We’ve all dealt with criticism in our lives whether it was constructive and for our benefit to grow or sometimes it was just plain rude and unhelpful. Sometimes we have to deal with generally critical people, whether that’s a family member, friend or our spouse.
But what do you do when someone is becoming excessively critical? How do you handle their rude remarks with grace without getting yourself all worked up? Whether the one time encounter or the overly critical person, here are tips to deal with criticism.
Things to consider
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of how to deal with criticism, what is criticism anyway? By definition, criticism is the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes. Ouch! That even reads harsh.
Criticism is when someone attempts to correct you, for your personal growth or with the intent to make you feel bad. And you know those critical people. The ones who drain you when you are around them, the ones who rarely have anything good to say and can always pick out the fault in anything.
Usually, our first response is to be defensive and to prove why the other person is wrong. Because who likes to be told they are wrong? But I want to give you other ways to respond and some things to consider. Also, this article from Psychology Today was a great resource for why someone would be critical, check it out!
Usually, someone who is overly critical they are is also extremely critical of themselves. Their crazy brain is spitting off the same nonsense to them all day and they are reflecting that back to you.
Show them some compassion because they have to live with this critical mind 24/7 and you on the other hand either have minimal contact and can choose to not have this person in your life or limit your time with them. They’re trapped in a sea of criticism within themselves and that must suck.
Or they grew up being criticized and are simply reflecting back what they know and have learned. Sometimes these people have unattainably high standards for themselves and others and can see the fault in anything.
Sometimes people just don’t know what to say or how to say it. They want to say something but don’t have the skills to effectively communicate what they want to express.
The biggest thing that I have learned in how to respond to criticism is the intent. This distinguishes unhelpful/hurtful criticism from constructive criticism.
Do you believe that the person has your best interest at heart and are trying to help? Or are they being outright rude and disrespectful? There is no intent to help and their intention appears to be to hurt you.
Did you ask for their honest opinion or are they giving you unsolicited advice? Sometimes people like to mask being mean or rude with being “ honest” when the intent is not to help you but to tear you down.
If someone is being kind and I believe they have my best interest at heart I am open to hearing the criticism. Now that doesn’t mean you have to agree, that simply means you are open to hearing their point of view and opinion.
Now that we have some back story to these critical people lets figure out how you want to respond when you are confronted with their judgments.
Don’t take it
Don’t take it in the sense of don’t take it personally, don’t always take what they say as true and don’t condone what they say by staying silent. This is their burden to carry, their thoughts and opinions, who says what they say is true or an accurate reflection of you? Just because they say it doesn’t make it true.
Sometimes people are having a bad day and take it out on others. Most times it has nothing to do with you or what you may have done, no matter how someone may make it seem. In my experience, the meanest and most spiteful people are miserable in their own lives.
As they say, misery likes company. Also, any advice, criticism, perspective that is given is from the other person’s point of view, their world view, their understanding of the situation. Now, that is no excuse for being mistreated, you have the say on how you will be treated. Which leads me to my next point.
It’s Not Ok
I can’t say enough about assertiveness and boundaries. Assertiveness is a skill that is practiced. When people are critical let them know that their behavior and words are not ok with you. This requires you to be assertive and stand up for yourself and express how you expect to be treated.
See this post for some tips on how to be assertive. We teach people how to treat us by what we allow and don’t allow. Let them know that their words are not helpful and that you prefer they keep their opinions to themselves. Also to learn more about boundaries, click here.
Bye Bye Bye
I’m not sure why but I’m in a boy band kind of a mood. If someone decides not to respect your boundaries and continue to disrespect you, you have full permission to be like NSYNC and say..bye bye bye.
If you don’t like something or the way someone says something you don’t have to take it. You don’t have to sit there and be insulted or disrespected. We can only take so much criticism before it affects our self-esteem and no one has time for that.
If you don’t like something, say it. If you feel someone is being disrespectful with their words or actions let them know. If someone is being rude or hurtful who says you have to take it? Set some firm boundaries. You don’t have to spend your time around someone who does not value you and want to tear you down. Choose to be the bigger person and respond with grace and maturity, two hotheads are not better than one. You don’t have to lash out and stoop to their level.
And like they said on psychcentral.com:
But the good news — and an important fact to remember — is that we always have a choice. “Whether or not a person is difficult for us to deal with depends largely on how we choose to react to them,” Thorn said.