Criticism and contempt are the most destructive behaviors because they tap into men’s feelings of inadequacy. Even if men aren’t aware of, or can’t admit to those emotions, feelings of “not good enough” are ultimately what prompt the reflexive behaviors of withdrawal, counter-attack, or defensiveness. Not coincidentally, criticism, contempt, withdrawal (“stonewalling”), and defensiveness are Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which spell doom for relationships if not kept in check.
This doesn’t mean the partner of the male mind can’t express negative emotions. However, any hint of blame can be shaming, and makes things much worse, and more overwhelming. Often people don’t even know when they’re being blaming, but one shortcut is to think about whether what your saying in any way makes the other person look bad or feel bad.