Every time Steve turned in a project, his boss consistently found something to criticize about it. Despite Steve’s many attempts at trying to please his boss, he couldn’t find a way to make it happen. After several months, Steve became so discouraged he gave up and quit his job.
Laura could never seem to please her mother. She studied late into the night and made straight A’s in school. She was Student Body President and showing great promise with her leadership skills. Yet her mom would say, “I am so proud of you, but why can’t you use some of your talent to clean your room?”
One of the most challenging people in life is the Critic – the person with the “gift” of spotting a flaw a mile away. Whether it’s your spouse, your boss or your parent, here are some tips for getting along with the critical person in your life.
1. Work at not taking the criticism personally. Remember that the Critic’s remark reveals more about them than you. You may have heard the phrase, “Hurt people sometimes hurt people.” You might be surprised at how much better you feel if you keep this in mind and respond with kindness and grace.
2. Be willing to tell the Critic in your life what you think and feel about their behavior. Confronting a difficult problem is often the first step in the process of solving it. Responding kindly can include honest feedback and the truth about how you feel when you are at the receiving end of their criticism. The critical remarks may not stem from a desire to hurt you, just to make sure things are done “right” in their opinion.
3. Try and learn from the criticism. It may be annoying and even demoralizing, but you may hear something that could actually help you. The Critic may not always be encouraging, but they are sometimes right and if you evaluate what they say fearlessly and honestly, you may be inspired to rise to new challenges and improvements.
4. Fight the urge to always try to please your Critic. While some Critics can improve their methods of communication in response to your feedback, it isn’t likely they will be able to change completely. Remember that the critical nature is about them, not about you, and constantly trying to please an unpleasable person is exhausting and frustrating. Honing your skills in dealing with the Critic is more likely to help in the long run.
Because of the human tendency to “see the glass as half-empty” a lot of people are just naturally more critical than others. When you think about it, the “gift” of spotting a flaw can be very helpful when accuracy, precision and correctness are important. Think about it – wouldn’t you prefer to have your IT tech, your pharmacist and your mechanic be extremely concerned with everything being done right? I would! But you can choose not to allow critical remarks, nitpicking observations or belittling judgments to control your life. Be yourself, do the best you can, and resist the impulse to blame yourself.
To help you learn more about dealing with the Critic as well as other challenging people, check out our audio resource How to Deal with Difficult People.
How about you? Have you found ways to cope with a critical person in your life? Or have you struggled with being a Critic? What advice would you give to someone who is at the giving or receiving end of criticism? We hope you will share your insights!
Live & Work Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.