Psychotherapy Handout: Critic Catcher

Is your inner critic having a hay-day with incessant interruptions and nagging complaints of your imperfections? You might need a Critic Catcher. This is my latest handout, designed to look at ways to transform the message of the critic from caustic to respectful.

Three areas are considered when turning the message of the critic around, a) the validity of the critic’s thoughts, b) the underlying needs of the critic, and c) the tone of presentation.

The thoughts and beliefs transmitted in the message need to be able to pass through a ROLF filter (see my Tools for a handout). The thoughts will pass if they are realistic, owned, life-enhancing, and flexible. If it passes this filter it is probably not a harmful message. If the message doesn’t pass then it will need to be rewritten to c

omply with these standards. It is worth the time to sift through the message to find a way to communicate using language that is non-dramatic, supportive, and truthful. This often takes some pondering and re-visioning to reframe the message

Secondly, the needs underlying the critic’s message must to be addressed and heard. If presented without judgment those needs can be seen as beneficial to the system and worthy of our attention.

Finally, the tone of the critic must be confronted so you (the one criticized) can stay engaged with the needs underlying the message. It the tone is belittling or harsh, the listener will rightfully turn away. I often tell the story of teaching my son how to best get his needs met in our family. If my son yelled, “Get me some milk”, we would say to him, “Can you say that in a way that would make me want to get you some milk?” With a bit of training my son turned out to be quite a polite young man. Often our critics need this same sort of confrontation and retraining.

Once the three areas of thoughts, needs, and tone are addressed, the message of the critic can be rewritten in a way that holds your attention, speaks the truth, and acknowledges the protective or instructive need of the critic. Most critics need both frequency and consistency in intervention in order to be retrained effectively.

The handout shows the three areas to consider as you catch your critic and teach it to be more respectful in communicating it’s needs. Have a look.