OVERLY critical people can really get you down.
Unlike those who offer constructive criticism (that is, they praise the good and try to improve the bad), overly critical people rarely have anything good to say about anyone or anything.
They seem to have an automatic filter which mentally blocks out whatever is good or positive.
Naturally, they are not the people you would want to hang out with.
While you can try to get out of their way, you are bound to run into one or two at work. Here are six ways to deal with them:
1. Don’t take it personally
Many times, their criticisms are a reflection of their personality and values.
You may think that the critical person is picking on you, but it is likely that he reacts this way towards everyone else too.
Here’s one simple way to check.
Observe how this person interacts with your other colleagues. Do his comments fit a pattern? Do they antagonise other people?
If the answer is “yes” on both counts, he is the problem. So don’t let him affect your confidence.
2. Understand the real message
Sometimes, critical people may just be trying to offer a helpful opinion but their intentions are misinterpreted due to their lack of tact.
Rather than be hung up over “how” a critical person says something (the words he uses or his strident tone), focus on “what” is being communicated (his message).
The previous company I worked at was an American multinational corporation, so communication was often direct and to the point.
One of the managers was well known for his bluntness but his points were often valid, so there really was no reason to take offence.
That was just how he communicated his thoughts; he was not intending to be malicious.
3. Is it honest feedback?
Honesty should not be underrated. At least, with honest people, what you see is what you get.
I have come across seemingly nice people who later turned out to be untrustworthy.
On the other hand, I have friends who may be uncomfortably blunt but have revealed themselves to be true gems because they are sincere and steadfast.
As long as critical comments are not meant to hurt or humiliate and are aimed at improving a situation, take them in the right spirit — as honest feedback.
4. Ignore negative comments
While you cannot stop overly critical people from voicing their opinions, you have the choice to ignore what they say.
You may not be able to change how people act or think, but you can change how you react.
If the negative comments are not useful or helpful, simply ignore them.
5. Show some kindness
I watched “Peaceful Warrior”, a movie about a young, arrogant gymnast who meets a wise mentor, and a quote from the film struck me.
It goes like this: “The people who are the hardest to love are the ones who need it the most.”
If you think about it, why are critical people so critical?
Why is it so hard for them to be positive?
Is it because they lack love?
And if they are so critical of others, chances are they measure themselves by the same tough standards.
Why not treat these critical people with kindness?
Drop them a compliment. Give them a smile. Say “hi”.
Ask them out for a meal. Help them out in areas you know they can benefit from your help. Get to know them personally.
They may react adversely at first, but that is because they are caught off-guard by your behaviour.
Even if they may not show it initially, they will eventually appreciate your gestures of friendship.
6. Avoid them
When all else fails, avoid the people whom you find toxic.
Reduce contact, limit conversations, hang out with others if it is a group outing or cut them out of your life as a last resort.
Even if both of you are on the same team at work, you will not be working with each other 24/7.
Use the first five approaches when you have to interact with critical people, then just steer clear of them the rest of the time.