All my cousins are married or engaged and work a 9 to 5 job. They have houses and cars with their names on them. I have 15 tattoos, the possibility to work from anywhere, and a bad habit of calling people from the airport to tell them I’m going away for a few weeks.
I’m sure you can tell why we don’t get along. We don’t have anything in common. And as teenagers and young adults, we used to fight a lot because everybody had strong opinions about my life choices.
However, in time, we have learned to respect one another. I won’t lie, there’s still unsolicited advice flying around the room when we get together. But instead of getting aggressive when that happens, we approach things differently.
Now, you might say that walking away from highly judgmental people is the best thing to do, but it’s not always an option. When it’s people you love or people you work with, you can’t just cut ties with them, and never look back.
So instead of running away from the problem, you face it. In this case, you learn how to deal with judgmental people.
But mastering this skill can be a long process. So before diving into that, let’s go over the two things you should never do because they will only make everything worse:
1. Get Defensive
Often, people who are critical of others are simply projecting their own issues and insecurities onto someone else. But they lack self-awareness and can’t see this. So if you’re lashing out at them, trying to justify your actions, your message will not get through. You will most likely end up in a fight that you can avoid by approaching things differently.
2. Stay Silent
Not getting defensive and justifying yourself doesn’t mean you have to simply shut up and take whatever people are throwing at you. Rolling your eyes and not speaking up when something is bothering you might work in movies, but it’s not the way to go in real life.
If you stay silent when somebody is criticizing you, they will assume that you agree with them. The critiques will come on coming because they believe they are being helpful.
Easy, right? Don’t do these 2 things and you won’t add fuel to the fire. But knowing what not to do is not enough. So let’s move on to what you should say and do to make your point and set healthy boundaries without ruining the relationship.
1. Identify Your Emotional Triggers
This might not be what you want to hear but before pointing fingers, accusing people of criticizing you, take a look at yourself first. They might not be the bad guys. Hear me out.
Feeling discomfort with their criticism can point at your insecurities or even past trauma. For example, if one of your parents used to always criticize something about you, it will most likely be a trigger in your adult life when your partner or a friend points at it.
And it doesn’t even have to be a critique. Even a harmful joke can be a trigger when it comes to suppressed emotions.
Similarly, the same discomfort can point at something you’re insecure about. When somebody is giving you feedback about things you’re not confident about, you might see it as a negative comment when it’s not. That’s because they struck an inner belief.
So before you label someone as being judgmental and feel offended, sit with it for a moment before you react.
Yet, this does not mean that you’re to blame. Which takes us to action #2.
2. Take a Step Back to See Who’s Judging
When somebody is being judgmental, observe how they talk about themselves, too. Someone who has body image issues will most likely comment on the way others look. And someone who’s not satisfied with how much they earn will probably criticize the way others spend their money. You get the point.
Before taking drastic measures, try to be compassionate. People are not born judgmental, they are made that way. This is not an excuse for their behavior, but it’s something you should think about.
Walking in somebody’s shoes doesn’t mean to only understand the current situation. It means to look at the bigger picture. Difficult times make people bitter. And rude, mean comments often have nothing to do with you and everything to do with their perception of themselves.
Also, some people don’t always have bad intentions. They simply lack tact which is what #3 is all about.
3. Go Beyond The Words
One of my uncles never worries about how he delivers a message. Which has been a problem for me when I was a teenager. He has always offered me great advice but his words cut me before they helped me.
So between him giving me advice and me taking it, we used to spend a few days arguing. I would love to say that now, ten years later, he became kind and gentle but that’s not the case. He still goes all military-style on me. However, I’ve learned to look beyond the words.
Every time he’s criticizing one of my decisions, I focus on what he’s saying instead of how he’s saying it, and this has drastically improved our relationship. I know he has my best interest at heart and to be honest, the man has helped me dodge a few bullets.
The takeaway here is that some people want to be helpful but come across as negative because they are lacking diplomacy.
But some of them are just jerks. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Be assertive
In three out of five tactics I’ve tried to offer you a different perspective. To convince you to sit for a moment before reacting. But being compassionate doesn’t mean you have to let people walk over you.
When dealing with a conflict, the first step is to understand where the other person is coming from. The second one is to set healthy boundaries, which is what #4 here is all about.
If all of the above fails, say it loud and clear. Instead of arguing with someone, set boundaries by calling people out when they cross the line. Don’t sugarcoat the situation or use sarcasm. Be firm and say exactly how you feel.
And be prepared to back everything you say with your actions, like advice #5 points out.
5. Match Your Words With Your Behavior
Sometimes you will have to deal with people to whom emotional intelligence is an unknown concept. And no matter how much effort you put into it, it can’t work out. It must be a two-way street after all.
When this happens, the best thing you can do is simply cut cords with those people. Relationships are hard work, true, but there’s a limit to it.
If you’ve had several conversations where you told them that their behavior is rude, offensive, or hurtful to you, but they go on, the only thing left to do is end the relationships before it turns into a toxic one.
In a Nutshell
People talk. They always will. Some will come to you to give you advice. Often, an unsolicited one. When they don’t do that, they turn to others to talk behind your back.
You can’t control how other people behave. The only thing you can control is your reaction to their behavior. And if you want it to be a smart one, it should look something like this:
- Understand why you’re feeling uncomfortable. Did their criticism strike an inner belief? Can you connect it to an event from your past? Identify your emotional triggers and work on them.
- Take a step back and see who’s judging you. Is it coming from somebody who is going through a hard time? Often, when they criticize someone else, people are simply projecting their insecurities and issues on others. Be compassionate.
- Focus on what the person is saying, rather than how. Some people have no tact at all which makes them come across as rude when they actually have good intentions. Don’t let your ego take over the situation and try to go beyond the words.
- Set boundaries. Speak up when somebody crossed the line and explain to them what are the topics you’re willing to discuss and what’s off-limits. Be kind but clear. Make sure your message goes through.
- Walk away. If you feel like you’re having the same conversation over and over again but the other person is not making any effort, end the relationship. There’s only so much you can do. Being compassionate and empathetic doesn’t mean allowing people to disrespect you.