The Seven Worst (and Best) Ways to Respond to Critical People

Critical people are difficult people to be with.  And unfortunately you are bound to run into them one way or another.  Here are some tips on the 7 worst things you can do when dealing with critical people.  And of course the 7 best things you can do instead.


1. Take It Personally

The worst thing you can do is to take criticism from critical people personally.  Most of the time critical people reflect more about themselves than you.  Most of the time you will notice that they are also critical of many more people and situations than just you.  So don't take it personally.  It's not about you.

The best thing you can do is to realize that critical people are usually stuck in the belief that they have to criticize others in order to feel good about themselves.  Or that they have to attack first in order to feel safe.  Feel sorry for them or get out of their way.  If you can't feel compassion or move aside, seek counseling.

2.  Take It Literally

The worst thing to do is to take criticism from critical people literally.  Some people are just really lousy communicators.  Sometimes they are not trying to be fault-finding jerks - they just don't realize how they're coming across.

The best thing to do is to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Just assume that they were not trying to be hurtful or negative.  Take responsibility for perceiving it in a more positive frame.  If you can't take that kind of responsibility, find a therapist to help you.

3.  Criticize Them Back

The worst thing you can do is to get caught in attack/defend mode.  Once you start to defend yourself and launch counter-criticisms, your body and emotions are aroused and you begin to self-destruct.  Nothing good comes from that.  Plus, you never know what their story is or what pain they are carrying.

The best thing you can do is to consider the possibility of a nugget of truth in the criticism.  Honest feedback is hard to come by, and sometimes embedded in unfair critical remarks are little bits of truth that we would do well to heed.  Think of it as an opportunity.  At the very least, cut them some slack since you don't know what inner battles they are fighting.  If you can't stop yourself from defend/counter-attack, get counseling.

4.  Assume The Problem is Entirely Theirs

The worst thing you can do is to ignore your own inner response.  Just as the criticisms of critical people reveal their core beliefs, our discomfort with their criticisms reveal something about our core beliefs.  If you find yourself too bothered by critical remarks, ask yourself why it causes such discomfort.  Try to increase your awareness about your 'self'.

The best thing you can do is to ask yourself what you can do to change how you respond to criticism.  You can't change other people, so you have to change your response to them.  If you can't do this by yourself, call a therapist.

5.  Ask Them For Feedback

The worst thing you can do is to ask a critical person for their input.  If you can't take it, don't ask.  For some reason, some people keep setting themselves up for criticism by asking critical people for their opinion.

The best thing you can do is to realize that critical people are unlikely to offer praise or encouragement.  Just know that and don't ask them for input unless you are prepared for negative feedback. 

6.  Engage Their Criticism

The worst thing you can do is to receive the criticism, let it into your body, mind and heart and then to get angry about it.  You can't necessarily stop someone from trying to give you their critical opinions, but you do have a choice about whether or not you will receive it.

The best thing you can do is to simply choose not to take it.  Think consciously to yourself, "Nope, I am not going to receive this" and just disengage.  It is a very powerful posture.  If you just cannot adopt this posture, seek counselling.

 7.  Plan to Spend Time With Them

The worst thing you can do is spend a lot of time with a critical person.  That's just sadistic.  Being around negative, critical people makes it much harder to be positive, optimistic and hopeful yourself.  It can be very draining and sometimes overwhelmingly so. 

The best thing you can do, if all else fails, is simply to avoid them whenever possible.  Sometimes it's just unhelpful chemistry and you are both better off staying away from each other.  If you cannot create the boundaries you need, on your own, then get counselling.  Call a therapist.   It's appropriate self care.

Email me.  I can help.

Posted on April 26, 2015 .