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Your best friend is the one who appreciates you the most. We defend ourselves from critics. So when people carry the habit of criticism into their ‘love life’, they do not have a love life anymore. They find themselves living with the enemy or divorcing them. As society becomes more critical, the divorce rate rises.

Criticism in the form of faultfinding or name-calling is an attack, because it does not come from love or respect for the other person. When we are criticized, we feel attacked and defend ourselves in one of several ways.

Here are the 5 ways criticism destroys relationships:

  1. We may attack back by finding fault with our attacker.
  2. We may comply in an attempt to ward off more criticism.
  3. We may be passive-aggressive and ignore what they say.
  4. We may be vengeful and actually do even more of the thing that bothers them just to get back at them.
  5. We may defend ourselves by trying to prove that we are not in the wrong.

The problem is that defenses of any kind only escalate problems in the relationship, because the defense becomes an attack on the other person.

This does not mean that you can’t tell someone when you don’t like his or her behavior. However, how you tell them is everything. If you tell them when you are angry, you will never get heard, because people automatically defend themselves from anger. If someone even points a finger at us, it feels uncomfortable and we react by becoming defensive. Our walls go up and we don’t hear what they have to say.

If you want another person to really listen to what you have to say and respect your opinion, you must first show that you respect them through using words of understanding, empathy, and validation. This establishes you as someone safe who does not want to hurt him or her.

A suggestion is just that and not a demand, so harping on a point is just trying to prove you are right, which is conflictual and negative. Have faith in the other person to do what is best for them in that moment. They don’t have to take your advice. If they don’t take your advice, and they fall on their face, be there for them in a supportive way so they can learn and grow from the experience. “I told you so,” is a criticism and is not supportive.

If a person who appreciates you for the person you are makes a suggestion, you are more likely to listen to that person than someone who is just criticizing you, pointing out your faults, or worrying about you unnecessarily because they lack faith in you. When a person is supportive of you, their comments are seen as suggestions for improvement and not criticisms.

How do you like people who criticize you? Not much, I’d venture. We don’t usually feel good about ourselves when we are around people who are critical of us. We enjoy being around people who accept and appreciate us just the way we are. No one likes a critic! While we can overcome our reaction to them, they may still be at the bottom of our popularity list.

I remember comforting a young teenage girl who was jealous because a new girl was getting all the attention of her friends. When I asked her to describe the new girl, the first thing she thought of was how accepting and nonjudgmental the new girl was of everyone. I asked, “Do you like that?” When she replied that she did like it, I asked her if she thought she was that way herself. With a shocked look on her face, she reflected on her own judgmental nature and admitted that, like her friends, she would prefer being around a nonjudgmental person. She was a fast learner and began altering her critical attitude, which changed her popularity with her peers.