Do you ever find yourself dealing with people who always criticize you and never seem to find good in you? They aren’t gentle critics who want to help you grow, they don’t just kindly point out a mistake to help you learn, but act as if they are never satisfied with you? In their eyes, you are never good enough, everything you do is a failure. Here are a five steps for dealing with chronically critical people.
1. Understand the cause
Often they are not critical because they hate you (they may like you) instead they want to feel powerful, important, and significant. Usually the critic feel insignificant and weak, so over the years they’ve built up a hostile attitude. When they put you down, they feel up. When they say you are wrong, they feel right. They have no way to feel valuable if they aren’t devaluing someone else. Understand you should not be mad, but sorry for them.
2. Avoid taking it to heart
If you take their words into your heart, you will start to feel unloved & unappreciated. Instead, while they are being critical of you, literally think to yourself “this is not what they mean” and understand their statement comes from their frustration and insignificance. Unless there is something you genuinely did wrong and they are humbly helping you overcome, don’t listen to what they say. The day after your memory should not be “X really hates me,” but “X was really frustrated yesterday.”
3. Avoid being defensive
You hear “how could you be that stupid?!” and your heart starts pumping with adrenaline. That statement just made them feel powerful/intelligent, and made you feel the opposite. You don’t want to feel stupid, but the only way to accomplish that is to defend yourself, and make them feel weak and stupid. They set up a win/lose situation. Someone has to be the loser, and they will fight to the death not to be it. First try to explain the situation to them. If that doesn’t work, politely retreat from the fight they are trying to start. It will make you feel weaker than them and be a tough exercise of humility, but just say you don’t want to fight & change the subject.
4. Avoid becoming bitter
If you take their negative words to heart, you will feel torn down and want to run away in tears. If you aren’t sorry for them, you will become sorry for yourself. You might try to fight at first, then as their criticisms continue to drone over your head you will dwell on thoughts of how unfairly & unlovingly they are treating you. You will retreat to the corner of your mind and dwell in self-pity. Instead of hiding your pain and letting it grow, very gently explain how their statement made you feel. Don’t say “you hate me” but “the way you said that made me feel unloved,” and if they aren’t willing to change, find a way to politely excuse yourself from their company. Don’t carry the bitterness with you, remember they can’t help it. (They might be the way they are because they once let bitterness grow in their heart).
5. Embrace wisdom
There are often things to learn from your “encounters.” Sometimes your chronic critic has valid points (you aren’t perfect, who woulda thought?) and so learn from their valid points while avoiding their invalid tone and voice. And even if your critic has nothing genuine to teach you, learn to practice the above four steps, because life is filled with chronic critics and they need love. You can’t love them if you are busy defending yourself or being bitter.