Chinese New Year holiday is a time for gatherings with your family and friends. Usually, it is heartening to spend time in the company of loved ones, yet occasionally they may give criticisms that make you feel bad, like ‘You seem to have gotten plumper!’, ‘Don’t be lazy! Be more like your cousin who ranks first in his class every year!’. So how can we cope with these ‘constructive’ criticisms, and feel less bad about them? Psychologists suggest the following strategies:
View criticism as misguided caring.
Many people give you advice or criticize you in hopes of helping you improve, and they are doing so because they care. For instance, people may point out that you are plump because they are concerned about your health, and criticize you for your less-than-ideal academic performance because they are concerned about your future. So sometimes when relatives or friends give you criticism, they are doing it out of their concern for you. Remind yourself that their criticisms may actually be misguided caring would help you feel better.
- Let others know how they can better express that their concern
Reminding yourself that people criticize you because they care helps, but to stop them from continuing saying these harsh words, you need to educate them about a better way to express their concern. Since most people give you criticisms because they want you to change certain behaviours, it would be helpful for you to tell the other party what they can say to achieve so. For example, if your mother often says ‘Why are you so lazy? You should spend more time studying and rank first in your class just like your cousin, so that you can enter university…’, you can respond by saying ‘If you would like me to go study, you can say “It’s time to study”, there’s no need to say other thing else. In this way my mood would be less negatively affected before studies.’
- Encourage prioritization
Some people will give you a long list of criticisms. For example your father may say ‘You don’t have any self-discipline at all! You don’t make your bed, you don’t tidy up your bedroom, you spend recklessly, you don’t study, you don’t help with the household chores…’, you can respond by asking him ‘If I can only change one behavior at a time, which of those would you like me to improve?’ This can help clarify the expectations of you and reduce unnecessary criticisms, thereby reducing stress.
- Remind others that you are worthy of respect and acceptance
If people conflate your self-worth with a list of external traits you have or tasks that you accomplish (for instance, giving you a message that you need to excel academically or be physically attractive in order to be loved), you can gently remind them that you are worthy of respect and acceptance as a person, because the value of a person is so much more than behaviours and external traits.
- Understand that some people are purposelessly negative
The above 4 strategies are applicable to situations where the criticizer has genuine concern for you yet used a less-than-ideal way to express it. But there are some who often maliciously criticizes others --- they don’t care about you or want you to improve, nor do they care about your future and your feelings. They simply criticize you to bring you down, to bully you, and make them feel better about themselves. Criticisms from such people (even if they are your friends or relatives) should be dismissed.
Hope you can make good use of the above strategies, and maintain your psychological well-being after meeting family and friends during the holidays!
Happy New Year!
Asatryan, K. (2015). 5 Ways to Survive Criticism from Family Members. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-art-closeness/201511/5-ways-survive-criticism-family-members