Criticism - it is one of the top killers of relationships everywhere. How many of us have stories of really horrible fights with partners because they criticized our work or we criticized the way they clean the bathroom. While it is important to express ourselves in a relationship, harsh criticism can really hurt and cause a major strain on our relationship. Since relationships are such a stressor for us women, I brought certified confidence and relationship coach, Alex Streisand, back on The Stress Less Show to talk all about this relationship killer.
Criticism is a topic very close to Alex’s heart as it is something she herself had to work through in her own past relationships before becoming a coach. After a big argument between her and a previous partner began after criticizing her partner’s cellphone use at the dinner table, Alex began to notice how criticism was truly impacting her and her partner.
“It really took a lot of self-work to be like, "OK wow, I'm realizing that the criticizing is really detrimental. It's really hurting" because it wasn't only me, it was coming up a lot in him too and it was really starting to tear us apart.”
After working with a coach and then going on to become a coach herself, Alex was able to recognize an important distinction about criticism that helped her work on limiting the harsh criticism in her relationships and the relationships of her clients.
“When you're criticizing someone, it's more like you're attacking them verse when you’re voicing your opinion or expressing what's going on… There's that borderline of anger verse actually communicating properly.”
After giving us three tips last week about how to show appreciation in our relationships, Alex was kind enough to return to the show with three more tips about how to stop criticizing our partners and strengthen our relationships.
Tip #1: Be Aware of Your Behavior
Alex’s first tip is to start noticing where the criticism is happening in our relationship. Often, we will instantly react to what our partner says or does without thinking about how we are expressing ourselves or what is triggering our reactions.
“Before you criticize, pause. Take a deep breath and then ask yourself, "Okay, why is this affecting me so strongly? Is this worth the fight? And what's a nicer way to express the way I'm feeling without attacking?”
When we don’t stop to think about our reactions, we can end up being overly critical and angry with our partner even though we may not truly be angry or upset with them. Our critical reactions can really come from our insecurities or stress in our jobs or other responsibilities. It is key to really think first so that we can understand what we are really trying to express to our partner when we feel the need to criticize.
Tip #2: Be Realistic In Your Expectations
After we start to become aware of our behavior, the next step, according to Alex, is to start addressing the expectations we have for our partners. This is a lesson that I and so many of my clients have had to learn because expectations are a major source of stress in all aspects of life. In our relationships, though, it can be even more detrimental because we can often expect so much from our partners.
“It's so easy for us to create these high expectations and expect that our partner is in our head and reading our minds and knowing everything we want from him or her. That is so not realistic.”
These expectations prevent us from being able to truly connect to and appreciate our partners for who they are, leading us to criticize them for not meeting our expectations. As we start to take note of the expectations we have for our partner, we can figure out how they might be unrealistic and we can begin to find clarity on where we can let go of the unnecessary criticism in our relationships.
Tip #3: Communicate Effectively
Once we have taken the first two of Alex’s tips to heart, we can focus on her third tip which is all about transforming the way we actually communicate with our partner. We may have legitimate concerns that we want to discuss with our partner that are underlying in all of our anger and criticism. However, these concerns can get lost because our criticism often triggers a defense response from our partner which leads to fights and frustration with no resolution. According to Alex, it is important for us to communicate in a way that focuses on understanding and addressing the issue, rather than trying to attack or hurt our partner.
“I can assure you that when we actually come from a place of understanding and trying to hear where they're coming from and trying to explain more of where we're coming from, our partner is going to respond more openly and they're going to take in our feedback and encouragement.”
From this place of understanding, we can truly start to work with our partner in creating a loving relationship that doesn’t stay stuck in harsh criticisms and can truly move forward.
If you are interested in learning more about Alex’s work or feel like you need more support in your own life and relationship, you can sign up for a free 30-minute consultation with her by visiting her website here or emailing her at email@example.com.
This episode of The Stress Less Show was sponsored by The Stress Less Space, an intentional space for women to relax and recharge away from the chaos of everyday life. Learn more about The Stress Less Space by clicking this link!