Monkey Puzzle Blog

group dealing with criticism

5 Effective Ways to deal with critical people

Do you ever feel like you have to over justify yourself or defend yourself against petty gripes and accusations? Some people can be naturally over critical. This creates an atmosphere of constant defensiveness which can destroy relationships, not to mention your self confidence if you have someone close or work with someone who is like this. Get yourself out of the corner you feel backed into and avoid getting drawn into the negativity with our top tips:

1)Don’t get furious get curious People who are critical are like that with everyone, if you are close to them or work closely with them you are just more likely to get the sharp end more often. Instead of reacting with annoyance to their words, get curious and ask what the real issue is. Be careful not to make things worse by using emotive or inflammatory language. Some good ways to do this: ‘You’ve said this a number of times to me. I don’t think what I’m doing is that bad so what is it that annoys you so much about it?’ ‘The things you mention don’t feel like a big deal to me, they seem to annoy you though so what does what I do mean to you?’

2) Go for the bigger picture, not into the detail By reacting to the detail of the criticism you will just end up in a tit for tat conversation which will take you nowhere and be very frustrating. Instead ask about the bigger picture. This creates discussion which focuses on the other person’s problem and less about your behaviour. Ways to do this: ‘Why does what I do bother you so much? It doesn’t feel like a big deal to me so I think I’m missing something’ ‘Every time this happens, you have this reaction. What’s this really all about for you?’ 

3)Negotiate for compromise The problem many close and working relationships have is that people have different views about what is right. For any relationship to work you have to raise the issue and discuss a compromise. This can be hard because you might be scared of the other persons’ reaction, but if they are a decent person and you do it in the right way, it needn’t be so scary. ‘The problem here as I see it is that you like things to be very neat and tidy and I’m don’t see things in that way. We can’t both have our own way on this so let’s talk about how we can make this work and avoid these discussions in future.’ ‘I know this annoys you, the thing is I don’t have the same attention to detail you do. Can we discuss exactly what you need so that I can get a better understanding of how to do this in a way that’s OK for you?’

4)Use deflection and humour particularly for small things Don’t sweat the small stuff. Instead use humour or deflection to diffuse the situation. Never make fun of them, only the situation. Acting out an exaggeration or making fun of yourself (without putting yourself down), can help the other person to lighten up and ease up.

5)Draw the line If their critical behaviour is too much, draw the line. This can even work well in a work context where the other person has authority over you if you do it in the right way:

‘When you say that, it doesn’t make me want to discuss it with you. To me it comes across as [patronising/ condescending]. Can we focus on how to resolve it instead?’

‘Your comments about my appearance get me down and make me feel undervalued by you. I’m sure this is not your intention. Could you stop it please? If I want your opinion on how I look I’ll ask you’

If they come back with ‘I’m only trying to help’ or ‘Don’t be so touchy’, which is common with critical people when they get caught out, don’t get drawn into the discussion. Close it down instead by saying ‘In any case, I’d prefer it if you didn’t….’.

This doesn’t attack them but makes it clear you are not willing to be spoken to in that way.

How Can We help?

How else can we help?

If you’d like our support in making these ideas work for you and your business, please get in touch.

Click here to contact us

Join our email newsletter community

Sign up for our newsletter

Get the latest content to help maximise your People Potential.

We cover leadership, employee wellbeing and other people matters focused on building sustainable organisations. As well as our own content and resources, we’ll bring you external views that catch our eye. You’ll hear from us every other month, and you can of course unsubscribe at any time.

Please tick the box below to agree that you are happy to be contacted by us:

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link on our newsletters or by contacting us at For more information about our privacy practices click here. By clicking 'Sign Me Up', you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Read Mailchimp's privacy practices.

What We Do
Free Resources
About Us
Stay Connected
Call us : 0117 4501407
Monkey Puzzle Training Logo
Monkey Puzzle Training and Consultancy Limited
Unit 1, The Arcade, 69 High Street, Nailsea, Bristol BS48 1AW.
ILM recognised logo 2021
NHS logo
PSA logo
© 2007 - 2022 Monkey Puzzle Training & Consultancy. All Rights Reserved. Web Design by DW Multimedia.