17 November 2008

Sick of being criticized?

We can all be critical at times, it is just human nature. However, being overly critical is a problem and we all know someone who seems to be able to find fault in pretty much anything we do. It might be a colleague, a boss, a friend or a relative. Dealing with this critical person is certainly challenging.

In the past I have simply avoided them, mainly because I believe that if you are surrounded by critical people you will ultimately become one, and that certainly happened to me on a number of occasions. The reality is that we don’t all have the luxury of avoiding these people, especially if they are a close relative or worse, your boss. 

I came across the following article on dealing with critical people. It provides a very clear insight into the world of the critical person and most importantly, it offers some great advice on how to manage them. Most interestingly of all it suggests that perhaps the criticism’s may be justified (to a point) and perhaps we need to take some of this information on board. Whichever way you feel, this article will help you to understand and deal with critical people in your life.  



We all have to deal with critical people at times. You know the type – the person who can spot a flaw from across the room, gives unsolicited advice, frequently complains and passes judgment, is negative and seems impossible to please.

 We can all be critical. Every day, we literally critique everything that goes on around us consciously and unconsciously. Unfortunately, some people tend to verbalize the thoughts many of us have learned to keep to ourselves. When things don’t go our way or we’re in a bad mood it is easy to become critical. It’s true, miserable people prefer miserable company. Critical people actually feel better around others who share the same negative attitudes. Before we spend time learning how to cope with other people’s critical traits let’s make sure we have our own well under control.

It can be quite challenging to get along with a critic, especially when we live, work or attend church with them. Here are 10 tips to help you get along better with critical people.

1. Understand what motivates people to be critical

Hurting people hurt people. Most critics were criticized themselves as children and did not develop the sense of security and healthy identity that can come from positive nurturing. They tend to have a low opinion of themselves and consequently feel best (although often frustrated) when attempting to achieve the unrealistic standards they set for themselves and others. Critics are often motivated by the need to feel better about themselves by putting other people down. Understanding their motivation can help us to develop empathy and compassion – two qualities that will help you get along with critical people.

2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Although critical people often lack diplomacy and tact, they also tend to be able to size up people and situations accurately. You may be tempted to discount what you hear, but listen carefully to what they say because there is often valuable information underneath the sharp edges of the message.

3. Be willing to confront your critic

It is not easy to confront interpersonal problems, but it is typically the best approach. Be willing to tell the critic in your life how you feel about the way they interact with you. This won’t guarantee change, however, by expressing your thoughts and feelings you are in a better position to manage your own emotions and behaviors. Emotional expression will decrease your chances of growing embittered, and consequently, doing or saying something you’ll regret.

4. Focus on the truth not on the criticism

If someone puts you down, fight the temptation to dwell on the criticism. If there is something you can learn from the message, do so, but then move on. Instead of dwelling on the negative comment focus on the gifts, talents and strengths that you possess.

5. Be careful about what you share with the critical person

It’s not always wise to share personal or important information with a critic about yourself or anyone else. Providing such information is asking for trouble because critical people often take things out of context, misinterpret or exaggerate information and place a negative spin on ideas or opinions. Learn how to discern what you should and should not reveal. When in doubt, don’t share.

6. Don’t join in on criticizing others

It can be easy to fall into the trap of criticizing others when you’re around a critical person. Joining in on the criticism only serves to legitimize the behavior in the mind of the critic, and the transition into gossip is close behind. Today the criticism is about someone else – tomorrow it could be directed toward you.

7. Limit the amount of time you spend with critical people

It may be very appropriate to limit the amount of time you spend with a critic. This, of course, can be difficult if they happen to be your spouse, parent or boss. However, it may be in your best interest to let the person know that your level of interaction with them will be based, in part, on their willingness to communicate with you in a constructive and appropriate manner. If the critic is your spouse you may benefit from consulting with a professional marriage counselor.

8. Control your response to critical people

Pay close attention to how you respond to criticism. If you tend to react with anger, hurt or intimidation, you will encourage the critical behavior. Critical people are often motivated to behave the way they do because of the response they trigger in others. When you learn to not overreact, the critic will likely move on to someone who will.

9. Try to understand the needs of the critical person

The emotional “gas tank” of a critical person is often very low. Criticism is sometimes an outward expression of an inward need – usually the need to feel worthwhile and significant. It is surprising how a sincere compliment, congratulations or demonstration of care and concern can improve your relationship. People with full emotional tanks are the least likely to mistreat others.

10. Maintain realistic expectations

Critical people don’t change overnight. Even if they are making positive progress, they are likely to revert back to their old ways from time to time, especially under stress. Realistic expectations will help guide your interactions and will likely result in a healthier relationship.

This article was adapted from Dr. Linaman’s original article copyrighted by Parent Talk, Inc.

Todd E. Linaman, Ph.D.

As the President and Founder of Relational Advantage, Inc., Dr. Linaman is committed to developing personal and organizational potential into a higher level of quality performance.

As a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist and a respected authority in the area of personal and professional development, Dr. Linaman has provided executive coaching, consultation, counseling and training to individuals and organizations throughout the United States.

Dr. Linaman has worked with corporate executives, business owners, attorneys, medical doctors and other professionals in his counseling and coaching practice. He is a national conference and seminar speaker and has authored numerous articles on personal and professional development topics. He has been featured as a relationship expert on national and local radio talk shows and local television news programs, and is co-author of the book Lessons Learned Looking Back: Strategies for Successful Living published by Broadman and Holman.


7 thoughts on “Sick of being criticized?”

  1. Brad Hawks says:

    thanks !! very helpful post!

  2. Another a very good writeup by you hope to come back more very soon.

  3. Zia says:

    What if you are the criticizer and you were criticized as a child? This article describes me and my relationship. It’s pathetic. I need to change, but i guess i have to realize i’m now just as negative as my father. Awareness is the first step?! Yikes.

    It’s so hard to see from the outside that i’m doing the same thing that psychologically scarred me. Like how on earth does that happen?That’s what i don’t truly understand. how do we become what we hate?

  4. Hi Zia,

    I hear you! That is the problem – we are taught to criticize when we have grown up with it. The responsibility lies with us to change that, break the cycle. I think you are right, awareness is a great start. Then we need to reprogramme. Get around positive people, look at those people in your life now (how many of them are critical). There is an amazing saying, that really says it all – “the wound will always find the fangs”. Meaning of course that we will always find more of what caused our wounds as children if we don’t change our own behaviour. Hang in there. Work on yourself. Be aware of what you do and the impact it has on others. Tell people how much you care about them and love them.

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  6. Jay says:

    Boy, I know this was written a few years back but did it ever hit the nail on the head. I retired from a job and starting working part time with my brother-in-law. I noticed he was micro-managing me and criticizing me in alot of things at work and what I did in my day to day life. Then I realized my wife his sister was micro-managing me the same way at home, boy what a situation I’ve gotten my self into. I know I could quit working with him and just say “I’m done” but with my wife, that is a whole different situation, what a great life I’m living always being micro-managed.

  7. Yeah it’s bloody tough stuff Jay. I hope things that a turn for the better!

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