Receiving criticism is never a pleasant experience, especially from family members. Whether it is a sibling griping about how you care for a relative or complaints from the person you are caring for, you may feel suddenly flooded with difficult emotions. Perhaps anger, shame, or confusion.
We can’t stop others from giving criticism. But we can become wiser about how to deal with it. Try these tips:
- First, pause. Criticism can feel like an attack. To avoid saying something you’ll regret, stall with a remark such as, “Hmmm. That’s an interesting comment.”
- Then, explore. Without denying it or buying into it, get clarification. “Just to be sure I understand, you are concerned about how I ____ ?” or, “You would like me to ____?”
- Consider what may be true. Is Mom’s checkbook actually a mess? Instead of crumbling in shame or being defensive, acknowledge what’s yours. That sets a mature tone. Say you’ll look into some solutions. Or ask them to join you in finding solutions. Do they have specific suggestions about what could be done differently? (Privately, remind yourself about all that you are doing well, too.)
- Consider what may be theirs. Is your sister’s lashing out really deflecting her shame about doing so little for your mom? Or possibly your dad’s faultfinding represents his frustration with poor health. If so, disregard what’s unfair and let it go. Calmly acknowledge the comment by saying, “Gotcha, Dad. I’ll give that some thought.”
- Maintain appropriate boundaries. Valid criticism focuses on something you’ve done, not on who you are. Meanness, such as being told, “You’re lazy,” is never okay. Set a limit: “I am happy to listen to feedback about how I do things, but not to judgments about me.”
- Turn it into opportunity. Ask the person who is criticizing to help with solutions by sharing or taking on the task himself or herself!