Let the Ball Drop

I don’t normally write posts like this.. I am doing this post on criticism for personal reasons.
Dealing with a critic. Unless you live in a cave with no communication with anyone… EVER, you’ve dealt with criticism.
There are many different types of criticism, and just as many different ways to interpret them. Sometimes it is as simple as misinterpreting a situation.
People identify with the “things” in their life as being part of themselves. Your home/neighborhood, your favorite restaurant, they type of vehicle you drive all can feel like an extension of yourself. So when people aim criticism at those external objects it often feels like they are criticizing you. If your not expecting those “things” to be criticized, then obviously you’ll take offence. Surely anyone who is so critical of everyone and everything must also be critical of you.

If the critic is trying to ally themselves with you by basically saying, “You and me against the world.” then the criticized feels not only hurt by being attacked but also manipulated. Manipulated because they are trying to force you to agree to something you don’t agree with.

Example of that would be, “Don’t you think red convertible cars are obnoxious? Its like the person is trying to overcompensate for something aren’t they?”

Maybe the person is saving up for a red convertible and does not feel that way at all about the style of car, but feels obligated to say, “yeah sure” in order to avoid conflict. If this happens frequently enough, we harbor resentment then we end up blaming them for the way we feel in response to them.

Here is another example by Deborah Tannen, Ph.D.
“When Emily and Bennet visited Bennet’s parents, his father took them all out to dinner. The food wasn’t very good, and Emily saw no reason to pretend it was. Given to hyperbole, she remarked, “This is the worst food I ever ate.” Bennet’s father was mortally offended. Since he was responsible for the dinner, he felt that her criticism of the food was rude to him. To Emily, feeling “like family” with Bennet’s family meant her positive attitude toward them went without saying and criticizing the food was a way of allying herself with them.”

Another type of criticism is correcting English usage. Many people regard the use of what they consider correct English usage as a sign of intelligence, an attitude with no basis in fact. What is a fact is that slightly altering common expressions is as common as the expressions themselves and presents no barrier to comprehension. Misuse of words is generally accidental. It does not indicate the person is stupid. Sometimes the English language does things differently…

Here’s the tragedy of all criticism that is lacking constructivism… It makes people feel unheard and unloved and the sense of incompetence they engender can long outlive the arguments or discussions that they originally spawned.

The critic and the criticised are coming at situations from different perspectives. The critic’s attention focuses on one after another actions, not the overall evaluation of the person. The criticized is focused on the overall picture. They take it all in as one large statement. To the criticized the critic is saying, “You are an incompetent person. You were not good enough yesterday, you are not good enough today, you will not be good enough tomorrow.”

If you call out the critic on their behaviour they are likely to claim that they meant no harm. “I was just asking or joking, I didn’t mean anything by it.” That is their way of shifting the blame onto the criticized and accusing them of being “thin skinned.” The critic will often claim that no one else has an issue with them. In most cases that is simply not true. If they actually admit that a remark was critical, they are likely to defend its validity… “I said it because its true!” Although that might be a valid point, it doesn’t take into account the over all damage they are doing. The more indirect the criticism, the harder it is to deal with. Questions in place of answers such as, “Why are you being so sensitive?” and sarcasm are examples of being indirect.

Okay, so this is all fine and dandy to understand that people are coming from different angles… but what should the criticized do when it all becomes too much?

Mound self defense on the level of the pain, the effect of feeling criticized rather than skirmishing about the validity of the criticism. When someone throws a ball at us, our reflex is to catch it. But with criticism, it is better to let the ball drop. Defending the way you did something invites a more elaborate explanation of why the critic thinks you did it wrong, and this is likely to trigger a bout of complementary schismogenesis. Cut off the critic before the words are uttered, and when you do hear it, try not to overreact. Don’t take slight criticisms as a death blow.

Understand that the continual critic is a tragic failure. They cross the line from being annoying by criticizing from time to time into the realm of having an Inferiority complex. That person needs help and may not be willing to take action to seek that help. If someone is examining you through a magnifying glass constantly then they have crossed that line. Take sympathy for that person instead of poising yourself with hate towards them. Easier said than done, but seriously, its worth it for you to take pity on them. If you can, get out of or walk away from the situation. This is personally how I handle situations like that… unfortunately most people end up misinterpreting that as me not caring about them when in fact I do, I simply don’t care for the people they chose to associate themselves with. No one can turn shit into gold.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bonesdiary
    Jul 22, 2012 @ 09:37:56

    The way I look at it is: if critics have a go at me (just let them try!) and I know they’re wrong, I rise above it. I will probably bite a chunk out of their butt though.
    If the criticism is constructive I take it on board, learn from it, thank the critic for it.
    I seems to me that professional critics; art/food//literature whatever, have failed in their own attempts to achieve greatness and, wallowing in self-pity, they feel the need to drag others down with them. How awful it must be to have nothing in your life but a darkness so dense you can’t see the true joys of simply living.
    So rise above my friend, rise above. You don’t have to prove you’re great – you just know it.


  2. Whimsical KT
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 02:30:07

    🙂 Hey Bonesdiary! Your comment about biting a chunk outta their butt made me laugh! I feel the same way! 😉
    I agree with you… the post wasn’t really about me, just about a circumstance with someone in my life that has dealt with a terrible, unbelievable hypocritical critic. Often times situations like those spill over onto the people we are closest with…. in this case, it spilled onto me. Your statement “How awful it must be to have nothing in your life but a darkness so dense you can’t see the true joys of simply living” says it all! and beautifully at that! I appreciate your comment and your insight! Thank you! I hope you have a wonderfully lovely day!


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