This was first published on KSL.COM
A woman recently asked me how she would know if she was out of balance and too critical of other people, or just a very observant and helpful person? I think you just have to ask the people around you and they would be happy to oblige on this one, but here are some signs that you might be overly critical and need to work on that.
Are you overly critical?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do people sometimes lie to you or avoid answering your questions?
If you are someone who is overly critical, the people in your life may not feel safe enough to tell you the truth. They might avoid talking to you at times, or lie to protect themselves from your judgment about what they are doing.
Do people get their feelings hurt when you are just trying to help them?
Overly critical people have a tendency to give unsolicited advice, which can feel more insulting than helpful. You might mean well when you point out what they did wrong or how they could improve, but to a person who battles with the fear of failure, it hurts. If your comments often make people angry or hurt their feelings, you may be overly critical.
Are you extremely opinionated and have a hard time not sharing your ideas?
People who are overly critical are often overly opinionated too. Can you let someone be wrong and not correct them? If not, this is a problem. Practice just listening and asking questions, without sharing your opinion at all. Bite your tongue and allow the conversation to go on without your ideas or input. This can be hard, but it shows maturity and wisdom.
Are you extremely observant?
Do you notice details that others miss? Many overly critical people are also told they are too observant. You might just naturally see what’s wrong before you see what’s right. This is a great skill in certain jobs or fields, but it can be rough in relationships.
Are you picky with high standards?
If you reload the dishwasher because it wasn’t done right, or remake beds because they still have wrinkles, or fix pillows every time you walk past the couch, you might be too particular and your standards might damage connection with others. Again, there are certain careers where being this picky would be a plus, but it can make people feel attacked.
Do you get really bent out of shape when things don’t go your way?
This might happen because you create a lot of expectations and then get attached to them. The truth is, life will rarely meet your expectations. Events rarely go off as planned, and people usually disappoint you. If you are fear-of-loss dominant — meaning you get triggered whenever life isn’t what you wanted it to be — you might be bothered and frustrated a lot, which can lead to criticism.
Do you find other people are quiet and have less to say around you?
People might have learned that communication with you isn’t safe. They may avoid your calls or have fewer comments in conversations. If you want people to speak their truth and be open with you, you have to create a safe place for them to do that.
How to make a change
If you answered yes to many of these questions, your subconscious tendency toward criticism might be a problem. Here are some tips for changing this behavior.
1. Allow people to disagree with you without threat of judgment or argument.
Let others know it’s OK if they don’t agree or don’t want to do it your way. Give them a safe space to tell you their truth without risk of conflict or correction.
2. Ask permission before giving advice.
Ask others, “Would you be open to a suggestion or some advice on how to do that, or would you rather I let you do it on your own?” Give them a safe place to say they aren’t open to advice on this. Whenever you share suggestions without asking permission to do so, it can come off as insulting to other people.
3. Practice not sharing your ideas.
Challenge yourself to sit through a whole conversation and only ask questions and listen with the intent to understand, without saying anything or sharing your ideas at all. Do this on a regular basis with the people you care about most. Even when you need to speak your mind, make sure you have thoroughly listened to their ideas first, and then ask permission before you speak.
4. Be observant without the need to speak about what you see.
Bite your tongue until it bleeds if need be, but let some people or things be wrong. Remember, they are on their own perfect journey, and God and the universe will help them learn what they need to know. You don’t have to do that job yourself.
5. Be less picky and more flexible.
Let the dishwasher be loaded wrong once in a while so you aren’t always making people feel inferior. Your high standards are fine for the work you do but shouldn’t be projected onto others. Having good relationships with people who feel safe with you is much more important.
6. Don’t get bent out of shape when things don’t go your way.
Trust the universe that it knows what it’s doing and however this event or situation goes, it is how it was supposed to go. There are reasons in play you don’t and won’t know anything about. Trust life to deliver what we all need, not what we want, so we can grow.
7. Become a better listener.
Notice how people light up when you are more interested in listening to them than you are in talking. They feel valued, cared about and important. The gift of validation and understanding can be the most loving gift you give to people in your life.
Personal growth happens when we start to consciously see our subconscious tendencies and make powerful choices to override our programming. The first step is awareness, then using choice to force ourselves towards better behavior. If we practice this new behavior enough, it starts to establish new subconscious pathways and our new behavior sticks. Be patient with yourself though, because this process takes time — and progress is more important than perfection.
You can do this.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.