Oct 25, 2015
Most of us know that criticism is not the best behavior to use when relating to our significant others. Yet, we still struggle with it and resorting to the approach when we’re unhappy. When we feel challenged by something, it is easy to address the issue by complaining or criticizing.
In this podcast, I provide explanations why we criticize the ones we love the most.
If you recognize ways in which you might be critical, try to make an internal shift to have an attitude of exploration. Ask yourself “how come I get critical sometimes?” Usually, we learn how to be critical along the way from our family or friends. We do the best we can, but we don’t have a better way of addressing our concerns.
In my recent article, How To Know If You Are Too Critical In Relationship And Why, I offered 10 signs to identify whether or not you may be more critical than you think. In the article, I addressed 16 reasons why people are highly critical, which will help you understand the reasons why you might be critical too.
(Show Notes: Be sure to listen to the episode to hear stories, examples, and more tips.)
“I give feedback; you’re critical. I’m firm; you’re stubborn. I’m flexible; you’re wishy-washy. I’m in touch with my feelings; you’re hysterical!” ~ Steven Stosny
“Even in stable, happy relationships: When conflict begins with hostility, defensive sequences result” ~ John M. Gottman
How do we get into this mess? Many of us lead with a complaint or criticism when we talk to our partner about a concern. However, underneath the complaint or criticism, we have an important need, feeling, or desire.
Many of us are sensitive to criticism. Being criticized brings up feelings of feeling bad, being in the wrong, inadequacy, shame, hurt, injustice, etc. We get defensive and push back on the critical statement, by providing evidence as to why the critical statement is not true.
Over and over again, I see examples of this being played out in love relationships. The complaint or criticism could be about a whole number of issues, like:
One person addresses a concern without knowing what their underlying need is and they approach their partner by criticizing them. Their partner gets defensive and the cycle ensues. They are missing each other. They are not talking about the most important aspects of the issue. Thus, the conversation escalates and both partners leave the conversation feeling attacked, misunderstood, and lonely.
This dynamic can be particularly difficult when one or both partners are feeling threatened on a deeper level. Feeling threatened can activate a person’s fight, flight, or freeze response as well as attachment insecurities. The importance of the need can vary in intensity. It can be helpful to ask each other, “how important is this to you, on a scale from 1 to 10?”
Most of us want our partner to just get it and interpret what we are saying and feeling, even though we are not explicitly stating it. Can you imagine how the conversation would be different with these statements if they were communicated at the beginning of the conversation?
A concern about time:
A concern about sex:
A concern about decision-making:
I help clients go through the process of identifying how they feel, take ownership for their experience, and voice their desires and feelings to their partner. The shift is powerful!!! The communication is clean and clear. Their partner can actually hear the message directly and more openly, without getting defensive.
Next week, I will offer you tips on how to shift criticism into powerful communication. I will also talk about the benefits of creating a more constructive and non-critical learning environment for your relationship.
Are you interested in getting support to end constant criticism in your relationship? If so, you can contact me here. Let’s have a conversation to see how I might be able to help. No obligations.
If you have a topic you would like me to discuss or a situation you would like me to speak to, please contact me by clicking on the “Ask Dr. Jessica Higgins” button here.
Thank you so much for being interested in improving the quality of your relationship! I believe in your relationship success!
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