No one likes to be criticized. I wish I could avoid it completely, but that’s not the way life works.

I have spent many an hour listening to clients complain about the criticism they receive from parents, spouses, and bosses. They clearly need my empathy and understanding and perhaps affirmation that the criticism was unwarranted and unfair. I, of course, offer as much empathy and affirmation as I can. However, I rarely stop there. I ask the client if they are willing to explore how they responded to the criticism.

Most of us don’t respond well to criticism. We deny, defend, whine, sulk, and/or counterattack. This may feel good in the short term, but it rarely helps in the long term. The criticism escalates, feelings are hurt, and important relationships are damaged.

Here’s a radical alternative. “Disarm” the criticism by agreeing with it. No matter how unfair or undeserved, it may contain a modicum of truth. If someone says you’re “selfish,” reply with “I can be selfish sometimes.” Acknowledge the modicum of truth, and the critic might back off.

This isn’t passive acceptance of verbal abuse. The underlying attitude is one of mutual respect. It says, “I value your opinion. I can acknowledge my imperfections. Nevertheless, your criticism doesn’t determine how I feel about myself.”

You won’t be able (or willing) to do this all the time, but practice it when you can. I’d love to hear your questions or comments. You can email me at

Stanley E. Hibbs, Ph.D.
1864 Independence Square
Suite A
Atlanta, GA 30338
Phone: 770-668-0350 x-224

Author's Bio: 

Stanley E. Hibbs, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist with over 30 years of experience, practicing in the Atlanta, GA area.

He is the author of two books:

"Consider It Done: Ten Prescriptions for Finishing What You Start.

"Anxiety Gone: The Three C's of Anxiety Recovery."