Once in a while, we may find ourselves critical of other people.
Although being critical has its benefits, more often it brings adverse effects.
Hence we asked 14 experts to share tips on how to stop being critical of others.
Dr. Margaret Paul
Relationship Expert | Co-Creator, InnerBonding®
Learn to define your own self-worth intrinsically
Often, when we are being critical of others, we are projecting onto others the judgments that we are leveling at ourselves.
Critical people tend to judge themselves and others on outer things – looks, money, weight, job, partner, house, car and so on. When you define your own worth by externals, then you may be defining others by externals as well.
The way to stop being critical of others is to learn to define your own self-worth intrinsically, which means that you learn to see the beautiful intrinsic qualities of your true self – your caring, compassion, empathy, kindness, generosity, creativity, playfulness, sensitivity and so on.
When you are able to see and love and value your own true self – your essence – you will naturally be able to see and value the essence of others. Instead of just focusing on the externals, you will be able to connect with who they are within.
When you are no longer judging and criticizing yourself, you will stop criticizing others.
Criticism is a form of control. The person criticizing hopes to either change the other person with criticism or make themselves feel one-up by putting someone one-down.
When you learn to define your own worth and give yourself the validation and attention you might be seeking from others, then you can be accepting of others rather than controlling.
Learning to love and value yourself is the key to stopping being critical of others.
James I. Millhouse, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist | Author, The Parents Manual of Sport Psychology
Understanding your motivation is the first step
It is important to listen to feedback that you are critical of others because many people who are critical of others do not think they are being that way. If you get feedback that you are critical of others you need to take it seriously due to the potential damage to yourself and others.
If others feel you are critical they may shut you out and feel negative feelings toward you. If they emotionally shut out your message then, even if it could be useful, the value in your message may not get heard. The problem often gets out of hand where people might feel pressured or judged, leading to an undesirable relationship.
People are critical of others for different reasons and it may be valuable to you to understand your motivation behind the behaviors seen as critical of others.
Some people are critical of others as a way to exert dominance, which creates resentment and communication problems. Other people are critical of others because they are critical of themselves and think this is the best way to be, so it gets generalized to others.
However, the largest group of people are critical of others because they think they are being helpful.
So understanding your motivation is the first step. If it is to be helpful then a good way to start the communication is to ask if the other person would like some feedback or suggestions.
You must not tell them what they ‘should‘ do because that can easily foster resentment. If they are open to some information then sharing what you see as the behaviors and consequences that result may be a good way to start the conversation.
Essentially you are giving them your perception of their activity and the result, but you must avoid resentment. There are rules for giving and receiving feedback that can be a guide to upgrading your ability to communicate your thoughts more effectively.
Psychotherapist | Speaker | Writer | International Retreat Leader
Assume everyone is doing the best they can
Stop being critical of yourself. Most judgment and criticism come from feeling susceptible to judgment ourselves.
If we feel insecure or self-conscious around a specific issue (weight, finances, parenting ability, anything) then sometimes we search hard to find someone who looks like they’re doing it worse and we highlight their shortcomings or limitations in that area to make ourselves feel better. The problem is, it never makes us feel better!
We can also reduce the criticism and judgment of others by assuming everyone is doing the best they can.
If we approach situations from that perspective then we don’t criticize them for not meeting our expectations. Instead, we assume the best in others in a compassionate way. We cannot possibly extend compassion or kindness to others though if we are cruel and harsh on ourselves.
Self-care, self-love, and self-compassion are an important part of learning how to extend kindness and compassion to others.
Counselor | Clinical Hypnotherapist | Holistic Health Coach
Perspective shifts that can help us observe our critical thoughts and words
In my work with my clients (and in my work on myself), I have three perspective shifts that can help us observe our critical thoughts and words:
Our judgment is really a reflection of ourselves
As the old saying goes, when we judge others we have “one finger pointing at the other person, three fingers pointing back at us.”
This saying helps us reflect on the fact that whenever we’re judging or criticizing someone, in all likelihood we, ourselves are guilty of that same fault or flaw in some way. So the question to ask ourselves is this: How am I guilty of that as well? In what way is my judgment a reflection of me?
Our judgment is really a reflection of our own feelings smallness and vulnerability
When you look closely at judgment or criticism, you realize that the act of criticizing is an attempt to raise ourselves above the other person; to feel that we are better than them, more righteous, more worthy.
Seeking to feel superior only comes from our own smallness, because if we were in profound self-love we would have compassion rather than judgment. So then the question to ask ourselves might be: How am I feeling small that I need to make myself feel superior by judging this person?
We can choose to see through the eyes of love and compassion
This is the PRO level. When we are capable of shifting into a loving stance rather than a critical one, we can look at the same situation with different eyes.
When we do, we may see where the other person’s wounds, fears and vulnerability, and feel compassion for them. Or we might see their beauty, courage, and uniqueness, and respect them for it.
So the question to ask to get to this point of view is this: If I look at this through the eyes of love, what do I see?
Leigh-Ann Larson, M.Ed., LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Founder and CEO, Elevate Counseling Services
You need a change in perspective and reframe your thoughts
You can stop being critical of others when you stop “scanning the environment for what is wrong and start scanning the environment for what is right.”
When you live looking for problems, looking for the bad stuff, things that trigger your anger, fear or judgment, you are going to find it. Likewise, if you live your life looking for the things in others that you enjoy, make you laugh, smile or feel good about yourself, you will find these things as well.
When you want to change negativity and judgment, you need a change in perspective and reframe your thoughts about what you are focusing on.
Read related article: The 19 Best Positive Thinking Books
Like a photographer changing the focus on their camera with each changing environment, you need to change your focus with each new relationship that you engage in that triggers the inner critic. Instead of the negative, choose to look for what is good, right and authentic in people. This is the key to living a more peaceful and less critical life.
RMT Certified Coach
Add the phrase “just like me” at the end of your statement
We all do it. I’m famous for getting behind the wheel of my car, getting out on the road, only to start cursing out the person in front of me who is either driving insanely slow, didn’t hit the gas to get through the yellow light, or cut me off. And so I judge. My cursing is filled with a judgment of the driver in front of me. Just like me.
Yes, that’s what I said. Just. Like. Me.
When we judge others, we are holding up a mirror to our own personality. It bothers you because it’s a representation of you.
Have I ever driven insanely slow? I have in the eyes of some.
Have I purposely not hit the gas to get through the yellow light? On occasion.
Have I cut people off in traffic? Yup. I absolutely have.
It’s easy to find fault with others, but it’s not so easy to see those faults in yourself. One of the best ways to recognize these faults is to add the phrase “just like me” at the end of your statement.
When you start to recognize the things you don’t appreciate about yourself, you have created space where you can CHANGE!
You now have a choice to change or accept these behaviors.
I’ve made many changes over the last several years. I’ve recognized behaviors that don’t serve me and I’ve changed them. I’ve also recognized behaviors that I LOVE about me and embraced them! The behaviors I’ve embraced I don’t judge in others. If anything I give them a high five and “good for you!”
Try it today. When you find yourself passing judgment on someone, say to yourself (or out loud) “just like me”. You may feel a little confused but search inside yourself for the same behavior. Once you find it I guarantee you’ll feel enlightened, and you’ve now given yourself the choice to change it or embrace it.
Co-Creator, Art & Alchemy
Being critical of others comes from one word – Judgement. If you are judging others harshly, it usually means you are judging yourself severely.
There are three ways to minimize judgment, and by extension become less critical towards others and yourself:
- Awareness. Be aware of the moments you have judgemental thoughts. Dispel that thought by challenging it. Challenge yourself to look at the situation or person differently. And don’t judge the judgment. Just allow it to be. When you step back and look at the judgment as an idea you have with non-attachment you are able to place it in perspective.
- Be compassionate. What if you find out that the person you are judging had a tragic experience that led them to exhibit the behavior you judged? You don’t have to agree with the behavior. But understanding the potential source can bring out your compassion and temper your judgments.
- Remember what you see is not always the complete story. You don’t know everything. Many times the judgment you are making comes from the fact that you are working with a small percentage of the information. Think about if you had to purchase a house only based on the picture of one window. How many times would you make a bad purchase?
Author | Musician
I took a Dale Carnegie training. Dale Carnegie is the author of books such as “How to Win Friends And Influence People.”
Among the most difficult of his suggestions are the “Three C’s: Don’t Criticize, Condemn or Complain.”
It isn’t so much that you have to pretend that someone else’s faults don’t exist. If someone in your life is causing problems, those problems are real. However, telling them about it may not be the best strategy.
In the first place, criticizing someone changes the relationship into a kind of ultimatum: “Our relationship/friendship/workship is at risk because you are doing this bad thing, and it can only be fixed if you stop.”
Then it’s no longer an interrelationship with balance and finesse, but a cause-and-effect see-saw that relies on them to make the next move based on your negative comment.
The second problem is that criticizing someone effectively reduces your power.
Once you believe that someone else is responsible for fixing your broken relationship, you won’t do anything to fix it yourself. By not criticizing someone, you bring the focus back onto what you can do to improve the relationship and how far that will take you.
Of course, at some point, the other person will have to change if the situation is to be rectified. If you have created a situation in which you are actively working to change what’s been happening, and you come in with suggestions for the other person which they can easily implement, you can bring about the improvements you want without ever having to criticize them at all.
The whole thing isn’t about them anymore, it’s about what the two of you want to do together and how to do it.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Wisdom Within Counseling
In order to stop being overly critical of others, it starts with yourself
When you speak to others, it is a reflection of your inner landscape and the way you talk with yourself. If you beat yourself up emotionally, tell yourself that you aren’t good enough, and are mean to yourself, you will naturally be critical to others too.
Instead, use positive affirmations, such as, “I am doing a great job, I am calm and at peace, I am good enough, I am perfect at this moment.”
By speaking to yourself with compassion, you’ll be less critical of others in time.
Also, have a friend or trusted partner help keep you accountable. If you are being critical, they can let you know in a gentle, kind way, to help you stay focused on your goal.
Certified Practitioner and Trainer of Emotional CPR
Increase your empathy and compassion for those you are inclined to judge
One way that we can be less critical of others is to practice in our daily lives what is known in the mental health field as “trauma-informed care.”
The core tenet of trauma-informed care is to ask not, “What is wrong with you?” but, “What happened to you?”
Trauma-informed care assumes that every person is doing the best they can with the circumstances they’ve been dealt and that however they are behaving is a natural reaction to something going on in their life.
The principles of trauma-informed care don’t just apply to those who have undergone brutal acts of violence or severe loss; they can also be applied to the smaller traumas of daily life – social and romantic rejection, financial hardship, workplace bullying, unemployment, family dynamics, etc.
When you find yourself criticizing someone else, stop and ask yourself, “What might this person be going through that I don’t know about? What might be causing this person to behave in a way that I find strange or rude?” Reflecting on these questions can help increase your empathy and compassion for those you are inclined to judge.
Health and Wellness Expert, Maple Holistics
If you want to be less critical of others, you need to start with being less critical of yourself.
If you practice treating yourself with more encouragement and compassion, you’ll begin to start treating others that way as well.
If you have a criticizing thought, you can say something positive instead. Practicing how you want to behave will train your mind how to think differently.
You can also try to be more empathetic. Before you criticize someone, put yourself in their shoes. There is definitely a reason why they are behaving the way they are, it’s just your job to figure out why.
If you can’t find a reason, just know that everyone has their reasons, whether they’re good or bad doesn’t give you the right to judge them.
One of the first things you learn in journalism is to find out the “5 W’s and 1 H” of any story you write:
If I’m tempted to be critical of someone, I’ll quickly run through these factors in my mind. If I’m missing any of them, it’s usually the “Why” or the “How.” I will then withhold judgment until I find out: “Why” someone may have acted a certain way; or “How” they came to the decision I’m being critical of.
Once things are put into context like this, the criticism melts away. The “5 W’s and 1 H” approach takes a little time to develop, but it is a powerful framework for producing empathy and understanding.
JRNI Certified Life and Business Coach
Criticism happens when we focus on another’s flaws and pass judgment but others aren’t the cause of our unhappiness – we are.
We blame and project outwards onto others because it’s easier than taking responsibility. Instead of being critical, we can turn inwards and kindly ask ourselves, “What am I getting out of criticizing XYZ for this? What’s the feeling at the root of my criticism?”
Sometimes we’re reacting out of fear or jealousy. It takes time and self-awareness, but with practice and grace we can stand above and look at our criticisms without getting lost in our emotions causing them.
Founder | Editor-in-Chief, I AM & CO
The best way to stop being critical of others is to remember that everyone is working with a different set of tools.
These tools include our upbringing, our emotional state, our mental state, major life experiences, and ingrained beliefs. There’s so much variety in what shapes our decisions and that variety are what makes us human.
That variety is also what causes friction between us. But, when we remember that everyone is doing the best they can with what they know it allows us to grant others the same grace and freedom to grow that we want for ourselves.