How Do You Reply to Someone Who Constantly Criticizes You?
When you hear the word “criticism,” you probably think of someone you know. It can be someone from work, a neighbor, or a roommate, for example. Or, maybe you think of yourself. Good news is, if you see yourself as a difficult person, you are already on your way to becoming an “easier“ one. Critical people are seldom aware of their flaws.
So, how should we deal with critical people? Can we filter them, should we avoid them? If everyone starts doing that, maybe they will think about their behavior and change.
Well, there will always be that someone who gets into their game and accepts them. What if we can't ignore them? What if we depend on them and have to work with these people? Different people are difficult in different ways. Some of them are openly aggressive and intrusive, while others are concealed. There are people who always criticize. Can we change them? A realistic answer would be: not really. People only change because they want to, not because they have to.
I'm Okay But You Are Not
Critical people generally know how to spot problems, but they do not know how to resolve them constructively. Their life position is "I'm okay, you're not." By expressing their anger, rage, or contempt, they express their sense of superiority and power. With their non-constructive criticism, they often cause conflicts. They often have an excessively stiff attitude towards rules and justice. In their own eyes, they are "freedom fighters." When they have power (as parents, teachers, or managers), they restrain and discourage other people with their control.
Why do they react like this? They are trying to create a positive image of themselves, trying to overcome a sense of inferiority, and taking a superior position. They strive for perfectionism. They feel their power but in the end, long-term feelings of frustration usually increase.
What’s interesting is that they expect us to enter into a conflict. So, people need to show them attention and listen. But at the same time, try not to agree with them. If you do, you are getting into trouble. Give constructive solutions and show them kindness. You’ve probably thought about it: if someone is that critical to others, chances are they treat themselves the same way.
Criticism: The Key to Progress?
Unsuccessful people take criticism too personally and fail to take measures based on what they’ve just heard. On the other hand, people who are successful understand that criticism, good or bad, is the key to their progress. They also improve. Criticism hurts and it is not easy to remain unharmed. It usually wakes your defense mechanisms up. It can be intentional and accidental, malicious and constructive. Don’t pay attention to malicious criticism because it is just an indicator that our critic is either angry or jealous of us. But, in any case, we need to learn how to handle it.
What to Do With an Overly Critical Person
- First, you need to take a look at the person’s intentions: what message does he or she really want to send out and how this message is actually expressed. Sometimes, critical people’s comments may sound way too negative. You need to answer some questions yourself: is that person trying to be malicious or has good intentions?
- If they're just plain malicious, ignore! You don’t need to invest time or energy in this.
- But if you see he or she is well-intended, try to identify the underlying message.
- Think about criticism in the context of your goals. Which part of it is actually relevant to you? Dismiss the rest.
- Be polite and let that person know you appreciate the feedback. If we are focused on criticism, we will be more dependent on our issues and faults. But if we concentrate on our strength, we will really understand our true power.
Charidimos Kleidis from Athens, Greece on November 07, 2016:
I, too, tend towards reacting kindly to criticism that is negative, or of unknown origin at the time. You could potentially snap and find something critical and hurtful to reply with, but that almost never solves anything. It will go on as long as you give in. On the other hand, if you respond politely but hold a firm stance over your beliefs, you make it easier for bystanders to notice that person's possibly aggressive behavior while drawing a clear line. And this is important, since, quite a few people have difficulty understanding the boundary beyond which they become rude - which is not the same for everyone. In that case, they will learn better in time.
Of course, the most important thing is, as said, to keep the constructive part of the criticism, if there is any, and try to become better ourselves. Who knows, maybe we will become so much better, that we will come to understand why some people are spitefully critical - and eventually thank them for that.
I actually met a guy a few years ago who was, and still is, critical to a degree that it's unclear whether he has good intentions or not. The first time I talked with him, I was furious (he called me a spoiled princess, or something like that). But after necessarily hanging out with him a few times, I noticed that it's just his - crude - way to filter the people he meets and to behave with people he feels really comfortable with. It took me quite a while to stop getting angry at some of his remarks - while answering to him in the same bitter tone from time to time - but at this point he is one of my very best friends. The talks we 've had were a gift I would have missed out on, if I had initially brushed him off as a mean-spirited person. All in all, for people like him, I consider looking the other way.