I often get asked about effective strategies for responding to a person who is critical, fault-finding, or not considerate of the inner experience of another.
Such a person often engages with others from a ‘hierarchical’ mind-set, trying to retain a dominant position, either in relation to power or self-image.
They may be trying to instill a sense of self-doubt in another person, through undermining their image, ability, or sense of worth.
If they succeed, the recipient of their communication can experience an emotionally toxic cocktail of: wavering self-confidence, anxiety, frustration, and defensiveness; which may deter them from coming up with an effective, confident response.
Below are a few strategies for responding to a fault-finding person, that I frequently recommend:
1. Calm the body
As a starting point, take time to calm the body, through breathing slowly and deeply. This sets into motion the reversal of the body's fight-flight response, which helps to feel less reactive and think creatively.
2. Affirm your self-worth
If a fault-finding person engages with another from a ‘hierarchical’ mind-set, they can trigger a reaction in them which induces doubts as to their competence, self-worth, etc.
Tapping into your sense of uniqueness, the beauty of your being, your commitment to the care and growth of your being; helps you to stay resilient against connecting with anything other than the pursuit of the voice of your self-directed values and purpose.
Step 3. Reflect back
To me, 'reflecting back’ is a strategy which combines mindfulness and CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) interventions.
Just as mindfulness interventions aim to cultivate a core of a grounded loving-presence, while encountering the ever changing nature of our inner experiences with acceptance, compassion, curiosity, and reflection;
when encountering a fault-finding person, it is helpful to strive to stay grounded in the beauty of ones being, while ‘observing’ their way of relating, as if from a distance; naming it, and reflecting it ‘off’...
Here are some examples of responses that 'reflect off' our insight into a fault-finding way of relating:
e.g. have you noticed how critical your conversation is...
e.g. why not try making requests instead of offering criticism...
e.g. why not balance your comments with some positives...
e.g. are you well, I haven’t heard a constructive comment today yet...
e.g. would you like support in re-framing your comments so they are more constructive...;
the possibilities are endless.
I.e., Instead of engaging in a familiar dynamic of feeling threatened or frustrated, these comments strive to point out another's lacks consideration.
4. Strive to hold on to your loving center
Holding onto our 'loving center' may well be the most loving response we can make in relation to a person who copes via finding fault.
It may help them to see that striving to retain dominance of power or self-image, through negative comparisons or put-downs, actually makes them vulnerable to others’ opinions and diminishes their inner strength.
Perhaps we can offer them glimpses of a different kind of power. One that comes from our connection with an authentic, self-directed purpose, that fulfills her purpose through finding her unique way of serving others; while conquering any obstacles that get in her way of a being a loving, authentic, passionate presence.
"What's difficult in life is to stay centered when somebody does or says something that tempts us to close our hearts because their heart was closed. That is hard. But that is also how we grow. We go through those circumstances in order to evolve into people who can hold to our loving center no matter what the world throws us."
*In a case where only one party in a relationship is interested in creating an environment of mutual consideration and care, while another is invested in retaining the bulk of power and control, it is important to seek further counseling support and assistance.
Respect, 1800 737 732 (for individuals living in Australia), or TEXT CONNECT TO 741741 in USA.