What Good Is There In Receiving Criticism From Someone You Hardly Know?

Have you ever experienced receiving criticism from someone you hardly knew–and, who hardly knew you? 

It’s a strange situation, isn’t it? I think so. I wonder if they think it is a way to build intimacy in a relationship that is barely past the acquaintance stage? Or, is it an attempt to demonstrate their vast awareness of human nature? Or, do they have a need to control people, situations and relationships and have chosen me to start with? Probably all those things are true.

What made me write about this is that it recently happened to me. Out of the blue, on the fourth occasion of being in conversation, this person decided to tell me the truth…about me! So, over the course of ten months, we have spent no more than three hours together and only ninety minutes of that was spent alone together. And, a major assessment of my being was somehow due.

Classic behavior, the person introduced the topic of my character by asking permission “to tell me something I likely was not going to like.” Oh, how tempted I was so say “No!” but,we continued. I was intrigued, considering the brief relationship. Whatever could be forthcoming? After the initial summing up of my general state of being was declared with certainty by this person, I had a question of my own:

You say this is a way I ALWAYS am. Is that correct?”


At that point, there was little I could say in response. Here, after a total of perhaps three hours in my company in a lifetime, was a declaration of my eternal state of being! I was ALWAYS like that, supposedly. Then, if you can imagine it, a kiss was planted on my cheek. Amazing! The very epitome of passive-aggressive behavior!

So, a couple of things came from this for me. I had recently blogged about what other people think of us is none of our business, so that leaped to mind. Then, I wondered if the person sincerely believed that I would take their opinion to heart because I so valued their assessment. And, of course, the most obvious question:

“Why are you doing this?!!! What purpose is it serving for you? What are you hoping this will do for me or for the continuance of our relationship?”

I have dear and honest friends who would have long ago told me what this person offered if it had been true. And, honestly, I sincerely reflected on the opinion rendered to see if there was a valuable insight offered that could be helpful to me. I know I have blind spots. None of us can see our own behavior from another’s vantage point! So, it had value in that it caused me to reflect. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course. In fact, everyone is entitled to express those opinions. The question is: Should they?

Receiving criticism takes some practice. Here’s a few other things to consider. In the video below from our Transform Your Relationships show, @coachLaura , Laura Rubinstein, and I discuss just what criticism is and how to deal with it more effectively…

There is no such thing as consequence-less behavior, positive or negative. You’ve likely noticed that. Apparently, this person regarded the right to express an opinion–voiced as a fact–as having more value than the consequences it might have on the potential relationship. Interesting choice. Very few people are happy receiving criticism, especially when the opinion was unasked for!

Has this ever happened to you? An out of the blue character assessment or assassination from an acquaintance? What do you think about it all? What were the consequences on your relationship?

When receiving criticism, use it as a reality check for yourself. See if you can find some evidence of reality that what another is saying about you could be true. Be honest with yourself. But, don’t give away your power to another person.

If you see a need for change within yourself, you can be grateful for the message…even though you likely didn’t appreciate the delivery. If you see no need to change, know that you just learned something valuable about the other person.  It may be your relationship that needs to change!

© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, The Relationship Help Doctor

A relentlessly difficult person–a Hijackal®–will criticize you all day long. That could be your mother, father, sibling, partner, friend, or co-worker. Don’t believe anything they say. Especially don’t let it into your mind or heart. S/he only wants power over you. Read my free ebook, How To Spot A Hijackal, now. 

What folks have said…
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