Been told you are too critical, and aren’t sure it’s true? And why does it matter anyway?
1. You love giving advice.
“If I was you….”. “You could improve that if…”. Advice might aim to be helpful, but often it is just a way to criticise others. Notice as well how often you give advice without it being asked for.
2. You use the word ‘but’ alot.
"It’s nice, but….". "I hear what you are saying, but...". "I know you are trying, but...". But tends to setup criticism.
3. You talk about others when they aren’t there.
The truth is that we rarely talk behind people’s backs to share how wonderful they are, but rather to pull them down. Gossip is criticism.
4. When someone asks you what you think? You take it as a request to troubleshoot.
You naturally look for what isn’t working, not what is. You don’t for one second consider that the person was asking what you thought was working.
5.You complain often.
Criticism is a negative perspective. And most people who criticise have a tendency to also complain, criticising not just themselves and others, but everything around them.
6. If you listen to your thoughts, they are mostly negative.
Criticism is negativity, and in general if we are addicted to criticising others, we will also be addicted to negative thinking. If you find this a surprise, then learn mindfulness and tap in and see for yourself.
7. You like to tease.
Teasing can sometimes be fun, and isn’t always critical. But listen to the way you tease next time. Is it something the other person has has already joked about themselves? Or are you saying something critical and hurtful in the guise of a ‘joke’?
8. You often criticise yourself.
Criticism is a form of projection. No matter how confident and together you seem, deep down you are likely to be constantly picking on yourself, looking for ways to improve yourself, or chastising yourself for little things.
9. You constantly feel let down.
Often, if we are the critical sort, it’s that we don’t completely trust people. We keep them at bay with our criticism, and then we feel let down when they don’t want to be there for us. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Again, it blocks intimacy. It means that others are afraid to get close, and then we are left lonely and misunderstood. Or people we actually care about eventually feel so diminished, they walk away.
Learning to listen is a great start. Most of us think we listen, but we are instead always in the process of planning what we'll say next, or getting ready to share our own similar experiences. We aren't really listening at all.
And a daily mindfulness practice can help you learn to hear your thoughts properly, so you can gain more control over them.
Another helpful tool is to learn the art of self-compassion. How could you treat yourself like a best friend? What little things can you do each day to be kinder to yourself? Research shows that self-compassion then helps us be more compassionate to others.
If your tendency to be too critical runs deep, and is from childhood issues, it might be time to seek proper support. Things like childhood trauma or neglect, or parenting where you were constantly judged or denied love and attention unless you were ‘perfect’, can leave you with deeply-rooted negative beliefs.
A therapist can help you dig out and change these beliefs much faster then going it alone. Therapies that might be helpful here are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which helps you change your thinking, compassion-focused therapy, which helps you feel better about yourself and others, and person-centred counselling, where you recognise your own resources and learn greater positive regard for others.