Critical people! It seems like they’re everywhere. They may be family members, friends, bosses, co-workers, even strangers. And they may leave you feeling belittled and disempowered. But, no matter how many of these energy vampires we encounter in our daily lives, there are things we can do to reclaim our power and protect ourselves from their invasion of our personal, emotional space.
Most critical people have insecurities that lead to an unhealthy desire for attention. Realizing the underlying causes of their behavior can help you handle their comments, the same way you would if they were coming from a petulant child. When you stop to think about it, that’s exactly what their critical behavior is…a child-like tantrum!
Here are a few steps to help you cope:
Don’t take it personally. Remember, their comments are just their opinion. It doesn’t mean anything until you internalize it. The key here is to know yourself – that makes it easier to ignore their negative words.
Avoid responding tit-for-tat. Engaging the critic is the worst thing you can do. It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire. A negative comeback serves the purpose of giving them the attention they desire. For the critic, any attention is better than no attention at all.
Disarm them. Smile and say, “thank you for sharing.” Surprise! The critical person expects some kind of negative response, confrontation or disempowered reaction like fear or sadness. When you don’t respond as expected, you take the fun out of their game. If you do this a few times, they’ll most likely leave you alone because they’re not getting the desired reaction.
When the critical person is your boss, you have to handle the situation a little differently. Their power over you carries greater consequences, so you may have to allow the criticism to happen. If this is the case, deal with it on your own by learning stress management techniques and practices to help you release and clear the tension. Recognize that your boss is a bully. Check to see if your company has policies to help you remedy the situation.
Analyze the critical comments. See if there’s any truth in what’s being said. Sometimes our insecurities can prevent us from seeing criticism as honest feedback. So, don’t automatically dismiss it.
Ignore the person. If there’s no value in what has been said, you have the right to just walk away and not react at all. Sometimes this is the best reaction because it diffuses the situation and disperses the energy.
Remember, the constant critic is really just an adult with a little child inside who’s looking for attention and validation. If you don’t give them what they need, they’ll look for it somewhere else.