Eight positive ways to deal with critical people

Nothing is more disheartening than a person who criticises. This is especially so with the person who is constantly finding fault with what you are doing. So how can you deal with them?

  1. Don’t take it personally.
    One way to deal with them is to see what they are saying as being about them, not you. A critical person finds fault with others because they don’t feel good about themself. By turning what they are saying around and seeing it as them wanting to spread some misery because they feel unhappy, it can help you not to be deflated by the negative things they are saying.
  2. Look at the comments objectively.
    Another way to deal with them is to look more objectively at what the person is saying. They may have some valid feedback to give, they are just saying it in a negative way. If you look at what they are saying, with all the emotive language removed, the comments may not be so bad.
  3. See it as honest feedback.
    Another way to deal with the comments objectively is to see them as honest feedback. You can choose to accept or reject the feedback once you have considered it. Another person’s feedback is not always accurate.
  4. Give attention to your inner discomfort.
    Stop to consider the discomfort you are feeling. What is that discomfort about? Do you feel uncomfortable being judged? Is this person undermining your attempt to become confident with what you are doing? Are you wanting the approval of others? Once you understand what the discomfort is about you can then choose an inner response to it.
  5. Don’t ask for opinions if you are not prepared to accept a negative answer.
    Sometimes the critical person gives their critical comments without you requesting them. In that case this one doesn’t apply. Sometimes, however, the critical comment is given after you have asked for feedback on how you are going. In that case, avoid asking a known critical person for a comment. If you are not sure how the person will respond, it is better not to ask. Instead ask someone you know will give helpful, constructive feedback.
  6. Ignore the criticism.
    While we are on the subject of feedback, one thing you can do is choose to see the comment as feedback. Feedback is based on another person’s observations and their thoughts around what they have observed. The other person’s feedback is their opinion, not fact. You can choose whether you accept their opinion, or part of it, as valid or whether you reject their opinion as not valid. If you refuse to accept the opinion, it does not belong to you.
  7. Show the person kindness.
    Often critical people need kindness from other people. It is a bit like the principle of the child who is not getting attention from its parent when it needs it, so it does something naughty to get the attention it needs. Often critical people are just looking for attention, to be noticed. Just as the child considers any attention, even bad attention, is worth it, the critical person sees the attention their criticism attracts, even if it is negative, as worth it. Being kind to them and thanking them for their opinion (while internally rejecting it) will give them the kindness they seek and may put them off being negative to you again. Even if that approach does not stop their critical comments in future, you will feel better for being kind to another person rather than being angry. So do it for you and your sense of well being.
  8. Avoid them.
    If all else fails, and they are really getting you down, then wherever possible avoid them.

Seeing a counsellor can also help. In a counselling session you can explore those vulnerable parts of you that the criticism hurts and learn strategies to deal effectively with the criticism. You can learn strategies to set firm boundaries around critical people as well. Discussing your experience with a counsellor, who is objective, can also help you to see the person’s behaviour more objectively. Being able to share your experience with a counsellor who will listen without judgement is also extremely helpful.

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