Invited Criticism



How can one safely provide feedback when asked for it?  We all know the usual outcome for the set up question:  “Honey, do I look fat in this dress?”  If, “yes,” is your honest opinion, and you and the person whose feedback you requested haven’t made a contract about invited criticism, get ready for Intimacy FREE Pastiming! How does one answer a question if the truthful answer is a risk, and is not what the person doing the asking wants to hear?

When we invite criticism (also called, “honest opinion,”), we forfeit our privilege of being angry or defensive about the answer we get.  If one asks her husband if she looks fat in a dress, then she has to kindly and respectfully accept the opinion she’s requested. She does NOT get to try to show her spouse how he is wrong.  If you don’t want feedback, don’t ask for it.  If what you want is a compliment, that is very different than invited criticism.

When one spouse asks another for an honest opinion, this does not mean that the spouse has a free pass to point out all our failings, and all the ways in which we could improve. It means that ONE opinion is requested; not an explanation, or justification, or lecture about change needed to eradicate the subject of the negative feedback. When we receive an response we don’t like, it is crucial that we have the grace to admit we are not perfect.

The privilege of answering sensitive questions comes with rules.  You can certainly make up your own, or use all or parts of the contract below.  The examples here are somewhat long because they were constructed to give the reader ideas.  Having a contract with three expectations and three responses has worked well for couples who have implemented Invited Criticism Contracts.


Invited Criticism Contract:


1. Even if I ask you an opinion about a subject that you know is sensitive, I expect your honest feedback.
2. I request that you phrase your response in a kind way.  For example, if I ask if I look fat in my dress, and you think I do, you might tell me that I own other dresses that are more flattering.
3. After negative feedback, I would like an expression of caring and love because it assists to soften hard to hear remarks.  For example:  “Do you think I need to lose weight?” Response – “Yes, I think you would be happier if you did.  Just the fact that you asked me about this indicates you have a concern.  And I want you to know, I love you, whatever you decide.”
4.  I expect that a short response, not a lecture.
5.  I expect that you won’t get angry if I don’t reply to your input, and just say, “Thank you.”
6.  I request that we are respectful when delivering invited criticism.

My Responses:

1.  I will appreciate your honesty, even if it is difficult to hear.
2.  I will not become argumentative.
3.  I will not engage you in a discussion of why I think you are wrong.
4.  I will not turn the conversation back on you and discuss your shortcomings.
5.  I will thank you for your opinion and advise you that I need to consider your thoughts about the topic.
6.  I will remember that your response is not an expose’ about me as a person.  Your answer to my invited criticism is how you see things, through your eyes.


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