Maryann Bucknum Brinley

167 Cooper Avenue
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043-1810

mabrinley@verizon.net

973-202-5909 (cell)
973-746-1608

Extraordinary at Ordinary

Searching for extraordinary science and understanding in the everyday ordinary of life

Overly Critical People

Maryann Bucknum Brinley - Thursday, March 05, 2015

My new mission is to steer clear of critical people. After a couple of recent encounters requiring days-long exposure to individuals gifted in the art of being super-critical, I found myself “hopelessly lost in negative energy…beaten down, emotionally bankrupt and numb,” as Jeffrey Bernstein, PhD, might put it. Author of Why Can’t You Read My Mind: Overcoming the 9 Toxic Thoughts that Get in the Way of a Loving Relationship, Bernstein believes there are a lot of the “walking wounded out there!” Heh, I felt like I had been pummeled.


I went searching for why some people feel compelled to criticize constantly as well as where this personality dysfunction might come from. Aha…it turns out that “critical people were often criticized in early childhood by caretakers, siblings or peers,” explains Steven Stosny, PhD, in a post on Dec 14, 2012 titled “Anger in the Age of Enlightenment.” To children under age 7, “anything more than occasional criticism means they’re bad and unworthy.” In an effort to adapt, they become self-critical at first and by young adulthood, “entirely critical of others.” Stosny says that most criticizers are equally hard on themselves, however.

The funny thing about criticism is that it’s “an utter failure at getting positive behavior change.” So why do people keep on criticizing when they know the harsh words aren’t working? They are defending their own egos. “We don’t criticize because we disagree with a behavior or attitude but because we somehow feel devalued by that behavior or attitude.” These are people who can’t live and let live or even agree to disagree, as I discovered. So why did I feel so beaten down? Because, as Stosny explains: Criticism calls for submission. Criticism devalues. Criticism focuses on what’s wrong. Criticism is coercive. And heh, criticism is not legitimate feedback so don’t let anyone ever try to convince you of that. 

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