The Boomerang Effect

The all-too-common cycle of negative communication is similar to a boomerang, says marriage coach Richard Nicastro, PhD. When one partner throws out criticism, the result is usually criticism returned. That’s because criticism makes people feel defensive and uncomfortable, so the natural response is to find something to criticize back.

Nicastro says he noticed during coaching sessions that when one partner took a different tack, and responded with something compassionate or kind, the negativity weakened. Occasionally, a kindness was even returned.

Interestingly, few couples notice these patterns while they are occurring, even though they may sound obvious. They don’t understand the power of the boomerang effect—that what you send out will eventually come back to you.

The solution: Make a conscious effort to send out positive energy and to use kinder words, even when you’re faced with criticism. Be warned that it may take some time to change long-term cycles of hostility or negative communication. Nicastro says most people give in too quickly and resort to old patterns or to withdrawal.

His other warning says don’t merely act kind to get a kindness returned, as your partner will probably sense this, and the results will be weakened.

Once you’ve made it a habit, keep up your efforts of sending positive messages even when things are going well.

I’ve sometimes felt myself becoming very defensive from criticism, particularly on hot-button issues like mothering. Do you find it difficult to respond to criticism in a calm, kind manner?

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9 responses to “The Boomerang Effect

  1. Hey Lori:
    I tell my marriage coaching clients to listen to the critique and ask in what way can we resolve this? This makes the problem the enemy not the spouse. It involves the spouse in collaborative problem solving which is a much healthier way of dealing with problems.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

  2. A good question to ask! And it sounds non-defensive. Thanks.

  3. Criticism . . . it my limited 8+ years of being married . . . really depends on the issue (how personal) and how it is broached. If I even think I’m being attacked, my hackles go up and its very hard not to come back at him or to be down on him for stuff . . . or even to blame him for the things I’m doing incorrectly (or perceives I’m doing incorrectly). And it has to be balanced with the good stuff. Even if I know that he’s going to bring something up, the positive cushions the criticism to a degree that I can hear it. My husband has to be able to confront me and not walk around on egg shells( and me with him ), but it has to be in love and balanced with the positive. In that, we make each other better people. Loved unconditionally, but always striving and pushing each other to be better.

  4. I have to answer this two ways. I am a fairly thick-skinned individual. Some may even say the extent to which I don’t care what others think is almost calousness.

    At the same time, I do have certain weak spots, where if someone strikes at them, then I don’t respond so imperviously or so kindly. It also depends on who the criticism is coming from.

  5. Pingback: The Boomerang Effect (via Marriage Gems) « Random Musings

  6. i had a bad relationship previously to the one i’m in now, and this was what tore us apart. i felt criticized on an almost daily basis. at first, i responded with, “i’m sorry” and i would do my best to fix whatever it was i was being criticized for. but eventually, after a few years, i started fighting back with criticism. i realized i was acting differently than my “normal” self, and that i had been for almost the entire relationship. now, when i encounter negative criticism, i feel defensive at first, but if i just breath a little, i can see if it is valid and if so, i accept it. if not, i simply say, no, that isn’t true. in my relationship now, this isn’t a topic at all really. but we don’t have kids yet…:) just a dog:)

  7. Pingback: 4 Steps on How to React to a Critical Husband : Be the Smart Wife

  8. Pingback: The Boomerang Effect (via Marriage Gems) « Why is marriage so hard?!

  9. James Onovughakpor

    I always had bad relationship,
    this someone I love so much and ready to anything for,
    but she didn’t apprehensive, I don’t know what do next
    but what i know is that love her, I don’t want to loose her
    please tell me what to do before it too late

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