Dealing with Harsh criticism

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Dealing with harsh criticism

Sometimes criticism can be in the form of a helpful advice that can assist us in improving the way do something, however, when nonconstructive criticism is delivered in a harsh way then it usually means that there are personal problems the person who criticized us is suffering from and that there are hidden intentions behind his critical comments.

Dealing with harsh criticism requires that you understand the critical message well, analyze its meaning and the reasons behind it.

Why do people criticize others?

First of all you must categorize the critical comment you received in order to give the correct response.

Generally when the critical comment is charged with negative emotions (for Example: Your are totally worthless) then this means that the person who said it was feeling really bad while saying it and that his critical comment was nothing more than a way to vent his stored emotions. (see Why are some people overly critical and sarcastic

Although its not a general rule but in most cases you can assume that the more aggressive the message is and the more emotionally charged it is the less it has to do with you and the more it has to do with personal issues that the other person is suffering from.

A person may criticize you because he believes that you harmed him even if you didn’t (See dealing with resentful people), if he had a bad day and feels angry, if he wants to feel worthy or because he is jealous.

The key is understanding whether the critical comment is really an advice or whether its just an emotional burst of someone who is already loaded with negative emotions.

How to respond to criticism

The following are guidelines that can help you respond to harsh criticism in a very effective way:

  • Don’t reply right away, if possible: If the critical comment was received on an Email, Facebook or any other place that can allow you to respond later then never respond right away because 1) Responding quickly shows how badly the comment affected you to the extent that you couldn’t wait to reply 2) Most likely you will be emotionally charged after reading the message and so you wont be able to think logically

  • Never Defend yourself: If someone sent you a message telling you that you are worthless, incompetent, dumb....etc then never try to defend yourself because this shows that 1) You care a lot about the opinion of the person who criticized you 2) You feel really bad because of the wrong impression he formed of you 3) You think that you aren’t really worthy and so you are trying to prove it.
  • Counter attack: Of course I am assuming that you already made sure that the other person's intention is bad. If I was told something like “You are dumb” I would reply saying "Millions read what I write, and that doesn't make me dumb, now what proof do you have that you are not dumb?"
  • Ego breaking: Most people will respond in a defensive way trying to prove that they are worthy, if this happened then you can simply knock them out by putting no value the words they said. For example if a person replied saying "I am not dumb because of so and so and so" reply saying "hahahaaha, you did all that? you made my day, Good luck :)" This is very effective because when someone starts to give proofs of his worth then this means that he has identified with these proofs and so ignoring these proofs breaks the person. See (Ego breaking techniques for more information)
  • Let him know that you are aware of the underlying causes: If for example you made sure that the person is jealous of you then you could reply saying something like "Instead of trying to put me down to feel Good about yourself why don’t you try to make some achievements yourself to feel better?"
  • Build self confidence: In the Solid Self confidence program i explained how lack of self confidence can make normal critical comments appear way worse than they are. The more confident you are the less will criticism affect you

Final notes about criticism

Please make sure that you only use these techniques when you are 100% sure that the other person's intention is bad especially the Ego breaking ones.

These advice should only be used with harsh criticism that is not by any means constructive and that has no other goal other than making you feel bad.

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