tell each other if we laughed too loud or had broccoli in our teeth or lacked empathy.

I wouldn't feel comfortable asking for such detailed and critical feedback from most people (nor would I want to), but there's a certain safety in our relationship that makes these (sometimes painful) conversations possible. When Tim says something, I listen. I let his words seep into my heart, take root in my steps.

Lately, we've been including our 4-year-old in the discussions too. I'll ask her, "Is there anything I did tonight that you wish I didn't do?" After listening to her thoughts, I usually give her a few things to work on "for next time" too. I try to remember to say at least 5 good things [bare minimum!] for every critique.

I'm curious: do you ask for criticism/feedback from your spouse or your kids? How often?

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32 comments on “asking for criticism”

  1. Markus and I try to encourage one another regularly. I appreciate him so much for the way he constructively criticizes (when it happens) doesn't seem so painful :-) And...I think it is safe to say that 99% of his critiques are in reference to ways we can honor God better in public situations and in our home. Sometimes all it takes is a look or a nod in certain environments and other times it comes in the form of a conversation. At the end of the day, I want my spouse and close friends to 'get in my face' if I need it. I may get defensive or hurt, but in the long run I would much rather have someone challenge me and encourage me to be the best I can be, even if that takes some refining on my behalf.

  2. i love this. who better to help us show His love better than the person we are one with? i think this would be a great way that matt & i could be more intentional with this.

  3. Your posts a lot of times make me laugh out loud. In a good way... at myself. B/c I love how you find NICE ways to say things that I am so awkward at! :) This is me: "So, what didn't you like about this outfit?" - totally blunt! :) I like the way you say it much much better! :) I need more grace! haha! :)

  4. I think criticism can be scary for a lot of people. I like Jenny's idea above of "guiding us on the right path." We do family meetings most weekends where the kids can bring up anything they want to talk about. Sometimes they talk about things they really enjoyed that week, or something exciting that happened at school and sometimes they bring up how they didn't like it when they were sent to their room or when I spoke to them in an angry voice. I feel like this helps them to feel like they have a voice in our family and aren't just always being told what to do. And they know that they have a forum in which to talk, too.

    1. Great idea, Anne! I'd like to explore doing something like that when our kids get a little bit older.

      I'm curious:
      * How long do your family meetings usually last?
      * Do you have an "agenda" of some kind?
      * Do your kids look forward to the meetings and, if so, how do you keep their interest alive?

  5. I love that you do this and it provided me a way to talk to Scott about constructive criticism. I always ask him how I did or what he thought of something and he rarely answers with anything good or bad. So your post gave me a path to say, this is why I'm asking :)

    Thanks for sharing more about your relationship and one of the things that makes it successful.

  6. Hmmm I am going to have to think about this one! I think that is good to check in with your spouse on this. I do feel like maybe it *could* in some cases make it so all you sit down to share are the bad things. I know not in your case or in all cases...but I could see it not going the right way and maybe becoming that. And then it may become really unhealthy.

    1. If a couple has a tendency toward negativity, perhaps they could also make it a point to discuss the things that they really appreciate about each other (Tim & I tend to do that already with regularity...).

  7. What a great idea! Definitely something that I should be doing with not only my husband but my girls. It also is a good life lesson for the girls to be able to accept criticism, think on it, and then either go forth or change what they have heard.

  8. We often have conversations about stuff like this. A lot of time it is brought up through one of our nightly devotion questions. But I really love the simple wording of "What can I do differently?" Think hubby & I will be adding this into our talks. And what a great idea to include your daughter. Our children need to see this effective way of communicating and experience it lived out in their lives.

  9. We don't do anything like this. I don't know whether we would find it helpful or not. If my husband told me he could see down my shirt when I bent over I probably would never wear that shirt in public again, and I'd be so embarrassed about the whole thing that I would be second guessing the whole evening wondering if anyone else had had an eyeful. So I think he's learned to curb criticisms like that! But I tend to be easily embarrassed about things like that.

    I think the idea of asking for critique is a bit frightening to me. I prefer to have my husband hold me accountable especially in areas that I have told him I'm working on. Maybe that's similar to your concept, after all.

    I like that you are intentional about your criticisms and compliments ratio. When your daughter gives you her opinion, do you encourage a similar ratio? If not, why not?

    1. Yes - we tend to be big "encouragers" in our family, sharing compliments all throughout the day and week. Our 4-year-old has picked up on this. She'll say, "You have such a beautiful voice!" and "I love your smile" and things like that.

  10. We don't do it in question form often-it's more like I'll point out something i know I'm struggling with and we talk about why it's happening and how we can improve things. But I do ask somewhat often if there's anything I can do to be a "better" wife/mommy, (meaning that I'm doing things the way God would want me to, as much as we're able to figure out what that'd be!) and I try to gently give him suggestions of things to work on, usually coupled with mentioning things I'll work on so it's not like I think I'm perfect and he's a loser. So not the case!!

  11. Nope. I am perfect ;) Actually, I hate criticism.I do everything right all the time.

    (not really) but this is for sure something that I could improve severely on, is taking it and really working on the things that are said to me.

    Great post.

  12. I think this is definitely a major role in what marriage should be all about. Trying to help our spouse be the best person they can possibly be and working to be an active role in that process. Hubby and I don't generally do this after being in a public place but we definitely do it regularly while having intimate conversations about what we want for our family. Perhaps criticism contains too much harsh connotation? Because everytime my husband guides me on to the path I know I should be I feel nothing but the greatest of love from him.

  13. I think this is an admirable practice, though not one I can say we regularly do. It's so hard to hear how/why we're wrong. But hearing it from someone who loves you definitely makes it easier to swallow.

  14. My husband helps me identify my blindspots. Whenever we spend time taking a walk or just chatting, we talk about what we can do to make our marriage better and how we can be better in all realms of life. My daughter is still too young to understand criticism, but we manage to help her understand good and bad.

  15. Adam and I naturally let things go. When something bothers us, it usually doesn't a few minutes later. We're really laid back with each other, thus why we don't argue much at all. But, we are honest with each other in a very kind way, most of the time, when we feel it's important.

  16. I love this post! yes we do not often but once in a while, trying to be better toward one another, stranger etc.. I think this help building up critical thinking, like when we read books, watch a movie or here a lecture!

  17. I guess I don't ask for criticism. I don't like to be criticized. But, I am grateful for honest critique of character issues from my loved ones - even though it is hard. My husband & I are open about issues as they arise, much like Ashley describes above.
    I'm curious & have to ask - when you say "you laughed too loud" would that be in the context of laughing rudely at something or some like that? As a loud laugher myself (who has been criticized for it) I don't see something like that as a helpful & respectful critique. I can be a critical person. So, don't think I am saying this as someone who doesn't ever wrongly criticize... But, being very critical of someone's personality or dress (or whatever) when it is not a character issue seems damaging rather than helpful. I am not saying you & Tim are being too hard on each other! I don't know the context of any of this!
    But, there is surely a good & a bad critique.

    1. Agreed. Good critiques are administered gently, humbly, lovingly, and with good humor. Bad critiques are dispensed spitefully, pridefully, harshly, and with hurtful tones. We strive to always deliver our critiques in the first category. :)

      Also - I like loud laughter (especially when it springs from a happy heart). Perhaps that was a bad example. I really meant if the laughter was distracting or inappropriately timed or something like that.

      I actually do welcome lighthearted commentary about my fashion choices and personalty quirks from Tim, but typically our conversations revolve around if our actions and words reflected Christ's love.

  18. although we share our feelings often, we've never just asked the question like you all do. It's probably something we should consider discussing.

    I have a question for you: has it ever started an arguments or disagreement? Even just a small one? I'm sometimes overly sensitive, and I can see that this might set me off. (If I'm being honest here.)

    1. It's not something we ever do in a spiteful way. It is more of a recap of our evening or day. We talk about all sorts of things related to what we just did, both the negative and the positive.

      Honestly, there can be a small cringe of fear when Stephanie points out something that I could have done differently, but it is in these moments that we both grow. We grow in maturity and also in our friendship. To be vulnerable with one another can be frightening, but talking about the things we should improve has become something we look forward to.

    2. Rarely. We tend not to ask each other the question if we sense that the other person is exhausted, grumpy, or unsettled.

      Also, I think criticism is much easier to swallow if it is (a) from your spouse, (b) given gently, and (c) given because you asked specifically for it. By asking the question regularly, we circumvent things "blowing up" at a later date.

      As always, I'm certainly not implying that every couple must do exactly what we do. I'm just sharing a little window into our marriage/friendship.

  19. Gary and I have tendacy to "call" each other out right there which is not always a good idea i.e. "Honey, you have something in your teeth" or "I wasn't finished and you just interrupted me!" However, if something really bothered one of us and we didn't want to say something to make things uncomfortable around our friends, we wait until later.

    *Usually, the only criticism I can take with out hurting my feelings is from my family, because I know they have my best interest in mind and love me unconditionally*

    P.S. I hope you guys aren't too hard on one another! I wouldn't have changed a second about you at dinner the other night! Your family is an excellent example of love and are SO much fun to be around!

    1. We bring things up "in the moment" from time-to-time too (food in the teeth is a good example).

      Also, sometimes we'll ask the "What can I do differently?" question and the answer will be, "Nothing comes to mind" or "you were awesome - every second."

      By asking, we hope to keep the door open for thoughtful (and gentle) criticism so that we can be continually sharpening our character.

  20. To be honest, I never really thought about it. I suppose I criticize if the children have misbehaved and if they are extra good, I'll point it out...but I really do like the concept of pointing out specifics and making sure there are a certain number of praises for every criticism. Something to think about! Thanks, Stephanie! :)

  21. I find that I don't like criticism unless I have asked for it. I don't mind getting criticized by my twin sister, but even my husband can hurt my feelings if I didn't ask for it. It is a unique concept though to ask for someone's thought so we can improve ourselves.

    1. I am also much more willing to accept criticism if I am the one asking for it...which is why I strive to do so with regularity. It gets me in the habit of hearing constructive feedback in "little bits" throughout the week.

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