How Can you Deal With Critical People?


Summer 2024

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Critical people aren’t fun to be around. They always seem to see the bad in everything. They are hard to handle because they make others feel that nothing is good enough for them. Depending on who you are interacting with, it can be easy to get sucked into their negativity. 

If you let that happen, you risk being worse than them, and you might even feel emotionally overwhelmed. Before you let your feelings run out of control when someone criticizes you, avoid overreacting. 

If you lack clues on how to react when someone lashes out at you, consider these 10 points when you approach them.

Recognize your Defensiveness

Defensiveness is an attempt to cope with criticism by denying your role in the problem and deflecting responsibility to someone else. When you recognize your defensiveness, you slightly distance yourself from it. If you feel you are listening defensively to a critical person, try looking objectively at what is being said. If you catch yourself focusing on inaccuracies, distortions, and exaggerations, don’t be sidetracked.


Defensiveness starts in the mind and slowly tapers off to the body, making you feel tense and nervous. This hampers your thinking faculties and judgment, before things get out of hand, calm down by taking slow deep breaths. 

Ask Questions

If you feel that you are being misunderstood, ask questions. When the criticism is vague, ask for an example. If someone says, “I feel you don’t respect me,” ask, “Can you give me an example where you felt I was putting you down. This promotes clarity and shows the other person you are willing to negotiate. Asking questions should not be confused with nitpicking. Instead of pointing out flaws in your questions, cross-examine the problem to find common ground. 


Listening plays a critical role when arguments are tense. Your goal when listening is to discover what you can agree with. Even though you might get the urge to interrupt, argue, or correct facts, save your reasoning and points for another conversation. This allows you to create common ground for a conducive discussion instead of using your ideas as a defense strategy. 

Find Common Ground

When someone is highly critical, find something you can agree with. Granted, that might be challenging. Even though you might only agree with 7 percent of what they are saying, find a point of commonality. If you can’t find anything to agree with, thank the person for their open and frank opinion and let them know that you will consider their thoughts. 


Don’t evade responsibility if someone is critically throwing the blame at you. This shifts the conversation from combat mode into a collaborative mode. When an argument is heated, you can always save your thoughts about who the onus is on for another time.  

Set Boundaries

At times an argument veers off and is enunciated with insults. When this happens, draw the line. Even though you could initially sit through initial anger blasts, rudeness is unacceptable. Exit from the conversation by offering an ultimatum. You could say, “I would like to hear what bothers you, only if you approach me respectfully.”

Don’t Listen If you Can’t

If you can’t absorb what is being said, it’s okay to tell the other person that you want to have the conversation at another time. This removes hurdles like outbursts and dead-end arguments. If you are ending the conversation, suggest a time to resume it.

Define your Differences

Taking criticism doesn’t mean you will agree with everything said. If you disagree, tell the person you see things differently. Rather than being an overly accommodating person who apologizes to avoid conflict, tactfully voice your opinion when needed. If an argument is tense, save your point of view for a future conversation when you have the best chance of being heard. 

Thank the Person for Sharing Their Feelings

As hard as it may be, expressing gratitude when the other person is defensive is imperative. This signals your commitment to the relationship. You could say, “I appreciate you telling me this. I know it couldn’t be easy, I will consider your feedback.”

David Messiha | Staff Writer 

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