Tough love is okay at times, if you ensure (not assume) that the other person clearly understands that there is only love and nothing else behind that toughness.
If you are all the time, or predominantly showing only tough love, and never explaining the reason and not demonstrating much of kindness and understanding, it would be tough for the other person to understand that you love them too. They are only seeing toughness. Love is questionable as far as their experience is concerned. But if you are able to alternate between tough love and kind love, people will be able to understand that you are operating from a place of love.
Sometimes, we act tough out of love, but soon forget why we started and become very agenda based. “If you fulfil my criteria, great! Else, face my wrath! ” – and when I say my criteria, this could well mean things that we want others to do so that they are healthy and happy. However, we get on to an agenda to change someone – treat them like our pet project and that throws everything out of gear. This kind of love creates more fear and makes people want to hide, lie or avoid any situation that involves a confrontation. If people in your environment are showing these signs – then that’s a sign for us to understand that we may have overdone the tough love and it’s time to soften up a bit.
The common mistake we make is by assuming that people understand there’s love behind all that we do. Why assume that? It is our responsibility to communicate love just as much as it is for them to understand. Only when we communicate, will we be making understanding easier for the others. We can’t not do our bit and expect them to understand our incongruent actions or words. If you are most often expressing frustration to someone about how they are, they are going to feel like they aren’t good enough for you. That nothing they ever do will be considered good by you! That’s not a very productive state to get someone into. The more you communicate love, the more you encourage, the more you emphasise on things that you love about them, you will work your magic on them. You will have great rapport and hence, enable them to do better too.
Show tough love when needed, but ensure it doesn’t create deep wounds or fears in the other while you do so. Remember that tough love is only to make someone stronger, not to break them.