Take the Sting Out

Chapter 108 of the bookSelf-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan

CRITICISM HURTS. So any decent person tries to avoid criticizing others. But sometimes you can't avoid it forever, so finally, when you get mad enough, you speak. The problem is, when you criticize while you're mad, you aren't likely to do it well. You'll say what the person did wrong instead of saying what you want him or her to do differently in the future. And when you say something while you're angry, the listener gets defensive because anger is an attacking emotion.

One way of getting around this is to speak sooner. Criticize before you get angry. Criticize when it first occurs to you and you won't have to "try to control yourself." When you say it sooner, you'll naturally have more control over yourself. And people won't get very defensive because you're not attacking them. Oh, they might not like it. Nobody really likes being criticized. We would all prefer everyone loved us and showered us with gifts for just being ourselves. But that's not the way the world works. Criticism is a necessary part of relationships of any kind. Look at what happens to someone who never gets criticized. There have been people who have had so much power and money that everyone was afraid to criticize them: Hitler. Stalin. Sadaam Hussein. Howard Hughes. It made them lose touch with reality. You and I need criticism even though we don't like it.

And we need to criticize people. Not all the time, and it needs to be balanced with acknowledgments, but you can't go around only complimenting people - it isn't good for the people you work with or who live with you. You must criticize.

But say it early. Minimize the pain by not procrastinating. You'll say it better, the person will hear it better, you'll cause less pain and have more of an impact - the kind of impact you want to have on people: considerate and constructive.

And here is a tip on making a good criticism: Don't say what you didn't like; say what you would like in the future. Turn your complaint into a request. It is much easier to hear. For example, which would you rather hear: "You never pick up around here" or "Would you please pick up around here more often?" In other words, don't make them wrong for what they've done; just tell them what you want next time.


Speak up sooner and when you do, make requests. The end result is you'll get more of what you want from people, and they (and you) will be happier.

Criticize when it first occurs to you, and ask for what you want.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, October 23). Take the Sting Out, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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