Appreciate More, Criticize Less

Given that our definition of marriage is that it should be a mutual admiration society, how come the other person is always pointing out our negative aspects and forgetting our good traits?

In other words, that our partner doesn’t show enough appreciation. Yet those who complaint about this are perpetrators as well! There is a certain degree of the “mirror-effect” in relationships… if you complain about your partner, chances are that you will be criticized in return and things will start to get sour. But if you praise and recognize your partner’s virtues, you will be flattered in return and things will remain in good terms.

It is true that it is easier to focus on the negative and not mention the positive. After all, we have been trained to pick out mistakes since childhood (remember those exercises where you had to choose which item did “not belong” to the group?), and most professions require us to constantly use our critical skills to find faults and blunders that could, say, bring a project or a budget to pieces.

But this education and professional upbringing is detrimental to our relationships because when it comes to people and relationships it should be the other way around: we choose each other because we all want and need someone else who can be for us “warts and all;” who can accept and appreciate all of our aspects; an attitude that is  generally called love. But when the person that is supposed to accept us as we are tries to begin the project of improving his or her partner by pointing out whatever faults he or she has, then that person feels unaccepted evaluated in a negative manner; in other words, unloved.

Remember that whatever you focus on, tends to take center stage: if you focus on a negative trait of your partner, like her tendency to be late for appointments and dates, then this trait will become prevalent and negate the perception of other positive traits that attracted you to her before. So let’s begin:

  • Every time you need to talk about some changes needed, begin recollecting the good things done;
  • Try to find a positive thing to comment on daily;
  • Don’t you dare to mention negative aspects without talking about how good the positive ones are, first.
  • If the results are awful, praise the good intention;
  • Be very creative and find unexpected aspects to praise: a busy person that accomplishes everything could be praised for her constant smile, or her good disposition even along the busiest day;
  • Don’t be mean, don’t link praise with immediate critique: “you did well, but forgot this part.” In this case, the “but” will cancel the praise. The two propositions don’t need to be linked.

To keep your marriage healthy and happy through the years, remember that you need to produce 5 positive appreciations for each critical comment offered to your partner. A higher rate of appreciation has been proven to guarantee long-lasting marriages!

Apply these techniques for a while and you will see a change in the quality of your relationships, having more trust, and pleasure in the mutual company.

NoraNora Femenia is a well known coach, conflict solver and trainer, and CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions, Inc. Visit her blog and signup free to be connected to her innovative conflict solutions, positive suggestions and life-changing Conflict Coach opportunities, along with blog updates, news, and more!


  1. Stephanie Phillips says

    “What we focus on takes center stage.” How true and yet how easy to forget.

    I read your post several times to make sure I grasped what was being said. How profoundly simple and profoundly powerful your message is. Actually putting into practice your above given tips can really shape a relationship, if not a whole life.

    My partner gets home in an hour, or so, and I am going to consciously practice tip 5: “Be very creative and find unexpected aspects to praise”. We shall see how the outcome turns out. I don’t expect anything less than wonderful. I shall report back!!

  2. Well, I put into practice Tip Number 5 for 2 days, and much to my pleasant surprise, it worked like clockwork!!! Oh what power attitude wields.

    Also, I noticed that if I succumbed to any negative mood or attitude, even for but a moment, there were immediate ramifications in terms of the breakdown of connection between myself and my partner.

    Great information you have here!

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