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How to Silence Your Critics

THE "HONEST" CRITIC continued...

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.


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.

With this type of critic, there are usually two underlying issues at play — fear and a need for control. "They're afraid of the unknown and of not being in charge of their surroundings, so they end up projecting those fears onto everybody else," explains Tessina. Your idea might also make this critic realize her life isn't all she wants it to be, so she tries to hold you back along with her.

Before you launch a defense, however, consider that she may actually be onto something. Maybe eBay is already saturated with the same reversible handbags you want to sell through your online boutique. Perhaps a person's personality does change (and not always for the better) after overhauling their look on impulse.

That's not to say that you need to give up your plans. "People make the mistake of thinking that criticism means their intention or goal was probably wrong or half-baked all along, and that they're obligated to stay in the status quo," says Robert Leahy, Ph.D., director of The American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York City and author of The Worry Cure. "But those who are willing to tolerate some ambivalence and criticism tend to be better decision makers overall. Collecting information, weighing the pros and cons, and fine-tuning your plans are signs of thoughtfulness and maturity."

Besides, if everyone thought your idea was good or easy, there wouldn't be any risk involved — or glory either, says Leahy. You might even want to thank this person for her input. Her negativity has helped you take ownership of your tenacity and willingness to explore new horizons. Come to think of it, Leahy adds, "this critic is basically telling you that she doesn't have the guts to do it herself." How's that for an ego boost?

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