What differentiates complaint from criticism?
Complaint is about a situation – a duty not carried out or about a promise not kept. When your partner leaves behind a messy kitchen counter after preparing a meal, a complaint is necessary to remind them that they didn’t keep their end of the deal.
‘You didn’t clean the kitchen counter after cooking last night. Will you take care of it after breakfast?’
Criticism is directed at the person rather than the situation. When your partner leaves behind a messy kitchen counter, criticism questions their nature rather than the act itself.
‘You never clean the kitchen counter after cooking. Will you ever change?’
A complaint separates an act from the person who committed it even as criticism lumps those things together. Complaints are helpful – they help us imagine and create a better world. Criticism is devil’s bargain, for it might bring about change at the cost of a carefully cultivated relationship.