3 Techniques To Defend Yourself Against Criticism Assertively

In everyday life it is easy to expose ourselves to criticism directed at us that can offend us, bother us or even lead to a state of anxiety. In this article we will see How can we face criticism assertively? without losing composure and making our opinions and point of view clear.

    What is a criticism?

    We understand criticism as the issuance of a judgment or assessment made of something or someone.

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

    The goal of constructive criticism is to help another person. Expresses with respect and it is usually done alone, since far from ridiculing, the aim is to show a possible error in order to improve. The data on which this vision is based is argued so that the recipient learns from his own experience, expanding his point of view by handling possible errors or rectifying them.

    Destructive criticism, however, is expressed in a surly tone, hurtful words can be chosen, no arguments are provided and their objective is to harm. Far from helping to improve, it places the person who receives the criticism in an asymmetrical relationship in which the person who issues it grows in the eyes of others.

    In this article I will focus on this type of criticism. They are said aggressively, in a derogatory tone, their main objective is to harm you, either by ridiculing you or making you doubt yourself.

      What is the objective of 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 “Make money”. If I go to work I earn money. Let’s take an example of a self-employed worker who depends on himself. If he works he earns money, if he doesn’t work he doesn’t earn money. Will he continue working? Well, if one of his objectives is to get paid, every day he will work because there is a correlation between working-earning, not going to work-not earning. In the same way I propose to you, What have we said is the objective of destructive criticism?

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      Harm would be the answer. If, in front of her, the criticized person counterattacks by showing her anger, cries as a result of feeling hurt, remains silent, accepting what is said to her… Does it show that she has been hurt? The answer is affirmative, then if the attacker finds a correlation between criticizing and causing harm, will he continue doing it? The answer, like the self-employed person who goes to work to get money, is yes.

      By this I mean that criticism is not only destructive because of 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 for improvement or as an offense.

        How do we react?

        Let us not forget that criticism can help our personal development as long as, once heard, are accepted and lend themselves to reflection

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

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

        1. Fight back

        This is responding impulsively with another criticism or disqualifying the interlocutor and, if possible, more harshly. The inevitable result of this strategy is argument and anger

        Example: “You’re lazy” / “Well, you look like a sergeant.”

        2. Denial of criticism

        A second way to react is to frontally deny the criticism, regardless of whether we agree or not, but this nor does it make our interpersonal relationships improve

        Example: “You spend all day watching football”/ “Lie”.

        3. Passive acceptance

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

        Example: “You look really nice this morning”/Silence.

        How to face criticism assertively?

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

        To face criticism we can use the following techniques:

        1. Negative questioning

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


        – “What do you look like today?”

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        (In this case they attack our way of dressing)

        – What flaw do you find in my way of dressing?

        If they criticize my way of dressing and I show an insecure attitude, looking at my clothes in distress, I fulfill the attacker’s objective On the other hand, if I accept criticism and remain silent when I have actually worn something that I like, I show submission, which in a way is usually enough for the attacker.

        By returning criticism by saying something similar to “You looked in the mirror before speaking”, although in the short term it gives us relief by returning it, we show our weakness I attack because I have felt offended (let’s not forget that this is the main objective of destructive criticism). And if he has offended me, he has fulfilled his objective so he will continue to do so. As we can see with this technique, we make those who criticize us think, thus aborting their final objective (to hurt us).

          2. Negative assertion

          I would be recognize it without sinking, relaxed, without adopting defensive attitudes, without justifying and, of course, without getting angry. This technique should be used when we consider that, even if it is not in a constructive way, the criticism is true and we agree with it.


          – “Uncle, I’ve been waiting for you for 20 minutes.”

          (Let’s assume this is true and I’m late)

          – You’re right, it took me a long time.

          – “You have no idea about football”

          (And I really have no idea about football)

          • The truth is that you are right and I don’t control much.

          If when we are told a criticism whose content is true, even if we don’t like the form or feel attacked, we can get into a discussion and exchange of mutual attacks (“I’ve been waiting for 20 minutes”/”Well, the other day you were late”/ “Logical, you’re always late, and once it’s me you remind me”/“It’s your fault for not telling me in advance”…).

          Furthermore, we project an image in which it seems that no one can tell us anything and that we do not know how to accept criticism. So if their objective was to hurt us, it is achieved, because we get angry and show that it has made us feel bad. If we remain silent and accept it in a submissive way, we will most likely feel that “she has cut us off”, thus we also hurt ourselves.

          Recognizing it assertively is the best way to project a confident image of ourselves in which we assume our mistakes, in turn, if although the form is not appropriate, there has been no intention to do harm, we favor dialogue. Let’s take the second example, someone tells his partner that he doesn’t understand football to which the other party responds that he is right.

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          In this situation it is easier for him to say something like “It’s okay, you know about other things and I don’t”, or “It’s okay, it’s just that this isn’t a penalty for this…”, than if he puts on the victim’s costume. and says something like, “I don’t know how I’m going to know anything like that,” “I don’t have as much free time as you do.” This last attitude can trigger anger. Accepting it and keeping quiet may make you get off the couch or go do something else.

          3. Fog Bank

          This technique is usually used when faced with malicious criticism, and it is good to use it to get used to receiving it naturally, without feeling embarrassed or angry. Consists in calmly recognize the possibility that there is some truth in the criticism that we receive.


          – “What a shirt you are wearing, it looks like it belonged to your grandfather”

          – Yes? You may not like it, I love it.

          • What an ugly necklace you are wearing
          • You may not like it, 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 met but that we enter once again into a chain of possible insults Taking the first example, it could be responding: “You really look like a grandfather and I’m not telling you anything.”

          Accepting it means recognizing something with which we do not agree, at least for us, which places us in a submissive position that in the long run can affect our self-esteem. Contemplating the possibility that the other person may not like something that we do, demonstrates our flexibility in the face of another point of view and our self-confidence.


          As you can see, in any case, our way of responding to criticism and attitude towards it determines the subsequent result. Criticisms are still different points of view, sometimes they help us improve or take something into account to work on it based on our own experience and that of others.

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