Complaints versus criticisms. Example:
COMPLAINT: “I was so worried when you didn’t call that I stayed awake all night.”
CRITICISM: “You should have called. You made me stay up all night worrying about you. Talk about inconsiderate. [or, You’re a jerk!]”
COMPLAINT addresses actions that cause upset. CRITICISM attacks the other person, or their character.
Which do you think the recipient will be more likely to respond to?
Some people might not see a difference here; however I think some would be more hurt by criticism, whereas complaint will feel more reasonable and they’d be less defensive.
Adapted from “The Relationship Cure,” by John Gottman and Joan DeClaire, Three Rivers Press, 2001, pp. 71-73