On Manipulative Criticism

Last week, you learned how to handle constructive or valid criticism. That form of criticism is supposed to help you do something better.  In other words, it has an improvement goal.  Manipulative criticism has a goal of hitting your hot buttons and making you react negatively.  Manipulative criticism most often makes you so angry you would like to smack the critic.  At other times manipulative criticism leaves you feeling guilty, depressed and hopeless.  Here are a few examples.

“If you really loved your mother, you’d call more often.”

“Why must you always wear your hair that way?”

“You never take the time to do things right.”

“Well, that certainly isn’t the way I’d handle the situation.”

The key to recognizing you have been manipulatively criticized is to get in touch with your gut.  If your reaction to the critic’s words is furious anger, you have just been manipulatively criticized.  You have several interesting choices for dealing with this type of verbal attack.

●You can make a joke.

Critic:  How can you be so stupid?

You:    I really work hard at it.

●You can parry the criticism and let it just float away.

Critic:  You throw your money around like a drunken sailor.

You:    Perhaps you’re right.

●You can take the other person on by responding defensively.

Critic:  That was one dumb thing you did yesterday.

You:    What’s wrong with what I did?

This last choice is never recommended because it puts you on the defensive and encourages the critic to continue their attack.  That makes you the victim.
There are a number of common forms of manipulative criticism.  Here are examples of some and a strategy for responding to each type.

● Join two unrelated items together in the form of a criticism.

Critic:  If you truly enjoyed the evening, you’d sleep with me.

You:    I truly enjoyed our time together and I will not sleep with you.

You respond to each item separately using and (not but) as the connecting word.

●Blow  things out of proportion.

Critic:  You were three hours late last night.

You:    I was three hours late?

Critic:  Well, it was at least twenty minutes.

You:    Oh, I see.

You repeat what the critic has said as a question and when they respond with a more truthful, unexaggerated response, you say, I see.

●It is wrong to be different from other people.

Critic:  What would happen if everyone refused to donate?

You:    I don’t know what would happen but I refuse to donate.

You say, I don’t know and repeat your intention.

●It is not right for you to change your mind.

Critic:  How come you never said anything about this before?

You:    Well, I’m saying something about it now.

Today is a new day; it requires new decisions.

●Criticism through the generation of guilt feelings to control your behavior,

Critic:  You don’t need to help; with my condition I may not be

around much longer anyway.

You:    Where are you going, mother?

Making a joke is the best way to respond to an obvious guilt trip comment.

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