Tag Archives: criticism

Handling Criticism:
“Don’t criticize me. This is the way I’ve always done it!”

"Why Not?" — Einstein by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

If you do anything interesting in life, you are bound to be criticized. It is best to handle criticism without becoming defensive or taking it personally.

Consider the Critic’s Underlying Motivation

When you understand the motivation behind the criticism, it is easier to respond appropriately without becoming defensive. People criticize for various reasons, positive and negative:

1. To help you avoid making a mistake.
2. To connect with you.
3. To share a good idea that may improve on what you are doing.
4. To feel worthwhile.
5. To feel superior because they are jealous or feel inadequate.
6. To find fault because they feel threatened.
7. To vent irritability.

Depending on the motivation, you can handle the criticism differently. For example, if someone wants to share a good idea, it might be worthwhile to engage in a conversation with that person about his or her ideas.

For those who want to connect with you or to feel worthwhile, you don’t need a long discussion on why their criticism is not helpful. A simple “Thanks for your idea” may be adequate, and then change the subject to something of more interest to you.

If someone feels jealous or threatened by you, you can thank the critic and disengage.

You might respond to someone who is simply irritable by asking, “You seem upset. Is there something going one in your life?”

Consider the Criticism

Regardless of the critic’s motivation, the criticism itself might carry some validity. So ask yourself if there is something to be learned by it. Focus only on what is helpful. Disregard the rest. You show confidence when you consider other people’s ideas.

Surprise the critic by thanking him or her for the criticism. If you agree with the criticism, let the critic know how helpful he or she has been. If not, respond honestly with your reasoning. Critical people are often grateful that they are listened to. They may be accustomed to people becoming defensive and ignoring their ideas.

The man who is anybody and who does anything is surely going to be criticized, vilified, and misunderstood. This is part of the penalty for greatness, and every man understands, too, that it is no proof of greatness.

~Elbert Hubbard

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Defensiveness: “What do you mean by that? You’re always attacking me!””

Guest Author Sam Vaknin: “Why narcissists react to criticism with narcissistic rage.”

"Volcano" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Intensity” by Mimi Stuart ©


Narcissistic Injury

Narcissistic injury results from any threat (real or imagined) to the narcissist’s grandiose and fantastic self-perception (False Self) as perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, and entitled to special treatment and recognition, regardless of his actual accomplishments (or lack thereof).

The narcissist actively solicits Narcissistic Supply – adulation, compliments, admiration, subservience, attention, being feared – from others in order to sustain his fragile and dysfunctional Ego. Thus, he constantly courts possible rejection, criticism, disagreement, and even mockery.

The narcissist is, therefore, dependent on other people. He is aware of the risks associated with such all-pervasive and essential dependence. He resents his weakness and dreads possible disruptions in the flow of his drug: Narcissistic Supply. He is caught between the rock of his habit and the hard place of his frustration. No wonder he is prone to raging, lashing and acting out, and to pathological, all-consuming envy (all expressions of pent-up aggression).

The narcissist’s thinking is magical. In his own mind, the narcissist is brilliant, perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, and unique. Compliments and observations that accord with this inflated self-image (“The False Self”) are taken for granted and as a matter of course.

Having anticipated the praise as fully justified and in accordance with (his) “reality”, the narcissist feels that his traits, behavior, and “accomplishments” have made the accolades and kudos happen, have generated them, and have brought them into being. He “annexes” positive input and feels, irrationally, that its source is internal, not external; that it is emanating from inside himself, not from outside, independent sources. He, therefore, takes positive narcissistic supply lightly.

The narcissist treats disharmonious input – criticism, or disagreement, or data that negate the his self-perception – completely differently. He accords a far greater weight to these types of countervailing, challenging, and destabilizing information because they are felt by him to be “more real” and coming verily from the outside. Obviously, the narcissist cannot cast himself as the cause and source of opprobrium, castigation, and mockery.

This sourcing and weighing asymmetry is the reason for the narcissist’s disproportionate reactions to perceived insults. He simply takes them as more “real” and more “serious”. The narcissist is constantly on the lookout for slights. He is hypervigilant. He perceives every disagreement as criticism and every critical remark as complete and humiliating rejection: nothing short of a threat. Gradually, his mind turns into a chaotic battlefield of paranoia and ideas of reference.

Most narcissists react defensively. They become conspicuously indignant, aggressive, and cold. They detach emotionally for fear of yet another (narcissistic) injury. They devalue the person who made the disparaging remark, the critical comment, the unflattering observation, the innocuous joke at the narcissist’s expense.

By holding the critic in contempt, by diminishing the stature of the discordant conversant – the narcissist minimizes the impact of the disagreement or criticism on himself. This is a defense mechanism known as cognitive dissonance.

Narcissistic Rage

Narcissists can be imperturbable, resilient to stress, and sangfroid. Narcissistic rage is not a reaction to stress – it is a reaction to a perceived slight, insult, criticism, or disagreement (in other words, to narcissistic injury). It is intense and disproportional to the “offense”.

Raging narcissists usually perceive their reaction to have been triggered by an intentional provocation with a hostile purpose. Their targets, on the other hand, invariably regard raging narcissists as incoherent, unjust, and arbitrary.

Narcissistic rage should not be confused with anger, though they have many things in common.

It is not clear whether action diminishes anger or anger is used up in action – but anger in healthy persons is diminished through action and expression. It is an aversive, unpleasant emotion. It is intended to generate action in order to reduce frustration. Anger is coupled with physiological arousal.

Another enigma is:

Do we become angry because we say that we are angry, thus identifying the anger and capturing it – or do we say that we are angry because we are angry to begin with?

Anger is provoked by adverse treatment, deliberately or unintentionally inflicted. Such treatment must violate either prevailing conventions regarding social interactions or some otherwise a deeply ingrained sense of what is fair and what is just. The judgement of fairness or justice is a cognitive function impaired in the narcissist.

Anger is induced by numerous factors. It is almost a universal reaction. Any threat to one’s welfare (physical, emotional, social, financial, or mental) is met with anger. So are threats to one’s affiliates, nearest, dearest, nation, favourite football club, pet and so on. The territory of anger includes not only the angry person himself, but also his real and perceived environment and social milieu.

Threats are not the only situations to incite anger. Anger is also the reaction to injustice (perceived or real), to disagreements, and to inconvenience (discomfort) caused by dysfunction.

Still, all manner of angry people – narcissists or not – suffer from a cognitive deficit and are worried and anxious. They are unable to conceptualize, to design effective strategies, and to execute them. They dedicate all their attention to the here and now and ignore the future consequences of their actions. Recent events are judged more relevant and weighted more heavily than any earlier ones. Anger impairs cognition, including the proper perception of time and space.

In all people, narcissists and normal, anger is associated with a suspension of empathy. Irritated people cannot empathize. Actually, “counter-empathy” develops in a state of aggravated anger. The faculties of judgement and risk evaluation are also altered by anger. Later provocative acts are judged to be more serious than earlier ones – just by “virtue” of their chronological position.

Yet, normal anger results in taking some action regarding the source of frustration (or, at the very least, the planning or contemplation of such action). In contrast, pathological rage is mostly directed at oneself, displaced, or even lacks a target altogether.

Narcissists often vent their anger at “insignificant” people. They yell at a waitress, berate a taxi driver, or publicly chide an underling. Alternatively, they sulk, feel anhedonic or pathologically bored, drink, or do drugs – all forms of self-directed aggression.

From time to time, no longer able to pretend and to suppress their rage, they have it out with the real source of their anger. Then they lose all vestiges of self-control and rave like lunatics. They shout incoherently, make absurd accusations, distort facts, and air long-suppressed grievances, allegations and suspicions.

These episodes are followed by periods of saccharine sentimentality and excessive flattering and submissiveness towards the victim of the latest rage attack. Driven by the mortal fear of being abandoned or ignored, the narcissist repulsively debases and demeans himself.

Most narcissists are prone to be angry. Their anger is always sudden, raging, frightening and without an apparent provocation by an outside agent. It would seem that narcissists are in a CONSTANT state of rage, which is effectively controlled most of the time. It manifests itself only when the narcissist’s defenses are down, incapacitated, or adversely affected by circumstances, inner or external.

Pathological anger is neither coherent, not externally induced. It emanates from the inside and it is diffuse, directed at the “world” and at “injustice” in general. The narcissist is capable of identifying the IMMEDIATE cause of his fury. Still, upon closer scrutiny, the cause is likely to be found lacking and the anger excessive, disproportionate, and incoherent.

It might be more accurate to say that the narcissist is expressing (and experiencing) TWO layers of anger, simultaneously and always. The first layer, of superficial ire, is indeed directed at an identified target, the alleged cause of the eruption. The second layer, however, incorporates the narcissist’s self-aimed wrath.

Narcissistic rage has two forms:

I. Explosive – The narcissist flares up, attacks everyone in his immediate vicinity, causes damage to objects or people, and is verbally and psychologically abusive.

II. Pernicious or Passive-Aggressive (P/A) – The narcissist sulks, gives the silent treatment, and is plotting how to punish the transgressor and put her in her proper place. These narcissists are vindictive and often become stalkers. They harass and haunt the objects of their frustration. They sabotage and damage the work and possessions of people whom they regard to be the sources of their mounting wrath.


by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb, and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

“What happened to our relationship? It used to be so great.”

"Grazia" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Grazia” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

A relationship is made up of the totality of interactions between two people. All the fleeting moments, glances, words, and focus of energy sculpt a relationship. Consider whether most of the interactions in your relationship consist of those on the first list or those on the second:

1. Connection,
2. Collaboration,
3. Cuddling,
4. Caring,
5. Conversations, and
6. Compliments


1. Commands,
2. Complaints,
3. Criticisms,
4. Clinging,
5. Cringing, and
6. Contempt.

When two people first meet, strong attraction can sustain a great deal of togetherness. However, sustaining the enjoyment in a relationship over the long term is an art that requires skill and practice. This is true for all relationships not just romantic ones. Specific changes in our daily interactions can enhance our relationships.

Questions to consider to improve your relationships:

1. Social media

Do you check social media too frequently, which distracts you from being present with people or doing something ultimately more fulfilling? If so, limit your time with social media or at least postpone checking and responding to social media. This will make you a better friend, parent, and spouse and leave more time for doing things that truly inspire you.

2. Messy or thoughtless

Do you leave dirty dishes in the kitchen or a mess around the house? If so, consider how that impacts you and the people you live with. There is no extra effort in cleaning up now rather than later. It simply requires changing the timing of when you do it.

3. Lack of self-care

Do you eat junk food and forget to get exercise? If so, think about how your lack of self-care makes you feel less healthy and attractive to both you and to those around you. Taking care of your health and physical vitality affects both you and others.

4. Rude or complaining

Do you frequently complain or display rudeness or disrespect? Staying calm and taking time to think before you communicate will greatly affect your relationships and effectiveness in the world. Noticing and appreciating good things about people and the events in your life will also improve your relationships and increase your own happiness.

5. Not present

Are you often in a rush because you’ve taken on too many responsibilities? There is nothing more annoying than being with someone who always has more “important” things on his or her mind. The message a busy person conveys is that other people are not that important.

Some people have no choice but to have several jobs and to carry a large burden in life. Even so, it’s important to make the effort to be present with loved ones. Other people, however, have chosen to be busy and blame their haste on deadlines that they have chosen to make a priority.

You gain freedom in your life when you realize that many of the duties and endeavors on your list are the result of the choices you make. Saying “yes” to your top priorities and “no” to a few lesser priorities will free up your time so you can truly enjoy your life and your relationships.


If you want a good relationship, communicate in a way that deepens the relationship and builds upon positive interactions. If you want a great relationship, practice being thoughtful, respectful, reasonable, and enjoyable, and sustain an atmosphere of desire.

If you want more fun, be more fun and do more enjoyable things together. If you want more passion, take care of your physical and emotional health, be more sensual, and seduce your partner with your own vitality and desire.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Watch “Seven keys to a great relationship.”

Read “Ten Keys to a Great Relationship: ‘The magic is gone.’”

Read “How to predict a divorce or the breakup of a relationship.”

“You left the place a horrible mess again!”

"Mr. Hole-in-One" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Mr. Hole-in-One” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire


So… what I REALLY meant was…

“I feel discouraged when I come home and see dirty dishes. It would make me happy to come home to a cleaner house. I would appreciate it if you would accommodate me.”

Criticism, complaints, and blame put people on the defensive. On the other hand, you can give the other person an opportunity to do something nice for you by phrasing your request diplomatically.

First of all, instead of attacking the other person, express how you feel given the simple facts, that is, “dirty dishes” instead of “horrible mess.” Then describe specifically what you would like him or her to do and how good it would make you feel. Most people enjoy making others happy. So express how appreciative you would be to come home to a clean house.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Communicating Effectively under Stress: ‘This is horrible!’”

Read “Living together Part I: Manners and Boundaries — ‘What’s the matter with you? Look at this mess you made!’”

Judgment: “My co-worker is an idiot.”

"Mississippi Blues" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Mississippi Blues” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Changing negative judgmental thinking into positive, though realistic, thinking changes the way you experience life and the people around you. Once you alter the lens you look through, the way you see others and the way they see themselves in your presence will change. They will improve the way they interact with you.

You will increase your inner peace when you redirect your view of people from their weaknesses to their strengths. By focusing on their positive qualities and understanding the challenges they confront, your experience of people will transform.

Deepen your view of people’s behavior:

A. “My wife is being a witch.”

B. “My wife is a caring person, but must be exhausted. I should give her a hug and then give her some space to unwind.”

A. “My co-worker is an idiot.”

B. “My co-worker might be annoying sometimes, but he has a good heart. He probably is just trying too hard to be liked.”

A. “My whole life has been a series of mistakes.”

B. “My life is an adventure. I’m living and learning, and I have a lot of stories to tell.”

Focus on the positive:

That which you focus on tends to intensify. Therefore, it is more fulfilling and productive to focus on people’s good points than to focus on their limitations. “Stop being so miserable and rude!” engenders more malice than courtesy. Depending on the circumstances, it’s more productive and kind to say something like, “I’m sorry you’re so upset. I’ll give you some space. / Please try to be more polite to me—you’re pushing me away. / Is there something I can do to help you?”

Look for clues to explain unfortunate behavior in others. Also look for what is special or good about others. People respond much more positively when you approach them with compassion and appreciation for their good points.

Should I think positively about abusive behavior?

Unfortunately, there are people who are truly abusive or annoying beyond the occasional minor transgression. There is no reason you cannot be understanding AND keep a distance from such people. Being energetically reserved or in fact creating physical distance and creating boundaries will protect you from abusive behavior and from getting angry and holding a grudge. In serious cases you may have to completely avoid any interaction to move toward peace and fulfillment.


We are often most severely critical of ourselves. Thus, we need to become more understanding of our own less-than-perfect behavior and mistakes. It’s easier and more pleasant to improve ourselves when our self-criticism is reasonable, moderate, and balanced with an appreciation of what is good about ourselves. When we change the lens through which we view ourselves we also alter the way we view others, gaining compassion for all of humanity.

You can even view and express suffering with an eye for beauty. Just look at the great comedians and blues musicians.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Motivating Change: ‘I can’t stop criticizing my partner.’”

Read “Ignoring the Positive: ‘What’s the big deal? I do a lot too.’”

Read “Handling Criticism: ‘Don’t criticize me. This is the way I’ve always done it!’”

Motivating Change:
“I can’t stop criticizing my partner.”

“Mother Teresa” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

It takes tremendous will power to change our unwanted habits and behavior. One way to boost your will power is by imagining what your future will be like after five or ten more years of criticizing your partner. Not only will your partner feel demoralized, you will feel terrible about yourself, which means you’ll have an unhappy marriage that might end in divorce.

If you have children, you will want to avoid being a rolemodel of disrespect and misery. Otherwise, your child will likely learn to emulate either your attitude of contemptuous disapproval or your partner’s downtrodden subjugation and acquiescence.

The Deathbed Perspective

Imagining the future puts urgency into your actions on a daily basis. The clear awareness that life is limited brings into focus the significance of each fleeting moment and the importance of avoiding unkind behavior. When you imagine yourself on your deathbed, you realize that time is precious and that the way you live every day greatly impacts the vitality of your life and relationships.

While a critical comment here or there may not change the relationship, the accumulation of recurring criticism will dramatically impact your long-term relationships, your health, and your enjoyment of life. A bitter relationship and a miserable life are often the result of an accrual of belittling interactions and negative communication. It takes will power and discipline on a daily basis to practice the habits that will allow you to achieve a sustainable, loving and meaningful relationship.

Love as Intentional

After the initial infatuation between two people, love is not simply a feeling that will magically maintain itself over the long-term. Ongoing love requires intentional loving energy and respectful action. Keeping the fact that life is fleeting in your conscious awareness can motivate you to avoid being reactive and negative in your interaction with loved ones. By keeping in mind the long-term effect of mindless negative habits, such as belittling your spouse, you will feel motivated to change these insidious habits.

When tempted to criticize, stop yourself and think, “If I continue to treat my partner with contempt and criticism, our relationship will become loveless, stifling, and full of resentment. No one is perfect. I will only criticize when I can do so from a position of love and in a positive life-enhancing manner. I’ll know if I’m doing it right by the response I get from my partner.”

Criticism vs. Dialogue

I am not suggesting that you ignore problems. Constructive problem-solving and compassionate dialogue are different from negative criticism. Constructive dialogue builds upon acceptance and compassion, while negative criticism limits our ability to connect and find creative solutions together.

The deathbed perspective causes us to focus on what is possible in our lives and relationships. If we take a moment to imagine ourselves at the end of our lives, our older self would probably tell us not to squander a minute, but to live each day wholeheartedly and courageously, to move forward in the face of fear, and to remember that it is the small actions and non-actions that make up who we are.

When you stay aware of what is at stake, you can develop better relationships while adding meaning to your life. A great life is not accidental but is built from the many courageous steps we take to become the person we want to be.

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action. Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.

~Mother Teresa

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Reference and Recommended: “The Tools” by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels.

Read “Changing Relationship Dynamics.”

Read “Giving Advice: ‘She never listens to me.’”

Read “Inner Critics attract Critical Partners: ‘Why does my partner criticize me all the time?’”