by Meg Tenny, LCMFT

June 10th, 2021

June 1st is National Say Something Nice Day, which originated from Mitchell Carnell (also the author of Random Acts of Kindness). Carnell implores you to “be a lifter” and lift others up instead of tearing them down. Carnell understands the importance of positive communication and verbal appreciation in relationships. When was the last time you said something nice to your partner? Do you criticize your partner more often than you uplift him or her? Today is a good day to take part in an honest evaluation of yourself and how you speak to your spouse.

1. Avoid Criticism – Relationships, whether familial relationships, friendships or romantic relationships, do not benefit much at all from criticism. Criticism takes the form of a character attack and gives the message that there is something wrong with the person who is being targeted. We all gain some positive self esteem from healthy relationships in knowing that our friends, family and spouse love us unconditionally. Criticism takes that away from us by making love conditional. Never underestimate the power of positive verbal feedback on the recipient. However, communication lines must be open to express both positive and negative experiences. So how do you address negative interactions without using criticism?

2. Learn How to Complain – There is a difference between criticism and complaint. Healthy couples do occasionally complain to one another if they see something going wrong in their relationship. The proper way to complain is to be specific, take some responsibility, use “we” language and avoid blaming language. It is more effective to discuss behaviors that can be changed as a team. You can also leave the complaint until your couple therapy session so that your therapist can help you present your complaint fairly to your spouse.

3. Be Genuine – Make an effort every day to be a “lifter” in your relationship. Chances are that you already notice when your partner looks nice or does something helpful, but do you take the time to point it out to them? When you give a compliment or say something nice to your partner, make sure it is heartfelt and genuine. If you don’t have anything nice to say, sometimes it is better to say nothing at all. Making small changes like this can make a huge difference in how your partner feels about you and your marriage.

By avoiding criticism and learning how to complain properly, we are able to master the art of being a “lifter” to our loved ones. It creates space for us to be heard but to also maintain genuine and emotionally gratifying relationships. Let’s practice ways to uplift, so that we may receive the same acts of grace and kindness in return.