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How to Work with Critical People: 11 Best Strategies To Keep You Sane

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Aydee Latty

I'm just asking questions.

Working with critical people

Working with difficult people can be a nightmare. They’ll challenge everything you say, constantly find fault in your work, and leave you feeling completely unproductive and unappreciated.

From a partner to a colleague, even the most well-meaning individuals can have challenging personalities that make it hard for you to do your job. Regardless of their intentions, critical people can make your life extremely difficult.

You may think that avoiding these types of people is the only solution, but that is not always possible. If you are currently working with a critical person or know someone who will become one in the future, the following tips will help keep you sane while still being productive.

These strategies will not only protect you from being walked all over by this person again but also ease tensions moving forward so things continue smoothly at work.

Signs that you might be working with a critical person

They’re hypersensitive.
They never have anything positive to say.
They demand perfection — and nothing less.
Their behaviour causes other employees to feel stressed out.
They constantly point out what’s wrong.
They’re inflexible and demanding.
They’re impatient and have unrealistic expectations.
They don’t believe in you or your team.

Tips for dealing with a critical person.

Ask For Feedback

Ask the critical person to offer suggestions on improving your work and making your duties more efficient. This allows the person to feel like they’re being helpful and will enable you to get insight from an expert in your field. If you’re having trouble getting this person to offer feedback, ask them to review your work before you submit it.

This allows them to give constructive criticism without criticising you directly. You can also ask them to critique your work after you submit it.

They can offer feedback without making you feel like they’re attacking you. This gives them a chance to provide suggestions without making you feel like you’re being attacked.

Meet Halfway

Most critical people are just looking for ways to be helpful. But they still may not realise that the way they are going about their suggestions is off-putting. To meet this person halfway, you can let them know they’re coming across as critical and ask them to change their approach.

A quick, one-off conversation with the critical person is often all you need to create a more welcoming environment. In this conversation, let them know you appreciate their input but that you’d prefer they offer suggestions in a less critical manner.

If the person does not change their approach, meet them halfway by choosing your words carefully when responding to their advice. Avoid getting defensive when they criticise your work. Instead, take their criticism as helpful advice and respond with a “thank you.”

Listen to what they say. Really listen

Critical people often have a lot of valuable input to offer when making decisions. However, it can sometimes be challenging to determine what they’re trying to say.

When speaking with a critical person, be sure to pay close attention to what they are saying. Try not to interrupt or talk over them, as this will only make them feel marginalised and unsupported.

Try to hear their goals and motivations. Make sure that you are hearing their feedback. Once you better understand what they’re looking for, you can begin providing context for your decisions.

It can be helpful to ask them for clarification or provide context for your proposal. Critical people tend to be observant and insightful, so it is worth listening carefully before responding.

Respect their opinion.

When a critical person is disagreeing with you, it can be easy to get defensive and argue with them until they see your point of view. Instead of doing this, however, you should try to respect their opinion.

You may not agree with it, but it is important to let them know that you respect what they have to say. This will not only help you avoid arguments but also make the critical person feel more comfortable communicating with you.

Don’t take things personally.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when working with a critical person is to take their words personally. When you receive criticism, keep in mind that it is the criticism itself you should respond to, not the person who gave it. If you react to criticism by taking it personally, you will end up feeling hurt and offended.

This can make you less productive, less likely to improve your work, and more likely to become resentful in your relationship with that person. To avoid taking criticism personally, try to think about it in terms of your work rather than yourself as a person.

For example, your co-worker tells you your really bad at communicating, they aren’t saying that you are bad at communicating all the time; they are letting you know that you can improve in a particular aspect of communication, for example, delivering presentations.

Trust their motives.

Even if you recognise that the person is critical, it can be easy to get caught up in reacting to their comments and forget that they are probably coming from a good place.

If a colleague is giving you feedback about the work you are doing, for example, it is important to trust that they are coming from a positive place. They may be critical, but they are not trying to tear you down. They are trying to help you do better, which is a great thing.

Don’t react immediately.

The best way to deal with a critical person is to remain calm and collected, something that is easier said than done. When you are under attack, it is easy to get defensive and start arguing with them right away.

While it is important to stand up for yourself and make sure the person knows they are not allowed to walk over you, you should try to avoid responding too quickly. If you are too impulsive, you could end up saying something that will make the situation worse, not better.

Understand their personality type

Some personality types can appear more critical than others. Understanding what type of person you are dealing with will help you better understand why they are critical and what you can do to manage the situation.

If you know that a person is an INTJ, (Myres Briggs) for example, you know that they are critical because they are trying to be helpful.

If you know they are an Enneagram Type 1, you understand that they want the work to be perfect, and they are actually more critical of themselves.

If you can find ways to accept their criticism as helpful and constructive, it will be much easier to deal with them.


The Myers & Briggs Foundation – The 16 MBTI® Types

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Type Descriptions – The Enneagram Institute

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Try to avoid confrontation.

If you are working with a critical person, it can be easy to feel like you need to confront them. However, this is often a bad idea. When you engage in a confrontation, you put yourself in a position where you are basically forced to defend yourself.

This can be incredibly stressful and even dangerous if you let your emotions get the best of you. If you try to confront your critical colleague, they may feel attacked and respond by lashing out against you.

In most cases, the best way to deal with a critical person is to simply let the criticism roll off your back. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can also try letting the person know that their comments bother you. However, make sure not to let your emotions get the better of you.

Try to stay positive.

You may be tempted to get defensive when someone is constantly criticising you, but it is important to stay positive.

Not only will it help you put up a better front, but it will also make it easier for you to solve any issues that arise. When someone is making constant negative comments about your work, it can be hard not to feel upset and defensive.

If you can stay positive, however, you will be better able to diffuse these situations.

Take a deep breath

If you find yourself about to walk into a heated confrontation with a critical person, one of the first things you should do is take a deep breath.

A deep breath will help you calm down and make you less impulsive. Flying off the handle will make you appear irrational while keeping a level head will show that you are in control of your emotions.

This can also help you think more rationally, which is crucial when trying to find a solution to a tense situation with a critical person.

Critical people can be a drain to work with, but try some of these tips and let me know how you get on. Keep an open mind and always be ready to listen. If you can do these things, you will likely find some positives in your working relationship.



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