I have an important question for you. Are you critical of other people? Do you find yourself constantly being critical of others? Do you regularly criticize people in-person, online, or both? While we are all prone to being critical of others from time to time, the truth is if you are constantly criticizing the important people in your life, you are damaging your relationships. To have better relationships and live a happier life you need to learn how to stop being so critical of other people.
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Let’s dive into some thoughts for consideration to stop being critical of others. Just to be upfront, I’m far from perfect with this myself, so I’ll be taking my own advice on how to be less critical.
Start being more self-aware of when you criticize people
Do you consider yourself an overly critical person or do you hardly ever criticize people?
On a scale from 1 – 10 (10 being the highest), what would your score be on how much you criticize other people?
How often do you criticize people? Is it every day, many times throughout the day, sometimes, occasionally, or rarely? This isn’t about getting an exact number but more about getting a feel for how often you are being critical of other people.
Just to clarify criticizing in this instance means saying something out loud or writing it online. It doesn’t have to be done directly to the person you are criticizing either. If you are complaining to someone else and criticizing someone that counts.
There is, of course, another form of criticizing people and that’s the stuff that goes on in our heads. The stuff we don’t say out loud. To be honest most of this internal chatter falls under the judgment banner. We might not say anything out loud but boy are we judging people in our minds!
Books that can help with reducing judgment –
- Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs that Hold You Back From Living a Better Life by Gabrielle Bernstein
- Judgment Detox Journal: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back From Living a Better Life by Gabrielle Bernstein
So how many times a day roughly do you find yourself being critical of others? The first way to stop a behavior is to be aware of when you are doing it in the first place.
Here’s something that will help with awareness. Give yourself a challenge. Pick a couple of words from a song you don’t like very much. Every time you say something critical of someone, sing that song to yourself in your head. Every time. You’ll know if you are overly critical because you’ll be hearing that song you don’t like a lot. That’s when you know it’s time for a change.
Related awareness post – How to Be More Self-Aware and Why It’s Important
Get honest about the things you criticize people for
What are the top 3 things that you criticize people for? You probably haven’t thought about this much, but you do have a list in your head, though most likely it has more than 3 three things on it!
So what are your top things?
Here is a list of things to think about –
- Driving (this is a big one for a lot of people, everyone is quick to scream at another driver though they probably make driving mistakes themselves)
- People’s weight and looks
- Parenting and mothering (I’ve been told by female friends that mothers can be incredibly critical of each other online)
- What people do for a living
- Money (you think they have too much, not enough, use it incorrectly)
- Family (you love ’em, you hate ’em, they’re driving you crazy sort of thing!)
- How people enjoy themselves
- Politicians and politics (hit the motherload with this one)
- Expectations of people (People should act the way you want them to right! When people don’t do or act how we want them to we criticize, judge, and complain to anyone who will listen).
This is a list of common situations, so make sure you determine what belongs on your personal list.
Not that you have your list, what are your top 3?
These are the things you need to start working on. I would start with one at a time.
I’ll use myself as an example and open up about one of my triggers. My top trigger is the expectations of people. I criticize people when I feel that our relationship is out of balance. When people talk to me about their problems but don’t allow me to express how I am feeling about my life, it upsets me. It doesn’t feel like a 50:50 give and take relationship. It feels like a more 90:10 deal where I am doing all the listening but feel I have no one to talk to.
By admitting this is a problem for me, I can do something about it. For starters, I can take an honest look at what this criticism is really telling me. I may be feeling lonely and isolated and need to connect more with people. This means I need to reach out instead of hiding away (which as an introvert I can be prone to do).
Next, I can work on my communication skills and be more honest about what I need from people. I need to let people know what I need. I can be more assertive about having my needs met and not feeling used.
It also helps to think about how much time I waste being frustrated by this behavior and learn how to get myself quickly back into a good headspace when one of these one-sided conversations takes place. It’s important to remember that we can’t control other people but we can control ourselves.
Remembering how much I love the other person helps. I want to support the people I love through difficult times so I remind myself that I should not be keeping score! Our interactions aren’t always 50:50 and that’s okay.
With this in mind, pick that top thing on your list and work through some steps to help you better deal with the situation.
Related post on emotional triggers – Know Your Emotional Trigger Words and How to Deal With Them
Face your fears and your WHY for criticizing
All of this criticism, is it coming from a place of fear?
Have you ever called someone fat? Is it because you were grossed out by someone’s weight or is it because you had a secret fear of perhaps that could be you one day? Perhaps you could put on a lot of weight and be in that person’s shoes and the thought of that scares you.
If your first thought reading that was – that would never happen to me – there’s fear showing its ugly head right there! Sure it comes up as defiance right now but it’s based on fear of what the future might hold. Unless you are a personal trainer or sportsperson who does everything right for their body, these name-calling tactics are probably fear-based.
It might not be the weight itself that scares you but the fact that you are scared of being criticized for something else in your life so you lash out at other people instead.
What about if you call someone a loser? Is that about them or more about you and your fear? You might be successful but feel like a fraud or have low self-worth. You might be comparing your success to other people’s and feel you are coming up short so you criticize others.
Are you covering up your shame with criticism? Perhaps you feel shame for something and don’t want to deal with it so you criticize other people instead.
Below are some excellent books to help work through your fear, shame, and vulnerability. These books are all written by Brene Brown who is a research professor who has studied courage, shame, and vulnerability.
- I Thought It Was Just Me (Bit it Isn’t) by Brene Brown
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You Should Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown
Think about how you feel when YOU are criticized
How do you feel when someone criticizes you? Does it make you feel warm and fuzzy inside?
No. Definitely not. It makes you feel the opposite of that. It makes you feel unhappy and often unworthy (depending on what the criticism was about).
It makes you feel like you are not good enough.
Feeling not good enough – that’s how you are making people feel when you criticize them.
While we are busy criticizing everyone else for their actions, it’s important to think about our actions. What damage are your actions and behaviors causing? Who are you hurting with your criticism?
How would you feel if someone said the same thing to you?
Related posts on how to feel good enough –
- 12 Important Things To Remember When You Feel Not Good Enough
- 10 Ways High Self-Esteem and Self-Worth Has a Huge Impact on Your Life
- 10 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Self-Worth and Self-Esteem
Criticizing is contagious
Criticizing is contagious. It’s draining and it makes people miserable.
Think about it, if everyone is constantly criticizing everything and then everyone else joins in, where is the joy in that? Where is the solution or the problem-solving?
It’s just a big mess of negativity that makes everyone feel worse and keeps everyone stuck because they feel they can’t change things anyway so why even bother. Besides, it’s much easier to sit back and criticize. Make it everyone else’s fault – that will fix the problem! (Using sarcasm there – no problem will ever get fixed with that attitude).
Being constantly criticized or being around constant criticism can make people feel sad and helpless. It can make people feel that no matter what they do it’s never going to be good enough.
Constant criticizing is toxic. It’s bad for your mindset, attitude, mental health, and health in general.
Stop taking everything so personally
I know just reading that title will upset some people. I know being told to stop taking things personally can be annoying. But I also know that it can be annoying because there is an element of truth in it.
I am a sensitive person. I get upset about certain things (like animal cruelty for example) very easily.
But when it comes to human interactions, I’ve learned over the years (often the hard way I might add) not to take everything so personally.
People vent, they do stupid stuff, they talk a whole bunch of cr*p but it’s not aimed at me, so I shouldn’t take it personally. I’ve written a whole post about this topic so make sure you check it out if you can relate to this one.
Read – 5 Ways to Stop Taking Things Personally
If criticizing other people is your thing – you need to find a new thing
When I was growing up I was close to one of our neighbor’s families. They were lovely people and I enjoyed spending time with them.
Except for one thing.
Their family ‘thing’ was criticizing other people. They thought it was entertaining to make fun of other people, criticizing their clothes, weight, looks, behavior. You name it.
It was kind of a family bonding experience for them.
I hated it.
I particularly hated it when it was aimed at me, which it was a lot once I started dating a member of the family (and I was the outsider). I would purposely try to keep information from them because if one person found out about it, they would gang up on you and make you the laughing stock of a dinner conversation or family barbeque. I cared deeply for the family but I never forget how that made me feel.
If your family or friends ‘thing’ is to criticize other people and gang up on them and make them feel bad, please think about what you are doing and how you are making people feel. It’s mean-spirited, hurtful, and unkind. Please stop this behavior because it is causing more damage than you can imagine.
You might think this sort of behavior is harmless if you are criticizing people and they are not aware of it but that might not be the case. People see you looking and laughing and they think the worst (because they are often struggling with their own insecurities and already feel fragile). They might overhear you. Your criticism might get back to them through other people (you see this happen in large groups of friends and in families all the time).
Related posts –
- 25 Ways to Be More Courageous in Life
- 20 Ways to Stop Caring What People Think of You
- 3 Personal Powers You Probably Forgot You Have – ShineSheets.com
Understand are probably boring the hell out of people
I’m going to be brutally honest with this one.
If you are criticizing, complaining, and judging people all the time you are probably talking about this stuff to your friends, family, and probably coworkers a LOT.
And you know what – they are sick of hearing about it.
They are probably very, very bored listening to you complain and criticize everyone.
They most likely won’t tell you because they know you are a criticizer and they know if they say anything they’re the next person on your hit list!
Truth be told, they suspect you are already criticizing them behind their back to other people. After all, you criticize everyone else so much, it’s unlikely they haven’t been the topic of conversation.
If you want to be more interesting to talk to, more fun, or just more pleasant to be around, stop criticizing other people so much.
Make a committed decision to criticize less
First up, you need to make a conscious decision to be less critical of others.
Then you have to do the work. Start with awareness and then move onto being more proactive about how you react to situations. Use a journal to track your feelings, emotions, and progress. If you feel the urge to criticize, write it down somewhere only you can see it. Examine your motives for being critical. Put your emotions aside for a moment and think through things logically.
Congratulate yourself for a job well done as you start improving. Reconfirm your commitment when you hit a rough patch. Above all, keep moving forward with your commitment.
Count to 10 before you speak
You know the scenario, someone says something that annoys you and without thinking, you snap back a response or voice your critical opinion.
We’ve all done this at some point but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a regular part of our lives.
If you find yourself struggling to communicate with a particular person, then it’s time to try another tactic. One method I have found particularly useful is counting silently in your head to 10 (the number could easily be 5 if 10 doesn’t work for you).
Counting delays your reaction. It’s about using distraction to your advantage.
Because those nasty, hurtful words you might have been about to blurt out. You can’t take them back. Sure you can say sorry but that might not matter anymore. You can say sorry a thousand times but it could be too late – you have damaged your relationship.
It’s important that we realize the power of our words and how much damage they can do.
It’s important to understand that we can sometimes do irreparable damage, so count to 10 and make sure that what you say is really what you want to say and not something said in the heat of the moment.
Related posts on improving your communication skills –
- 12 Best Books on Having Better Conversations
- Want to Have Better Conversations? Stop Doing This One Thing
- How to Have a Two Way Conversation
- How to Have Those Hard Conversations
Be extra vigilant when you are stressed out or anxious
This is when we are most likely to be critical of people (not to mention ourselves).
It’s important you know how you react when you are stressed and anxious.
For me personally, I get snappy. I snap at people or at least I used to. It’s taken work but I have minimized this negative behavior in my life.
What do you do when you are stressed or anxious? Do you yell? Do you get more critical?
Do you start running off lists in your head of every single thing the other person has done to hurt you and blow every single one of those things out of proportion?
Do you jump on social media and have a field day telling everyone what idiots they are?
This is a two-step process. Firstly know what your triggers are and how you react. Secondly, have healthy strategies in place for when you are struggling. This might involve something like exercising, yoga, meditation, journaling, or a host of other healthy options.
Deal with your stress and anxiety and try to avoid taking it out on other people.
Related post – 10 Ways to Unwind After a Stressful Day at Work
Don’t try to hurt someone on purpose
In the last section, we covered off how we react when we are stressed but how about when we are hurt.
Hurt can be a whole different ballgame.
For some of us when we feel hurt by someone, we go out of our way to hurt them back. We criticize them and intentionally try to make them feel bad.
This sort of behavior benefits no one and hurts everyone.
We think that this behavior is going to hurt the other person and sometimes it might. But what if that person is an important part of your life and they didn’t try to hurt you on purpose. They hurt you without realizing it because you have different priorities or values to them.
That moment of spitefulness has now damaged your relationship. Is that really worth it?
It could take months or even years to repair the damage because you lashed out because you were ‘hurt’. Dealing with and processing your hurt feelings is a lot healthier for your relationships. It can be hard but it is worth it.
Related post – 6 Mistakes We Make Interacting With Other People That Harm Our Relationships
How often do you call someone an idiot or worse?
How often do you swear at people when you are driving or call people names when you are angry? Do you scream at your kids a lot and call them names?
This is one behavior that can be extremely harmful to children (and adults for that matter!!). Calling them stupid or worthless or anything even close to this is completely unacceptable and NEVER okay.
Stop the name-calling, it ruins lives.
Get some help from a trained professional to deal with whatever anger/grief/self-worth/frustration issues you might be dealing with. It will help you and everyone else around you.
Keep your angry, nasty comments off social media
It shocks and saddens me what people write on social media.
The very thought that someone would tell another person (and an often vulnerable person at that) to go kill themselves, brings me to tears.
This is NOT how we should be talking to each other. Ever.
There are real people at the end of that Internet connection. Real people with feelings, fears, and insecurities. Saying something hurtful like that can break a person’s spirit and wound their soul.
Do you really want to be responsible for that? Would you want that done to YOU?
Someone being a celebrity doesn’t give you the right to be mean to them either. Just because someone is an actor, on television, a singer, or well known on Instagram doesn’t mean they are a target for nasty comments. Again these are people with feelings.
The way I see it, if you don’t like the Kardashians don’t watch their show, don’t read news stories about them, and don’t follow their updates. That way you won’t find yourself in a position to criticize them.
Same if you don’t like Meghan and Harry, it’s easy, stop reading about them. Stop following the stories and buying the magazines. Stop being sucked in the media machine around them.
But they are everywhere you might be thinking and you are right BUT you need to be a smart, conscious consumer of information and not just blindly read and listen to everything that pops up in front of you. Sure you will see them on your newsfeed regularly but keep on scrolling, don’t click on that latest clickbait article about some feud. Don’t go down the rabbit hole in the first place.
As a result, your criticism meter will go way down and your happiness meter will go up!
Be a discerning consumer. Stop feeding your urge to criticize by not consuming things that outrage you.
If you do see something on social media that upsets you, give yourself a window of time to calm down and think about whether you really want to comment and what you want to say.
Is leaving that nasty comment criticizing someone really something you want to do or do you have something more important to do than be mean to someone?
In case you were wondering, the answer is always yes. You have more important things to be doing than criticizing someone.
Social media isn’t this big evil beast but the way we are using it can turn it into one.
Related post – 10 Ways Social Media Can Affect Your Emotions and Influence Your Mood
Stop looking for things to criticize
Let’s face it, the world is full of bad behavior. This is not new news. It has always been like that. The question is what happens when the bad is all we see?
I appreciate this can be hard particularly at the moment. Last year felt like a train wreck. This year has been tough. Sometimes it is easy to think the world is falling apart!
If the bad is all you are looking for, that’s all you’ll see. When you look for negative, you find negative. When you go looking for a problem determined to find one, you most certainly will. Stop looking for things to criticize.
Be more compassionate and kind
What is the opposite of criticizing other people?
It’s being compassionate. It’s being kind to people. It’s about taking all that criticism and judgment and turning it into caring and compassion.
It’s about thinking about someone else’s feelings. It’s thinking about how a person feels in a certain situation (not how you might feel in their situation but HOW THEY FEEL in their situation).
When we are being compassionate we remind ourselves that other people go through problems that we have no idea about.
We remind ourselves to be more patient and tolerant. We acknowledge that people learn and grow at different speeds and that’s okay. We remind ourselves that people need to make their own mistakes to learn.
We understand the importance of forgiveness.
When people can’t forgive they hold onto grudges and grow bitter and not only criticize the person they can’t forgive but everyone around them. They can become very difficult to be around and hard to communicate with. Without realizing they ruin other relationships in their lives because they couldn’t forgive a particular person.
That’s a high price to pay and one you want to avoid.
Another way to think of it is to think of when you did something regretful, stupid, or hurtful to someone else and they forgave you. Forgiveness allowed your relationship to continue and grow. Forgiveness gave you peace of mind. Doesn’t someone else deserve that peace?
Be compassionate, be kind, and forgive often.
Related posts on kindness and forgiveness –
- 10 Life-Changing Forgiveness Quotes
- Be Kind to People Because You Never Know What They Are Going Through
When we are being critical of others we are externally focused. Criticizing is all about other people’s behavior. But what about our own behavior?
Does our behavior stand up against all of our high expectations of everyone else?
I think this is one of the main reasons we criticize others because it distracts us from taking a long hard look at our own lives. It’s easier to criticize someone for something they have or haven’t done, instead of doing the hard work ourselves.
We focus externally because it’s easier than examining our own lives and being honest about our failures and shortcomings.
Are you achieving your goals and dreams or are you sitting on the couch complaining about other people? Do you have clarity on what you want to achieve and how you are going to make it happen?
Are you taking steps every day to reach your target and achieve your goal?
Or are you complaining and criticizing?
Focus back on your priorities and goals. Focus internally.
This isn’t about being selfish. This isn’t about thinking it’s all about me and screw everyone else. This is about taking charge of your life. When you are working towards your goals, you’ll be too focused and driven to be criticizing other people.
A few of my favorite books to help you be the best version of yourself –
- Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
- You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Live an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
- The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins
- How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t: 14 Habits That Are Holding You Back from Happiness by Andrea Owen (I absolutely love this book – it’s personally helped me a lot.)
Fight for what you believe in
Sometimes we need to be critical.
Sometimes we need to stand our ground and say ‘this is not acceptable behavior – this needs to stop’.
There are times when we need to fight for what we believe in.
We need to be passionate and fight for things that are important in our lives. These are often the things that are going to have an impact on the next generation and the one after that!
The problem is we are often fighting for the wrong things. We use our limited time and energy on trivial things instead of standing up and being heard for the stuff that really matters. And yes I fully appreciate and respect that what is important for one person, might not be important to someone else.
Pick your battles. Fight hard for the stuff that matters to you.
Look for the joy
There is a lot of good stuff going on in the world. There are amazing people, doing incredible things. There are people helping and caring for each other.
You just have to look. Look for the joy.
Start local. Look for the joy outside your window. Look for the neighbors helping each other and doing great work in their local community.
Look for the person who helps someone in need or smiles and says hello when they walk past.
Notice the people helping each other, caring for animals, nurturing their families and loved ones even when times get hard.
Once you start looking with purpose and through the lens of gratitude you will find joy.
Better still be the joy yourself!
We all criticize other people. We’re human after all. But when we take on a proactive (instead of reactive) approach we can enrich our lives as well as other people’s. People grow with encouragement, they bloom with love and support. Be a person who helps people grow.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with people on social media. Hopefully, it will help someone be more kind and compassionate today! 🙂
Read Next – 20 Ways to Show Genuine Interest in People’s Lives