Being critical is a habit and a coping strategy, usually learned early on.
For some reason, it just comes natural for many of us to criticize, especially those we love, usually in the guise of “helping” them be better.
(Translate that to doing what we want!)
We’re not talking about feedback that’s asked for…
We’re talking about constant, negative criticism (or blame) that creates a dynamic where one person feels inferior and the other, superior–even though the person doing the criticizing might not look at it that way.
The person being criticized often feels “not good enough” and certainly not loved.
They usually shut down and pull away, become passive-agressive, sarcastic or fight back.
The criticizer gets defensive and the fight is on, even if it’s one where neither say anything to one another.
George was constantly picking up and cleaning up the kitchen and Cathy always felt criticized even when he didn’t say anything.
They both had full time jobs but it seemed she was always “in trouble” because the laundry wasn’t done or the kitchen wasn’t cleaned up to his satisfaction.
He might make some comments that came off as sarcastic to her but more often, he just cleaned the kitchen or did the laundry with what she thought was an “attitude.”
They were constantly fighting because Cathy felt criticized and not good enough and George felt like he was just helping out.
This is a pretty common dynamic we’ve seen many times in lots of couples but it doesn’t have to be this way.
So what do you do if you’re on the receiving end of constant, negative criticism?
Here are 3 ways to not only deal with constant negative criticism but help you to not be affected by it…
1. Don’t take it personally.
We know that not taking it personally is something you might have a hard time wrapping your mind around if you’re being criticized but stay with us…
When you see that this may not be entirely about you, you can take some of the blame or anger off your shoulders and step back and look at it differently.
When Cathy stepped out of blaming herself for not being a good enough housekeeper and her anger at George, she saw something new.
She saw that this was about him liking order in his surroundings. She could give a lot of reasons why she thought he wanted it this way but the important thing was that they saw house chores very differently–and it wasn’t about her being deficient.
2. Talk about your differences but not when you’re triggered.
If you talk about your different ways of looking at things when you’re angry, you’ll just escalate the issue and you won’t get anywhere.
If you feel like you need to talk about an issue (and you may not), choose a time when you’re calm and can speak from your heart.
When she was feeling in a good space inside her, Cathy asked George if he would be willing to talk about the household responsibilities.
She had realized they had never talked about sharing chores but she had just assumed that it all was her job and had blamed herself for not being “perfect.”
He was more than willing to talk about it and offered suggestions how they might work together. There were a few sticking points but because she stayed calm, they could work them out easier.
3. Don’t be sucked back into negative thinking and believing negative thoughts.
Even if you are successful in ironing out disagreements, it’s easy to get sucked back into old patterns of thinking.
When you feel yourself reacting in the same old ways, stop and realize that you are just believing old thoughts and are making up stories that just aren’t true.
Cathy realized that she didn’t have to buy into the idea that she was “disappointing” George. If he did lapse into his old habits, she could simply not see it as a personal slam against her.
While we certainly encourage you to see if there’s any truth to crticism lobbed your way, it’s also important to not see yourself as a “bad” person or not good enough.
If you need to make some changes, do it for you and your well-being.
If constant, negative criticsm continues to escalate and doesn’t let up even though you’ve made some positive changes, you might consider whether you want to stay in this relationship or not.
The truth is that you don’t need to be weighed down and defeated by criticism. You can have a life of possibilities instead.