Today we’re going to be talking about how criticism is destructive to any relationship and I brought on my friend Dr. Jessica Higgins from the Empowered Relationship Podcast to help us discuss exactly how criticism can ruin your relationship.

I felt this was an extremely relevant topic since we’ve found that roughly half of our success stories end up breaking up again and it’s mostly due to what Dr. Higgins and I discussed on this episode of The Ex Boyfriend Recovery Podcast.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Your Ex Boyfriend Back?

Take the quiz

Discussing How Criticism Is Destructive To Any Relationship

Important Note: In the interview with Jessica she made mention to a special resource to help you shift your communication style so you aren’t so critical. You can find that below:

Special Resource From Dr. Higgins: Is Criticism Tearing Your Relationship Apart?

Chris Seiter:
All right, today we’re going to be talking to Dr. Jessica Higgins, who was kind enough to have me on her podcast a few months ago. And she’s also the founder of a podcast called the Empowered Relationship Podcast. How are you doing today Jessica?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
I’m doing great. It’s an honor to be with you.

Chris Seiter:
Oh well, thank you. So we’re going to be talking about criticism, and we were talking a little bit about kind of some of the stuff that you have, like free guides and things regarding criticisms, but I already have a few questions for you regarding criticism. So when you are working with clients who you’re noticing are having issues with criticism, is it more of an issue where they don’t recognize that their behavior or the language they’re using is critical of the other person, and there’s kind of like this disconnect on wavelengths?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
It’s a great question. Most of the time that people are reaching out, they’ve gotten feedback from their significant other or perhaps somewhere else in their life, perhaps in their friends group, or their family, or even in the workforce that they tend to have this critical tendency. And so it runs into having issues or problems in their relationship, and they’re like, this is becoming problematic. So that’s when they get curious about what is it that I’m doing, because oftentimes most of the time we’re steeped in our habits and our tendencies, and sometimes we don’t see it. So it’s usually when people get enough feedback that they start getting interested in what’s going on here and what can I do differently?

Chris Seiter:
Yeah. Well, as you can imagine, this is a perfect topic for many of the people listening here who are all going through breakups and determining whether they should try to get over their ex, or get their ex back, or just even trying to understand a breakup in general. And the criticism point comes up quite a bit. The significant other, their breakup, the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend will come and say, like, I didn’t like how you said this thing to me, or this thing to me. So what are some of the things that are markers that maybe you’re setting people off to making them feel a little critical?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes. Well, I just want to say that it’s super easy, especially I think in our modern day of society to fall into the critical tendency, and usually what that looks like is leading with the you statement, or something outside of you. So whether or not it’s, I mean, it’s a very common human impulse to feel pain, or to feel some issue and to look for what’s the cause, or what’s the source of that problem. And we look outside of ourselves. You left the shoes in the doorway and I tripped, right? I don’t like that.

Chris Seiter:
I don’t like that either. I wouldn’t like that either. So it’d be critical there. You got me on one. Okay.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Well, and when we’re in relationship, we’re two different individuals that have different perspectives. We’re going to have conflict and we have different desires and needs at different times. So negotiating that ,it’s often that we’re going to address it in the other person. If you would do X, Y, and Z, I would feel better, or we would be better. So that’s usually one of the clear markers, but we’re not always conscious of that.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
So I’ve been on both the receiving end of the criticism, and I’ve also been the criticizer. So I know both pretty well. And usually one of the things that we’re going to get most alert to this is problematic is when we’re going in a loop. A cycle that never seems to end. It’s a trying to address, so the person that’s being a little more and being more critical in this situation is trying to address an issue, and your partner’s not responding. It’s just a simple thing. Why don’t they just say, “Oh my bad, I’m sorry.” Or, “I didn’t know that. Now I know I’ll do better. I want to help.” Right. It feels so simple, but yet our partner’s getting defensive, and they’re saying, “No, but this, no.” And they’re rebuttaling. And then it’s like, you’re often running and it starts to escalate, or it goes nowhere though. That’s usually the point in which people are most aware that this isn’t working, and we don’t always know why, but it’s that constant cyclical loop that is problematic, creates disconnect, nobody feels great afterwards, and can lead to breakup and worse, because it whittles away at the bond over time. And people’s sense of like, you’ve got my back and you’re with me, which relates to the attachment.

Chris Seiter:
Yeah. Well, so when you were talking about people not really realizing that they’re doing it, my wife pointed out to me that oftentimes my daughter, who’s five years old will get frustrated, and that’s only because that every adult in her life is always ordering her around or telling her what to do, right? So is there ever a circumstance when you’re in, and I’ve witnessed personally this kind of thing happen in relationships where one party thinks that they can solve the other party’s problems all the time. And the other party kind of doesn’t want them to, but they don’t really communicate at all about that. So is there also a circumstance where there can be criticism without any kind of communication between the two parties? It’s just a lack of communication that creates the criticism.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Absolutely. I mean, let me just back up one step further. Evaluation, assessment, critical tendencies, we all need, right? It’s something that actually people in industries, high-level CEOs, attorneys, scientists, MDs, like a lot of people need to have their critical hat on in their industry, and it serves them well, and we get a lot of reinforcement. It’s a really valuable skill. When it comes to relationship, unsolicited feedback always feels like criticism, and it’s never usually welcomed, or even is felt in a positive way. So unsolicited feedback. That’s when we ask for it, we’re not looking for it, and we’re getting commentary and feedback about how well we’re doing or the evaluation of it.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
So to your point, yeah, I was on a podcast actually a couple of weeks ago, and this woman was like, “I’ve got an example. It’s a small example, but help me through this.” And she was like, with her husband, she’s like, “He doesn’t do a great job eating lunch during the day, and it’s a gift of love to…” You too, you too.

Chris Seiter:
Yeah, yeah. My wife is always on me about that. “You need to eat more,” and I’m just like, “I got work to do. Like, I don’t have time to eat.” So yeah. I’m there.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Laser focused.

Chris Seiter:
Right.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
I got it. So she essentially was like, “I shop, I meal plan. I make these nutritious, really healthy meals. It’s all packaged. It’s in the frigerator. It’s like right there for him, and he won’t eat it.” Right? And she’s like, “It drives me nuts.” She was like, “It’s a small thing.” Then as we got to talking about it more, I was like, “Well, help me. How did this get started? Was he saying, I need help? Or were you thinking this is something that he would enjoy? Does he complain about not eating?” And it turns out, I don’t think he had any issue with not eating. It was just something she thought he would love. Like, it was something she projected onto him. Like this is [inaudible 00:07:16], she was saying, I’m putting so much energy and love and nurturing into this when he doesn’t receive it. It’s like, it feels like it’s being-

Chris Seiter:
Like a snub.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah, it’s being-

Chris Seiter:
Right.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Denying, dismissing. And I’m like, yeah, if your love is getting mold in the frigerator, that’s not a good symbolism, right? I don’t think so anyway.

Chris Seiter:
No. It might be the perfect symbolism for the situation though, you know? That’s how she feels.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Exactly. So, I was encouraging her, to your point, to revisit, like how did we get to this? Was there an explicit agreement? Is this really hitting a mark for you? Or maybe it’s not, maybe there’s other ways that I can show you love and that it really does hit the mark. And then for her, right, instead of just getting mad at him, right? Is understanding the backdrop of that agreement, but also most of the time a criticism there’s pain or something underlying it. There’s a need, and we protest. Like, I don’t like this, this doesn’t work, but we do it through criticism and in its attempt to resolve or reach the other person. And unfortunately they don’t know that, because you’re talking about them, and then they’re on their heels thinking like, I didn’t do anything wrong. And then they’re more focused on defending their character, defending their behavior.

Chris Seiter:
Right.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
When really you’re just saying, “Ouch, I’m hurt. Can you help me?” And they don’t know that because they’re trying to defend against the criticism.

Chris Seiter:
Well, it’s all of the underlying things, especially in that circumstance where she’s feeling like, “Well, why won’t he eat this? I’m doing all this work.” And he’s maybe just thinking like, “Well, why should I have to eat it? I’m set in my ways.” When ultimately it’s the underlying thing, which is I want you to acknowledge how much work I put into loving you and doing these things.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Exactly.

Chris Seiter:
Do you think that really revolves around, like in that specific circumstance, and I’m sorry to kind of pick on the podcast interview that you did, but in that specific circumstance, do you think that kind of has some roots in the five languages of love? How like some people like receiving gifts.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah, absolutely.

Chris Seiter:
Or acts of service. Do you think that maybe there was a disconnect there? And I realized not all communication needs to be verbal, right? It can sometimes be nonverbal or even, I guess, in a weird way, giving a gift to someone or doing an act for someone there’s like something attached to that. You know what I’m saying?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Absolutely. And I do think that when we experience the opposite of our love language… So I have a couple, a married couple, they have like three kids, super successful, like great couple. And she’s had an injury in the last year and then also lost her mother. So she’s gone through a really difficult time. [crosstalk 00:10:15].

Chris Seiter:
Lots of emotional turmoil.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes. And so part of the way that she’s managed that is she’s wanted to kind of go to their room and just kind of unplug for a little while and-

Chris Seiter:
Be alone.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Be alone, and also not burden her family. Like not being like a negative source.

Chris Seiter:
Okay. So she doesn’t want to be… Okay. Sorry, sorry. This is fascinating stuff.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
So her need to kind of take care of herself and also worried about bringing the family kind of energy down. And then for him, his love language being quality time, it hurts more where he says she sequesters herself, and it’s painful for him when she pulls away. So it typically, like one of my top love languages is words of affirmation. So if my husband is a little grumpy and has a little bit of a gruff tone, it hurts probably more for me than it would for someone who their love language is acts of service or something.

Chris Seiter:
Okay.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah.

Chris Seiter:
Well now I know exactly how to get on your good side. Just compliment you.

Chris Seiter:
Okay. So with regards to the criticism, though, in that specific circumstance, it seems to me like the person, the act of service is their way of kind of communicating. And the criticism can be like the snub of not even acknowledging it. So criticism can be, I guess that’s a perfect example of where you have one party that’s essentially not saying anything and they’re kind of being a little bit of avoidant towards the circumstance, the other person’s real kind of anxious. Like you need to respond to that. So sometimes criticism can happen where there’s no language at all. No communication whatsoever.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah. I’ll give you an example, this came out of my group yesterday and the member was talking about, I often will pick up my phone as a way to kind of manage some of the anxiety I sometimes feel. Just in a lull of a moment and her partner’s like on her case about her being on her phone and-

Chris Seiter:
Oh she’s not actually like looking or researching the latest political news. She’s just sort of picking it up because it feels safe?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
No, no, no. She’s definitely on apps. She’s deleted some of the social media, but she’s looking at news, but she’s saying, “If I’m being really honest, I’m picking up my phone in a space where there’s a lull.” Or there’s a little bit of some downtime where her significant other is like, “Hey! Like, hi!” Like wanting some attention.

Chris Seiter:
Right.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Okay, one of the things is it’s difficult to do, but encouraging him to say whether or not it’s making a joke of like technoference, or phubbing, or whatever the term is, and making a joke of it or being really revealing and say, “I’d love some quality time with you,” or, “I would love to go for a walk. Do you want to go for a walk?” Like actually ask, right? So that’s one of the key distinguishers around switching criticism. It takes some mindfulness and some awareness, but slowing down to tune in around what is it that I’m wanting? Right?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
I can criticize my partners looking at their phone. I feel ignored. I don’t know what they’re looking at. I don’t know where they are, and I feel either insulted, or hurt, or whatever. Like again, human impulse would be, that’s a problem, I want to address that problem, and we can resolve that problem. Will you please put down your phone? Or I don’t like it when you’re on your phone, or why are you on your phone so much, or who you talking to? Right? None of those are like crazy over criticism, but it’s still in the ballpark of you. Something going on with you, rather than saying, “I miss you. I haven’t seen you all day, can we sit down and chat?” Or, “I would love some conversation or quality time.” So turning the criticism into a request and it’s a much more difficult thing to do then just saying it.

Chris Seiter:
Well, so what’s interesting is when you original, so I think I had asked you where you had said like, “Hey, I think maybe this topic would be good for your audience.” I was thinking at it from a perspective of, okay, these people are going through a breakup. Well, maybe they would want to understand why they went through a breakup, but one thing I neglected to tell you, and I actually think this is a better fit for people, is we have found, for the people who go through our program and determine like, yeah, we want to try to get our exes back. We’re not really into getting over the ex, even though the two are kind of interconnected interestingly enough, but don’t tell them that.

Chris Seiter:
Maybe 60 or 70% of the people who get back together, break up again. And I’m imagining a lot of it is due to things that they aren’t perceiving are problems like this. Like, it may seem like a small slight to be on your phone too much, or the moldy refrigerator food, but that stuff can add up. Especially if the behavior doesn’t change. So your suggestion of maybe improving that, is turning criticism into kind of a request, which I always kind of look at, just dumb it down a little bit, because I need everything dumbed down for me. You just need to be like super blunt with what you’re wanting or asking for, but I imagine people are afraid of being blunt, because they’re afraid of maybe how they’re going to be perceived as needy. Do you experience any kind of worries and fears like that? Because I imagine what is the number one thing that prevents people from just telling the other person what they want? I’m just kind of curious to get your take on it.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes! Well, there’s a few things at play here and this does relate to some of our early upbringing and experiences. But before I go there, I would add in addition to being super forthright, right? There is something around people saying, “I’m just being authentic. I’m super pissed at you.” Or, you know what I mean? Like they’re feeling their emotion and they’re just like, I’m going to tell you authentically.

Chris Seiter:
Maybe that’s too much.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Well, it’s not so much that, but what I guess I would encourage, and why it’s difficult is the underbelly. Is the deeper layer that is not visible on first blank, it’s almost beneath the field of awareness or consciousness, because we often suppress our vulnerability, our fear, our sense of inadequacy, or fear of abandonment, fear of not being good enough. All of these like deep, deep feelings, and so in these small interactions, right? You didn’t take out the trash when you said you were going to take out the trash, right? Or you didn’t do acts when you said you were going to. And there can be so much emotion, and it’s like, okay, it’s the trash. But often if I look a little deeper, Oh, I’m afraid you don’t care about me when you don’t say you are going to do what you’re going to do, or you don’t do what you said you were going to do. So I would add to a little bit being more forthright or blunt, the excavating to unpack, to get to the deeper core, and then what’s so, so tricky is the vulnerability, right? We think I-

Chris Seiter:
Being about to communicate that.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes.

Chris Seiter:
So let’s use that example.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes.

Chris Seiter:
You have someone who is really acting the way they’re acting because they’re afraid that the other person doesn’t care about them. Now imagine the wall that would prevent them from just simply telling like I’m worried, or being honest about like, because you don’t do X I’m worried, and I know it’s an irrational worry that you don’t care about me. They would probably be thinking what would prevent them from saying that maybe is the fact that I don’t want this other person to think I’m that desperate, or I’m that-

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Fragile, needy. Yeah, for sure.

Chris Seiter:
Or even like, maybe they’re going to think like, Oh, well maybe by saying this to them, that will make it happen. You know? So it’s kind of an irrational fear, but in some cases they believe it’s rational potentially.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Sure.

Chris Seiter:
So I don’t know. Those are just my thoughts on it, but I’m kind of curious, you think excavating, going that deep, and being that fragile is really what you need to do.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Well, not necessarily fragile, right? Like I’m not at all recommending we go out into the street, metaphorically naked and like exposing-

Chris Seiter:
Are you sure? I mean, that seems like… That seems like the coronavirus would be the perfect time to do that. No, I’m just kidding. Do not do that people listening. Please don’t do that.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
That was a joke.

Chris Seiter:
That was a joke.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Well research shows when we are in those secondary emotions, frustration, annoyance, criticism, anger, that pushes people away. But when we access the primary emotion, it draws people close. So I will say from my own experience, when I have accessed the underbelly of whatever it is that I’m feeling that feels super raw and like the very thing I don’t want to say to my husband-

Chris Seiter:
Maybe that’s a good test. Like the one thing that you don’t want to say is what… Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Exactly, which feels like the most unlovable, shameful, unattractive, unlovable, all of that. That that’s often the thing that is vulnerable, that when they hear that our humanity. We’re wired up to respond to each other, right? The facial expressions, the tone of voice, and when we access that reveal, and again, building trust, like in the early stages of relationship, I’m not recommending we expose and bare our whole everything, but incrementally, we can take those risks of exposing, and being vulnerable with emotional balance. And when, usually, when somebody feels that they come close. It draws them closer.

Chris Seiter:
Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
So I have an example just-

Chris Seiter:
I would love that.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes!

Chris Seiter:
I love that.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
We have feel it.

Chris Seiter:
I have, right. Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Go ahead. Go ahead.

Chris Seiter:
All right. So I got two examples. The first one is actually not a perfect example, but I think a really great way of illustrating this concept. Have you ever seen that movie 500 Days of Summer? It’s got like Joseph Gordon Levitt in it.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
I don’t remember [inaudible 00:21:06].

Chris Seiter:
It’s an old movie, but there’s this moment in the movie that, I don’t know why it always stuck with me, but I think it’s because of his accessing that really raw feeling. But it’s about this guy, he’s kind of like reliving his breakup. He’s trying to win his girlfriend back. And it’s not told linearly, it’s told like out of order. So you kind of get into the background of what the relationship was like at the beginning versus at the end. But there’s this moment in the middle where, she’s always kind of keeping him at a distance, but he doesn’t feel that close to her until she starts telling him things that she’s never told anyone before. And that kind of is that bonding experience.

Chris Seiter:
And the other personal example happened a few days ago. My wife, a couple of months ago got a puppy for my daughter’s birthday, which is great. I was resistant to it, because I was like, she’s only five. I don’t know how that’s going to work out, but it turned out to be great. He’s like this little toy poodle thing, which I’ve never had a toy poodle before, but he’s got a lot of problems. So we got him from a breeder and everything, but he’s got a lot of problems. We’ve taken him to the vet maybe 15 times. Right.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Wow.

Chris Seiter:
So he keeps throwing up, then the other day I came downstairs to get a water and he had blood in his poop. Right. And so my I go upstairs and my wife fell asleep putting my daughter to bed. So I just text her and kind of explained the situation to her. And so then I go to bed and she ends up waking up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. And she’s like, Oh, I fell asleep here. So she comes to bed. And the second she sees that text message she’s awake. She can not fall asleep anymore. And I’m like kind of in and out. And she kind of wakes me up and starts to ask me about it, and one of the comments she said threw me off so much. I was like, why would you ever think that? But talking to you, it made me realize, Oh, she’s just entering into that vulnerable worry that she has.

Chris Seiter:
So she was literally worried that I was going to try to send the dog back to the breeder for all the problems. And I was like, what are you talking about? This is our dog. I would never do that. But she’s accessing that vulnerable, which I guess is kind of a powerful thing because she feels comfortable enough to do that with me. But just talking to you, just kind of made the light bulb go off. So yeah, it does bring people closer together.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes. And this is super tricky when we’re in relationship when there’s been conflict, or nobody’s really going to the vulnerable place. And therefore it’s, we want this love, and we want to feel close, and we’re kind of reaching, but we’re also having like one hand protecting ourselves and kind of holding our clock cards a little closer. It’s like, who’s going to go first and really reveal. And so it’s hard to both protect and create intimacy. They’re different mechanisms. One is to kind of conceal and protect, and the other is to really open, and reveal. So it is difficult to straddle and that’s why safety is really important, and building trust, and incrementally testing. Not so much testing, but practicing so that you get more comfort, and skill, and reciprocity that your partner’s able to respond to you. Right? And then once you build on that, then you have a more solid, secure relationship where you can kind of in these, in the moment, be able to say, I saw your text, I was worried you want to give the dog back? You know what I mean? And you’re like what?

Chris Seiter:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s kind of interesting a lot of people when I got married to my wife, they were like, “Do you feel any different?” Because a lot of people say like, Oh, it doesn’t feel any different. But for me it did. Only because I felt like, I don’t know, it bonded us closer together. It was like, Oh, we’re real. We’re legal. You know?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Verified.

Chris Seiter:
So I actually noticed. Right. Verified. I noticed it was a lot easier for me to open up and for her to open up about some of those insecurities that you’re playing close to the heart, you know? And in the end, it’s just, it’s a great decision if you have someone to trust that you can do that with, because it does bond you closer together, but we’re dealing with people who do not have those types of relationships.

Chris Seiter:
So a lot of times, and in the circumstance I’m bringing up here, it’s like, okay, they went through a breakup, then they got back together. And we’re finding a lot of difficulty in keeping that relationship going. A lot of times it’d be kind of an on again, off again situation. Or the things that caused the breakup in the first place haven’t been corrected or addressed. And then the ex or the person who took the ex back is like, “Oh yeah, I didn’t like this. I forgot about that with time.” And I imagine a lot of the solution is kind of going to that raw place and building up kind of a foundation of trust that you can actually have those type of conversations.

Chris Seiter:
So the one thing I would say is, I really like what you say about there’s this sort of… You’re playing chicken, who’s going to open up first.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah.

Chris Seiter:
That’s the best way I can sort of… Do you have maybe some strategies for people on how… Because my theory would always be, I think you need to kind of lead by example. I think you need to go there first. And then that shows the other person that wow, they opened up to me, and then they’ll kind of sometimes reciprocate in turn, but I’m curious if you have any tricks up your sleeve to get people sort of communicate on that level.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
I do. There’s a few things I want to say first, but in addition, well, let me just acknowledge that I do agree with you at the end of the day, because we really only can stay in our lane, and we can only be really responsible for us. And so if we’re trying to control our partner, or we’re reacting to something they did, and we’re trying to get them to see the error of their ways in various forms. Typically that’s not going to go well, right? Hearkening back to people don’t respond well to unsolicited feedback.

Chris Seiter:
To criticism. Right.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
To criticism period. So, we can kind of go around the block with that a few times and recognize, okay, that doesn’t work. So I do like practicing and walking the walk, because then you are, your conscious is clean, right? Like a lot of people who do go through a breakup, they’re like, what if? And had I done this? Or what could have been different? And I do believe when one person shifts, it shifts the dynamic. You can no longer do the old dynamic. Right?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
So similarly to the chicken, we can also escalate by the very opposite, right? Reacting and hoping. It’s just really interesting thing we do as humans. It’s almost like we react and we’re like, I’m showing you that I’m hurt. Or I’m showing you that I am upset. Right? Respond to me with softness or get that I’m hurting, but they’re not saying, “Ouch, I’m hurt.”

Chris Seiter:
Right. No, they don’t.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
They’re saying, “You’re such a jerk.”

Chris Seiter:
They’re basically saying you should know me well enough to understand how to handle me, but the problem is they don’t. Especially if you don’t tell them.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes. And so to further complicate this, which is really kind of more psychological, but we all have an early imprint in understanding how relationships work. So everybody from their early upbringing and childhood get imprinted on a model of how relationship works. What we can expect, how people are going to respond to us, and how we feel in our body and emotionally. All of this, it’s all happening. Even without our effort. And so a lot of the times I find, Chris, that when people criticize, they grew up in families where emotions were seen as weak, or that you’re to not show that, right? Go to your room with that. Or highly intellectual, or they’d been criticized, or it’s a lot of evaluation, right? Like there’s just so many things that they’re being compared by, and that’s where success and accolades and validation and a sense of self-worth come from either performance, or having it all dialed in, or being able to compose yourself and suck it up. All of these things.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
So they haven’t known the safety of that emotional attunement of like, Oh, you’re hurting. And then that responsiveness of like, you’re hurting and I’m here for you. I’m going to offer comfort and I’m going to here to help. They haven’t known that. So if you have however many, let’s say 18 years of that type of dynamic, where you’re to kind of be with yourself, with your emotions or suppress them or stuff them, they have no value. They’re going to make you weak, and all of these things. You get into relationship, and it pulls at your heart, and it’s emotional. We want to feel that bondedness, and we want to feel that closeness. We don’t perhaps have the approach or the language to respond in this reciprocal safe way. Right. We just almost, it’s like, we go to the head, that’s the safe place, and then we speak from the intellect and the intellect is going to critique, measure, evaluate, assess. And so it’s hard for your partner to decode that.

Chris Seiter:
Yeah. Yeah. So, Jessica.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes.

Chris Seiter:
I don’t want to take up much of your time here.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes.

Chris Seiter:
Because I want to keep going, but you told me you have like, what was it? Like a one o’clock or two o’clock? So you told me, before we started, that you have like a special guide for people on criticism, like a special resource that they can use. Do you want to tell people listening about that?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah, sure. I mean, this does kind of answer your question around what are some tips that can help people as they’re contemplating, is there an approach that’s more effective in turning to my partner when I have an issue with something, instead of calling it out? I have like 10 million examples I could share with you.

Chris Seiter:
Okay.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
But if you’re asking me about the guide, the guide is a side-by-side comparison, it’s a chart. There’s an intro and questions to prompt and work with, but essentially it’s giving some real concrete examples, language of what a common tendency to maybe call it out, and be a little more critical is like. And I think we can all recognize, sure I do that or have done that.

Chris Seiter:
Right.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
And then a real constructive, what would be turning that criticism or that call-out into a request? And more accessing the vulnerability and what the need is. So these are examples, and I think there’s like, I mean, there’s like 22 or something. So it really helps people kind of get a real sense of a lot of examples of what this looks like in practice.

Chris Seiter:
So basically she’s going to give the link to me, because I am going to devour it and use it. But also if you’re watching this on YouTube, all you’ll have to do is just look in the description below, and I’ll put a link there to it. And if you’re listening to this on a podcast, driving home from work or something, just come to our website and in the show notes of this episode, I’ll link to it as well. So you’ll have kind of double, double whammy way to get it.

Chris Seiter:
Also, Jessica has a website which you can find at drjessicahiggins.com, where you can sign up to work with her, to listen to her podcast, you can purchase one of her courses. I see courses here, though we didn’t talk much about those. Do you want to talk about some of the courses?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
I have a shifting criticism course. Yes, which is like packed with real like techniques, research, experiences to help people understand. Many of the questions are like, why do I criticize? Why is it so hard to stop? What can I do? And how do I do this differently? And really giving people the scaffolding for how to really get the iteration to shift some of those habits, because we get a little bit of a like relief when we’re feeling that pain and then we criticize, it almost is like a little bit of letting out steam, but it’s the short game. Right? We let out steam, but then our partner’s not responding to us, so we don’t really feel heard. It doesn’t really resolve the issue, and our partners on their heels and perhaps distancing from us or getting defensive. So all of those things in the long term are problematic.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
So in the long game, it’s really helping people feel better equipped around kind of switching some of these tendencies. And it’s not to throw out that critical thinking skill entirely. It’s just to add another skill to compliment. So in relationship, you can feel that your partner will respond to you because ultimately, we want to feel seen and heard. If someone’s upset, they want to say, “Ouch, this hurt,” or, “This is what was hard for me.” And have your partner say, “Oh my goodness, I hear you. That makes perfect sense. I care. I hurt that you hurt, and I want to help.” Right?

Chris Seiter:
Right. So if you want the course, or you want to listen to her podcast or anything, her website is drjessicahiggins.com. Look at me, I’m pimping out your website.

Chris Seiter:
You also briefly talked to me about these groups that you were running. And you said you were having some success with that. Do you want to tell people listening maybe how they can get access to this group to work with you?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah. So on the work with me page, I have different things. Like I have a strategy session, and then I have group coaching, and right now I’m in the middle of an eight week session. And I haven’t posted, I don’t know if my next group is going to be for couples or for individuals, but the current group is helping individuals that notice some insecure tendencies, or reactivity. Have a difficult time communicating really from this emotionally balanced place, where their partner will respond to them. So it’s really helping an individual negotiate some of this intensity around the emotions, and how to really engage in patterns that are effective essentially.

Chris Seiter:
Right. Well, so anyone listening, I actually think that would be a good course. So I don’t know, have you heard of the no contact rule?

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
You mentioned that. I like that, yeah.

Chris Seiter:
We’re kind of big on this concept of the no contact rule after a breakup, and there’s different of what you should do in different timeframes based on things that we’ve studied, but one of the things that I’m making kind of a shift too, because I noticed after I interviewed a lot of our success stories to figure out like, hey, what are they doing that’s working? A lot of them got to this point where they just like plain outgrew their ex. They were just like, I don’t know if I want them back anymore, which is the key of what they should be doing during no contact. But a lot of it, when you look at a psychologic, trying to understand it through psychology, we learn that most of those people are anxious attachment styles, and they’re making the shift or evolving that attachment style to be a little bit more secure. So I actually think some of the scaffolding that she’s talking about is perfect for those of you who are going through our course, for example, and going through a no contact rule, and just like trying to figure out how do I act more secure? How do I get rid of some of these anxious tendencies? I think Jessica’s course is perfect. Or the coaching thing though, it seems to be a pretty elite group. So it’s not like it’s… It’s not like you can…

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah.

Chris Seiter:
It’s on a timeframe basically.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes, yeah.

Chris Seiter:
So if you’re listening to this two years from now, check it out. So you can get in on it.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you, I appreciate that. I mean, it is very much referencing a lot of the emotionally focused therapeutic techniques, which is really addressing the attachment tendencies that might be a little bit more insecure, and so really helping people. And then also referencing some of John Gottman’s research around the soft startup, and all of that too.

Chris Seiter:
He’s the best. Yeah. We reference some of his stuff as well.

Chris Seiter:
Thanks for coming on Jessica. Seriously. It was a pleasure to have you.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Thank you for having me. I know, I know. I think last time when we spoke, it was like, you get two curious people together, and it’s like, there’s never a good stop .

Chris Seiter:
I keep looking at the time being like, did you have to schedule something after it? Because I could have kept going, but again, thanks for coming on.

Dr. Jessica Higgins:
Yeah. Thank you.

What to Read Next

Why Your Ex Is Hardwired To Care About You

By Chris Seiter | 0 comments

How to Make Him Regret Taking You for Granted

By Chris Seiter | 123 comments

The Best Way To Approach An LGBTQ Ex

By Chris Seiter | 0 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.