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Women's Health

How to Silence Your Critics

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THE "HONEST" CRITIC

This is the person who considers it her divine right — and duty — to speak the truth at all costs. ("That new dress makes you look a little hippy." "Damn, your dog is fat. What are you feeding him — gravy?" "I would have never let my kid get away with that.") And you're not supposed to be offended because, hey, she's just being honest — and isn't honesty a virtue? Not necessarily. "A friend's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and one of my other friends said to me and some mutual friends that the woman got it because she wasn't a healthy eater," recalls Rhett Pruitt, 35, of Mountain Rest, SC. "I was so angry. I was already feeling very upset about my friend's mom, and hearing those insensitive words made things even worse."

This type of person is self-centered, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction. "She says the first thing that pops into her mind — just like a 2-year-old — with no regard for hurt feelings or consequences." Or she's provocative just for effect, hoping to cause a stir by dropping verbal bombs no one else would dream of saying.

But here's the rub: Telling this walking sledgehammer that her harsh words hurt your or anyone else's feelings may play right into her need to be the brave truth teller, thus stoking an already inflamed ego. So to call her on her bad behavior, say something like, "I guess I'm one of those people who prefers tact and empathy to 'honesty,'" suggests Tessina. Or simply say nothing at all. "Let her comment hang in the air like a bad smell," Tessina suggests. "This person craves attention and drama. She can't get it if you don't take the bait." After your meaningful silence, just say, pointedly, "Oh," then change the subject.

THE CHANGE-AVERSE CRITIC

It doesn't matter if you're launching an eBay business or considering becoming a redhead — this critic is standing by with a bullhorn to let you know that your idea is probably a crazy/dangerous/financially fraught/selfish one.

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