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What does this mean: I tend to be critical of others
It means that you have the tendency to point other people shortcomings in regards to your own principles, opinions or own set of values. Maybe you have a moral compass and are sensitive when other people deviate from said standards.
There are several reasons why a person may be more negatively critical of others.
Erica Cramer, a licensed clinical social worker in New York, says, “When someone is overly critical, chances are it has more to do with them than you.”
Most of the time, people who are overly critical of others may not even be aware that they’re doing it.
Neena Lall, a licensed clinical social worker also based in New York, adds that critical people may also feel anxious. This can lead them to subconsciously think that criticizing others may help them manage their anxiety.
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If your mother teaches you how to drive and she’s an anxious driver herself, she may manage her anxiety by criticizing you, Lall says.
Other reasons a person might be more critical include:
- low self-esteem
- sense of superiority
- history of receiving criticisms in childhood
When you’re faced with a critical person, you can use strategies to help you deal with the person and their comments.
Consider the source
Consider who is criticizing you. Is it your mom? Your best friend? A co-worker?
“Before jumping to feeling bad about yourself, consider how much credibility you’re giving the person,” Cramer says.
Try to remind yourself that this person might not be an expert on this topic, or they may have other underlying reasons for being more critical about this particular situation.
Cramer suggests taking some opinions with a “grain of salt.”
Don’t take it personally
Criticisms may be more of a reflection of that person than of you.
“Sometimes people are critical because they’re projecting their own insecurities on you,” Lall says.
For example, if a friend feels insecure about their own body, they may criticize or make negative comments about your body.
Take a moment
It’s natural to react in anger to criticisms or to feel hurt or embarrassed.
When we feel hurt, we may react defensively, leading to confrontation or an argument.
Before you respond, try to take a time-out. Consider excusing yourself from the conversation and taking a walk or taking a few deep breaths.
Taking a moment can sometimes help you get some perspective and process everything. This may help avoid arguments and make an already awkward situation even worse.
Become a rock
People who are critical of others are usually looking for a reaction. If you suspect this is happening, Lall suggests using the gray rock technique.
“This means giving boring non-answers to any criticisms you receive,” Lall says.
Here are a few example responses Lall suggests.
- “I’ll consider that” (even though you may not).
- “I heard you” (you heard the words, but you may not agree).
- “That’s a point” (they made a point, but it may not be right for you).
Take an empathetic approach
Instead of casting someone off because they’re difficult, try to cultivate some empathy for them.
“Sometimes, when people are hurtful, it’s helpful to take a more empathetic approach,” Cramer says.
Often people hurt others because they feel hurt themselves, Cramer adds.
Try to see the world from their point of view. This may help you understand the reasons behind their behavior. Once you understand this, you can feel compassion for that person.
Criticism Versus Feedback
There’s a problem with this feedback/criticism distinction though. Many criticizers disguise their criticism by saying that it’s feedback.
That rude comment about Camille’s nose job? I was just giving her some feedback.
Snide remark about Pat’s weight? Feedback, man.
Snarky joke about Chris’s contribution to the group project? Just giving you some feedback, Chris.
These examples are 100% criticism. They’re not feedback at all.
Feedback is about allowing people to make their own choices, focuses on improvement and the future (not the past), and is about behavior (not the person).
Criticism is about blaming and devaluing people.
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