How to Silence Your Critics
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.
All too often, however, "a know-it-all type is obsessed with the idea
that there exists a balance of power in every relationship," says Tessina.
"This person will gladly run your opinions through the meat grinder in
order to keep the scales tipped in his favor, which makes relating as equals
pretty much impossible."
What to do? Unfortunately, says Tessina, there's not a lot you can do with
someone who's more interested in followers than friends, and who will likely
drive you away with his faux-intellectual smackdowns. Besides, "there's no
point in calling him on it because he'll just take the contrarian view as
usual," she says. As for Amy's ex, he got the picture for a second — when
she broke up with him.
If the know-it-all in your life is someone you can't get away from, like
your boss, give up trying to get a word in edgewise — this is a battle you
can't win. Let her blather on and try to keep wildly divergent opinions to
yourself, if only to be spared the inevitable razzing you'll get for
dissenting. This doesn't mean you should roll over and play dead, but there's
no point challenging someone whose sole satisfaction comes from arguing and
complaining. After all, isn't it better to be happy than to be "right?"
Let us answer this one for you: Yes!
THE MOTHER OF ALL CRITICS: YOUR MOTHER
"I wouldn't get those pants if I were you. They're made for
"I've never seen anyone hold a baby like that."
"You look so...tired."
"Don't read that book, dear, it's too
You might be the most competent and confident wife/mom/professional in the
world. Yet even the hint of a negative word from your own mother can get under
your skin — deep. "As a kid, you were raised to not disappoint her,"
says Susan Newman, Ph.D., author of Nobody's Baby Now: Reinventing Your
Adult Relationships With Your Mother and Father. "It's very common to
get stuck in those childhood roles." Your mom also knows better than anyone
how to push your buttons, and may well come down harder on you than she does on
your brother(s) because she thinks that she understands you better.