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How to Silence Your Critics

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THE COMPETITIVE CRITIC continued...

Unfortunately, there are some competitive critics you simply can't run from, especially if that person happens to be your supervisor. Theresa was able to shake off her boss's harsh words, though, once she consulted with her colleagues. "In a weird way, the criticism helped me," she says. "It made me look for and receive support from my coworkers."

If the competitive critic is someone other than a toxic boss, such as a spiteful colleague or a sister-in-law, call her on it. Assume that she doesn't realize what she's doing. "Say something like, 'You say you're happy about my promotion/new house/new baby, but I sense some tension lately — is everything okay?'" suggests Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D., author of Mean Girls Grow Up. Hopefully, she'll grasp that her behavior has bothered you, and she'll be more gracious in the future. She may, however, get defensive and accuse you of having changed and other various offenses. Plow on with your point anyway. Confronting the root of the problem will either signal the need for you to distance yourself from her — or allow the relationship to grow.

THE KNOW-IT-ALL CRITIC

Some people can't help but contradict everything that comes out of your mouth — no matter how inane or innocuous. "I'm a pretty good cook, but my ex-boyfriend fancied himself to be this great epicure and chef, even though we both had about the same level of experience," recalls Amy Harrison, a 33-year-old photo editor in New York City. "So he was always belittling my skills in the kitchen. I'd tell him I wanted to use butter and he'd make a face and insist we use olive oil. Or if I wanted to use olive oil, he had to have butter. It was like living in Opposite World."

Whether in the kitchen, at the office, or at your children's school, the know-it-all considers communication an excuse to bash you over the head with his superior knowledge and opinions — regardless of whether he's right.

Granted, some know-it-alls are simply analytical by nature and enjoy taking on the contrarian role. "In his mind, he's sorting through and presenting all the options," says Dellasega. In a weird way, he may even be trying to help you think outside the box.

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