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3 techniques to defend yourself against a critique assertively

3 techniques to defend yourself against a critique assertively

February 2, 2024

In the day to day it is easy to expose ourselves to criticisms directed towards us that can offend us, annoy us or even lead to a state of anxiety. In this article we will see how can we face a criticism in an assertive way , without losing the composure and leaving clear our opinions and point of view.

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What is a criticism?

We understand by critique the emission of a judgment or valuation that is made of something or someone.

It is an opinion and although there is a tendency to associate criticism with offense, insult or discredit, it will depend on the intention put in formulating what will determine whether it is a constructive criticism (it helps us to learn or improve) or destructive ( pretends to harm us).

The goal of constructive criticism is to help another person. Express yourself with respect and usually done alone, because far from ridicule is intended to show a possible error to improve. The data on which this vision is based are argued so that whoever receives it can learn from their own experience, broadening their point of view handling possible errors or rectifying.

The destructive criticism, however, is expressed in an arcane tone , hurtful words can be chosen, arguments are not provided and their objective is to damage. Far from helping to improve, it places the person who receives the criticism in an asymmetric relationship in which the one who emits it grows before the eyes of others.

In this article I will focus on this type of criticism. They say aggressively, in a dismissive tone, their main objective is to hurt you, either ridiculing you or making you doubt yourself.

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What is the purpose of a malicious criticism?

I ask you a question. What is the goal of going to work every morning? Among others, most of you will have answered "Earn money". If I go to work I earn money. Let's take an example of a self-employed worker who depends on himself. If you work, you earn money, if you do not work, you do not earn money. Will he continue working? Well, if one of your objectives is to charge, every day you will work because there is a correlation between work-earn, not go to work-not win. In the same way I pose to you, What have we said that is the objective of a destructive criticism?

To hurt would be the answer. If before her the criticized person, she counter-attacks demonstrating her anger, she cries as a result of feeling damaged, she silences by accepting what is said ... Does she show that she has been harmed? The answer is affirmative, then if the attacker finds a correlation between criticizing and doing harm, will he continue to do so? The answer, like the self-employed who will work to get money, is yes.

By this I mean that criticism is not only destructive by the way it is said but also our way of interpreting the message and how we manage it, since we can experience it as a possibility of improvement or as an offense.

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How do we react?

Do not forget that criticism can help our personal development as long as once heard, be accepted and lend themselves to reflection .

But focusing on destructive ones, it is important to defend ourselves assertively, that is, to defend our rights without engaging in submissive, aggressive or reproach behaviors. Our way of reacting conditions the final product.

We automatically tend to react to them in three non-assertive ways, deteriorating our social relationships and self-image:

1. Counterattack

This is to respond impulsively with another critic or disqualifying the interlocutor and, if possible, more harshly. The inevitable result of this strategy is discussion and anger .

Example: "You're a vague" / "Well, you're like a sergeant."

2. Denial of criticism

A second way of reacting is to deny the criticism frontally, independently if we agree or not, but this neither does it make our interpersonal relationships improve .

Example: "You are watching football all day" / "Lie".

3. Passive acceptance

Finally, a third way of facing criticism is accept it immediately without further analysis , demonstrating a passive attitude.

Example: "Go mask you wear this morning" / Silence.

How to face a criticism in an assertive way?

We must respond in a neutral tone , as aseptic as possible, in order not to show that it has hurt us (main objective of this type of criticism), and without attacking, because otherwise the conversation would end in a discussion or a competition of mutual aggressions.

To face a criticism we can use the following techniques:

1. Negative question

It consists of asking for clarification about what they tell us. That is to say, ask why we are criticized .


  • "Uncle, you have often left hair" (What are you criticizing? The hair, we asked about that)
  • Yes? What is it that you see strange in my hair?

- "What are you painting today?"

(In this case they attack our way of dressing)

- What defect do you find to my way of dressing?

If they criticize my way of dressing and I show an insecure attitude, looking at my distressed clothes, I meet the target of the attacker . On the other hand, if I accept the criticism and shut up when I have actually put on something that I like, I show submission, which in a certain way is usually enough for the attacker.

When returning the criticism saying something similar to "You have looked at yourself in the mirror before speaking", although in the short term it gives us relief to return it, we show our weakness . I attack because I have felt offended (do not forget that it is the main objective of a destructive criticism). And if he has offended me, he has fulfilled his objective and will continue to do so. As we can see with this technique, we make think about who criticizes us, thus aborting the ultimate goal of it (hurt us).

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2. Negative assertion

Would be recognize it without sinking, relaxed, without adopting defensive attitudes , without justification and, of course, without getting angry. This technique should be used when we consider that, although it is not constructive, the criticism is true and we agree with it.


- "Uncle I've been waiting for you 20 minutes"

(Suppose this is true and I have arrived late)

- You're right, it took me a long time.

- "You have no idea of ​​soccer"

(And I really have no idea of ​​football)

  • The truth is that you are right and I do not control much.

If when they tell us a criticism whose content is true, even if we do not like the form or feel attacked, we can enter into a discussion and exchange of mutual aggressions ("I've been waiting 20 minutes" / "Well, the other day you were late" / "Logical, always late, and for once it's me you remind me" / "It's your fault for not letting me know in advance" ...).

We also project an image in which it seems that nobody can tell us anything and that we do not know how to accept a criticism. So if your goal was to hurt us, you got it, then we get angry and show that you have made us feel bad. If we shut up and accept it in a submissive way, we will most certainly feel that "the roll has cut us off", so we also hurt ourselves.

Recognizing her assertively is the best way to project a secure image of ourselves in which we assume our mistakes, in turn, if although the form is not appropriate, there has been no intention of doing harm we favor the dialogue. Take the second example, someone tells his partner that he does not understand football to which the other party says he is right.

In this situation it is easier for him to say something like "Nothing happens, you know about other things and I do not", or "Nothing happens is that it is not a penalty for this ...", that if you put on the victim's costume and he says something like "In those ways I do not know how I'm going to know anything", "I do not have as much free time as you do". This last attitude can trigger anger. Accepting it and shutting it down can cause it to get up off the couch or go away to do something else.

3. Fog Bank

This technique is usually used against malicious critics, and it is good to use it to get used to receiving them naturally, without feeling ashamed or angry. Consists in serenely recognize the possibility that there is some truth in the criticism that we receive


- "What a shirt you wear, it looks like your grandfather"

- Yes? Maybe you do not like me. I love it.

  • What ugly necklace you wear
  • Maybe you do not like me. I like it.

In the same way as in the previous techniques, responding with another criticism not only shows that the objective of this one has been fulfilled, but also that we enter once more into a chain of possible insults . Taking the first example could be answering: "You do look like a grandfather and I do not tell you anything".

Accepting it means recognizing something that we do not agree with, at least for us, which puts us in a submissive position that can ultimately affect our self-esteem. Contemplate the possibility that the other does not like something that we do, demonstrates our flexibility before another point of view and security in ourselves.


As you can see in any case our way of responding to a criticism and attitude before it conditions the subsequent result.Criticisms do not stop being different points of view, sometimes they help us to improve or take into account something to work on from our own experience and that of others.

You have to be open to any opinion , in some cases admit that we do not know everything and in no case accept what we do not agree with. Criticism well managed and responded assertively helps grow as a person either maturing or affecting as little as possible the intentionality of damaging our ego.

Stand Up For Yourself Without Being A Jerk (February 2024).

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