PQ 5.9 — How do I respond to criticism from people close to me?

a vintage motivational poster that reads "Criticism is necessary. Helpful constructive criticism brings progress. Give it and take it cheerfully. When you listen you learn." The image on the poster is a woman seated at a desk with a man standing behind her.
Image by Tony Alter / CC BY

PQ 5.9 — How do I respond to criticism from people close to me?

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I’d love to say that I respond with textbook emotional maturity when I’m criticized by those closest to me. But I don’t.

I take solace in knowing that I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

It’s Hard When You Dismiss or Deflect Criticism

Some run into trouble because they dismiss the criticism. They’ll deny its validity. Say “That’s not true.”

And at their worst, they’ll deflect the criticism by counter-criticizing, putting the other person on the defense. “Oh yeah? Well you’re twice as bad because you do XYZ. At least I don’t do THAT.”

And It’s Hard When You Take Criticism Deeply to Heart

My struggles are different. My problem with criticism from those close to me is that I believe them. And the criticism hurts because I feel guilty for disappointing them. Or hurting them.

The latest incident is fresh in my mind. It happened a few days ago. I had surgery a few weeks ago, and because of the recovery and healing involved, I hadn’t had sex since the procedure. And I was just starting to feel okay enough (and had been cleared by my doctor to come off bedrest) that I was eager.

So I started dropping clue by fours to Skyspook that I wanted him to sex me up. And hard.

My advances were clumsy. And it went very badly. Skyspook was quiet but clearly annoyed. When I inquired further, he told me I’d been uncouth and that he didn’t appreciate it.

My response was to say, “Ahh okay. Thanks for telling me. I’m sorry about that.” And then quietly play games on my phone.

Which would have been perfectly fine. Except a few minutes later, he realized I was crying.

“Why am I crying?” I said. “I did something bad. I’m embarrassed. And I feel terrible about it.”

And it was an off and on process throughout the evening where I apologized and he forgave me over and over again.

While this sounds like a benign issue, it can cause problems. I want people to be able to let me know when I’m out of line. But being so sensitive about it can discourage people from sharing those things I want — and even need — to hear.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.

 

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