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One of the questions I get asked most from introvert readers and students is how to deal with critical people.

Dealing with criticism is hard enough for anyone. But for introverts, it can feel impossible to know how to respond. After all, most introverts hate conflict. We would rather stay silent than risk an argument. But there’s a problem.

Introvert shaming is a real thing

Some people seem to think it’s their right to criticize introverts. People think it’s okay to call you out for being quiet and wanting some time alone. Or they try to ‘help’ you by pushing you way out of your comfort zone.

“It will be fun,” they say, as they throw you into a social shark pit of nonstop noise and mindless small talk. And THEN they have the nerve to criticize you for being drained and irritable.

Experiences like this are so painful for introverts. And yet, you don’t stand up for yourself. Oh sure, you might have a dozen heated conversations in your head. But in real life, it’s a different story…

Why you don’t speak up for yourself

Even though critical friends and family might push you to the edge and make you want to scream, you stay silent. Something stops you from saying how you really feel. I’ve been there.

I used to have such a hard time expressing my needs and boundaries. Like most introverts, I hate conflict and will do anything to avoid it.

Luckily, I’ve found ways to deal with people who push and criticize me. These steps actually strengthen the relationship and get you the respect you deserve.

Here are 3 steps to deal with people who criticize you:

1. Start the conversation with a softening statement

This is a statement that prevents the person from getting defensive and makes them more receptive to hearing what you have to say:

“I know this wasn’t your intention, but…”

“I’m only bringing this up because I value your friendship so much…”

2. Remove the word you

As much as possible, talk about your own feelings rather than pointing fingers.

Instead of saying “it’s rude that you always put me on the spot”, try saying something like, “when people put me on the spot, I feel uncomfortable and trapped.”

Instead of saying “when you did that”, try saying, “when that happened”.

3. End with appreciation

Close the conversation with appreciation by saying something like…

“I really appreciate that you listened to what I had to say.”

“I appreciate that we can talk about these kinds of things.”

“Thank you for hearing me out.”

If they apologize, always say, “thank you for apologizing,” even if you’re still angry.

Approaching difficult conversations this way really does work. I’ve used these steps several times over the years to deal with critical family members and people who push my boundaries.

If speaking your truth scares you, don’t worry. It’s normal to feel afraid to stand up for yourself and talk about your feelings. But know that it is possible to do so, and it’s worth it!

If you need more help developing conversational confidence so that you can quickly connect with the right people, download my Introvert Conversation Cheat Sheet.


P.S. In case you’re new here, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Michaela and I help introverts develop conversational confidence and make real friends. I share my best tools with my community of introvert subscribers. Grab my conversation cheat sheet and you’ll also get access to articles and videos I never share on the blog. 🙂