Say What? 3 Ways to Stop a Critic in Her Tracks

How to Stop a Critic

We’ve all heard the advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

So why do people feel the need to share their snarky judgments, back-handed compliments, and cutting put-downs?

Screw turning the other cheek! When a critic sets her sights on you, use these tactics to stop her in her tracks.

Speak Up

A critic wants to hurt you and make you feel bad about yourself. But what she really wants is for you to quietly brood about her remark and not acknowledge that what she said hurt you.

Let’s say a critic mentions, “You’d look so pretty if you lost some weight.” Ouch, right?

Well, that’s exactly what you should say—ouch!

When someone insults me like that (and I know they don’t mean well), instead of rolling my eyes and walking away, I look at the person and say, “Ouch.”

It instantly makes the critic have to face the fact that she just said something cruel. That wasn’t an anonymous comment online where people can hide who they are. This is the real world, and you know that person, and she must take ownership of her bad behavior.

When I say “Ouch” or “That was mean,” the critic almost always becomes flustered or starts back-peddling. Critics never expect you to call them out.

Other people sometimes get involved when I speak up because I’ve let it be known that I’m not going to take the critic’s abuse. It’s gratifying when someone pipes up with “Leave her alone.”

A critic is just another kind of bully—so speak up!

Dig Down to the Real Issue

If someone close to you starts criticizing you, it may not be about you at all.

Your mom might say, “You should have kids by now.” Rather than giving her a lesson on feminism or telling her to please butt out of your sex life, ask “Why do you say that?”

This probing question can be asked over and over to get to the real issue behind the criticism. Here’s how it works:

Your mom: You should have kids by now.

You: Why do you say that?

Your mom: Because you’re getting older.

You: Why do you say that?

Your mom: Because you won’t be able to have kids forever. I don’t want you to miss your chance at being a mother.

You: Why do you say that?

Your mom: Because I loved raising you, and I want you to experience that happiness.

You: Why do you say that?

Your mom: Because I want to know that you’ll have children to take care of you when you’re older.

See? In this case, the criticism wasn’t about you. Now you and your mom can have an honest conversation about aging and what you both want out of life.

If you suspect that the comment is more about the critic than you, ask “Why do you say that?” to get to the real issue.

Cut Off Contact

A critic can’t criticize you if you’re not around. Sometimes you have to cut critics out of your life so they can’t harm you anymore.

When Chris and I were first married, another couple used to tell us exactly how we should act. The wife told me I’d need to be hard with Chris and nag him constantly. The husband told me it was my job to “keep Chris in line.”

This woman was a…well, I can’t think of a more eloquent way to put this…a real bitch. She yelled at her husband and sons constantly and ran her household like an army bootcamp. Naturally, this couple expected Chris and me to mimic their relationship style.

After telling them that their comments were rude and quickly realizing that they weren’t criticizing out of love, Chris and I did what we had to do. We cut off contact with them.

I don’t have time for bullies, and we weren’t getting anything out of that toxic relationship.

You are a kind, loving person, and you don’t need to subject yourself to unwanted criticism. Try these techniques next time you’re faced with a critic.

How do you handle criticism? Got any witty comebacks?

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  1. Sarah @ This Is What I Eat on March 14, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    I agree with everyone else, I think ouch is a perfect way to put a critic in line. I am not a confrontational person (meaning I would never usually call someone out) but I think it’s the perfect way to stop a critic in her tracks. I find that most of the time when I’m criticized it’s the critic’s way of building herself up. She feels she needs to make me feel bad about myself to make her feel good about herself. I’m all about building people up but not at the expense of my own self esteem.

    • Sage Grayson on March 14, 2013 at 7:10 pm

      Yes! Critics are trying to make themselves feel good (or important or powerful) by putting down others. You’re right, we should focus on building people up rather than cutting them down.

  2. Rambling Vegans on March 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    I love that picture of you! Your face says it all. 🙂

    Great advice and I especially like the saying “ouch”. I’m going to use that. My mom is a really bad critic, she never has anything nice to say to me. However, whenever I’ve called her out on it she says I’m being melodramatic. I’ve learned to not let it bother me anymore because like you said, (I think) it’s about her. I wish I would have seen some of the things I did when I was younger!

    • Sage Grayson on March 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      Haha! I’m happy you like my wacky pictures. I can’t bring myself to use stock photography…you know, those very attractive people in business suits mugging at the camera? I’d rather be my own model. 🙂

      I (unfortunately) have know many critics, and their comments are almost always about them and their issues. I’ve have a lot of success calling them out on their rudeness.

  3. H&K Style Journey on March 14, 2013 at 7:03 am

    I think saying “ouch” is a great way to call a critic out. I definitely agree that someone that makes snarky comments usually has issues about themselves. Nice post! Heather

    • Sage Grayson on March 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Thanks, Heather! Yep, critics are usually dealing with their own issues and they’re just taking it out on you.