ERP 039: How To Shift Criticism Into Powerful Communication

By Posted in - Criticism in a Relationship & Podcast & Relationships November 3rd, 2015 2 Comments criticism in relationship

In the article, Why Criticism Is So Painful In Relationship, I explained why criticism is problematic and primarily harmful. The article had key points addressing what happens when we get stuck in cycles of criticism in relationship, plus what contributes to defensiveness in your love relationship.

Today’s Empowered Relationship podcast episode provides a sense of direction for How To Shift Criticism Into Powerful Communication. In addition to the episode, I have two resources to give to you.

(These are Show Notes: Be sure to listen to the podcast episode to hear stories, examples, and more tips.)

1-Page Relationship Guide:

Shifting Criticism To Maintain A Healthy Relationship (opt-in). This 1-page relationship guide is a quick and easy reference tool for transforming criticism in relationship. The guide offers a side-by-side comparison of what a critical approach looks like versus a more constructive approach to partner communication.

Most of us know that being critical is not the best approach, but we do not know what to do instead. My shifting criticism relationship guide is helpful because it gives you examples of what you can say instead of vocalizing criticism. There are 21 examples provided on this 1-page PDF.

Get the free guide here


Let’s say I don’t want to eat dessert for 3 weeks. If my goal is to feel healthy and have more energy, I will want to know how I can work towards that goal. While I know I don’t want to eat any dessert, I don’t know what TO do instead of eating dessert.

It is helpful to think about what I am going to do ahead of time, so when I get a craving, I will be more prepared. When I have a craving, instead of eating a dessert I can:

criticism in relationship - Dr. Jessica Higgins

  • Drink a glass of water
  • Ask myself, “what am I really wanting right now?” I might be tired and want a nap. I might feel lethargic and need a walk. I might feel lonely and want to call a friend.
  • Eat a piece of fruit

It is important to think about these strategies ahead of time. When in the moment, we are not going to be thinking about alternative ways of approaching the situation.

What are the qualities you want in your relationship, especially if there is constant criticism?  What is the result you want to achieve? Describe your ideal relationship environment (i.e. a relationship that is constructive, safe, supportive, encouraging, etc.).

17 Ways to Shift Criticism In Your Relationship:

In this article, 17 Ways to Shift Criticism In Your Relationship, I offer 17 different strategies for you to consider to shift your critical behavior. Whereas the relationship guide (mentioned above) is more of a reference tool, this is an article that offers explanations for the suggestions and recommendations.

criticism in relationship - Dr. Jessica HigginsUnderneath critical behavior, there are usually a few themes going on. Here are three:

1. Learned habits and patterning.

2. Not feeling good enough

3. Not trusting your needs will be met

How to replace criticism with constructive behavior

Both the 1-page resource guide: Shifting Criticism To Maintain A Healthy Relationship and article: 17 Ways to Shift Criticism In Your Relationship provide several suggestions and examples of how to replace criticism with constructive behavior.

Here are three ways to work with what might be going on underneath the critical tendency:

1. Reset your critical imprint. Identify the people in your life that were critical. Choose to adopt a different mindset and create new habits. Retrain yourself through repetition and practice.

2. Develop more self-worth. Foster a supportive inner voice. Attend to your fears and difficult emotions in a nurturing way (i.e. anxiety and anger). Look for ways to acknowledge and appreciate yourself and your contributions. Gain the belief that you are good enough and worthy.

criticism in relationship - Dr. Jessica Higgins3. Identifying your needs and ask your partner proactively for what you need and want. In last week’s episode, I provided examples of how to turn a critical comment into a proactive statement. This requires developing some assertiveness. Also, here is a communication exercise that will provide guidance for these types of conversations.

Only when we feel comfortable with our own choices — and embrace our own imperfections — will we stop feeling the driving need to criticize others. ~ Brene Brown

Powerful communication begins to occur when we can put these more constructive approaches into practice. Imagine how your relationship would be different if:

  • You felt respected, valued, worthy within your relationship
  • You and your partner were in the practice of asking one another for what you want and need, within conversations that are productive and harmonious.
  • criticism in relationship - Dr. Jessica HigginsYou and your partner work together to create outcomes that are mutually beneficial.
  • Your relationship environment is constructive, positive, and considerate.
  • You and your partner are growing and learning together so that you can continue to develop a strong, secure, and loving relationship.

7 Day Challenge – An Invitation:

1. Download the 1-page guide: Shifting Criticism To Maintain A Healthy Relationship (opt-in)

2. Choose one strategy to work with for one week. Select a constructive approach to focus on and implement. When you catch yourself feeling critical, use this constructive approach instead of the critical one. This can be done individually or as a couple (listen to podcast episode for more explanation).

3. Check-in after 7 days. How did it go? What worked well? What didn’t work well?

4. Share how it went. You can contact me here, or you can leave a comment below.  We can all learn from each other.


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 your interest in eliminating criticism in relationship and improving the quality of your connection with your partner! I believe in your relationship success!

Also, I would so appreciate your honest rating and review if you would be willing to click here.

Thank you!

(2) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Melissa Smith - Reply

    December 5, 2015 at 10:25 am

    How do you recommend ascertaining whether or not someone really wants to be in relationship, and be responsive to relationship needs and feedback, and isn’t being deliberately provocative and inviting criticism in order to create a reason to exit a relationship?

    • Dr. Jessica Higgins - Reply

      December 7, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      Great question! My first thought is to do everything you can do to not react to the criticism (i.e. not take it personally). Criticism is usually more about the other person than it is about you. Reflect the statement back and get curious about what the person is saying and wanting. What are they feeling? What is underneath? This may give you a better sense of what is going on. Also, getting curious and staying curious will offer a safe place for the other person to open up and “empty the cup.”

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.


Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching