Criticism and Unsolicited Advice: How it Helps Us and Our Relationships

May 6th, 2021

By Jack Adam Weber

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

Many take offense to advice when they don’t ask for it, including suggestions. Unsolicited advice can feel intrusive. It can threaten our personal space and privacy. There are also different degrees of criticism and advice, and the tone of delivery has lots to do with how well we can hear it. So does the nature of our relationship with the person from whom we receive it.

Criticism is another level of “advice,” which often comes with more punch and can push our buttons. However, I also invite us to consider criticism in a positive light, and if we don’t like its delivery, perhaps we can at least hear the core information—the helpful message—in the criticism. We also can ask for our needs—asking that criticism be delivered in a way that we’re better able to receive. It’s easier to receive criticism when we trust the person who delivers it. But if we focus on our growth and crave truth, it doesn’t much matter.

Style of delivery aside—be it delivered with anger, frustration, insistence, bluntly, etc.—let’s focus on the content of criticism. First, when we get advice we often infer (it is not necessarily implied, meaning the rub is in the way that we think about it and emotionally react) that we are wrong, that our way of being is flawed, or even bad. This can be especially difficult if we have significant unresolved shame, meaning we judge and feel bad about our core sense of self.

Those of us interested in bettering ourselves might learn to appreciate criticism, and try to find something constructive in it. We might even try to sort through a difficult delivery of it because we want to learn and grow. Sometimes we might not like what we hear because it might be true, and this truth might cause us to see something we don’t like about ourselves, or have to change. The truth in criticism might also cause us to feel remorse, sadness, fear, or helpless; most are uncomfortable with these feelings and stave them off, thereby shooting down criticism or advice mid-air before it even makes it to our ears. Dong this can close us off to others and our own growth.

Third, we might associate criticism with childhood, when we were judged harshly or overly controlled. We then react to the present moment from a wounded place, that may have little to do with what is currently happening. It’s reasonable not to want to be treated as we were when we were children. It’s even more reasonable, perhaps, to use critical awareness to recognize when we are having a knee-jerk childhood reaction, so that while it might seem we are being treated as children, it’s more honest to admit that we are reacting as a child. We can choose to see the current situation as adults and to respond from a more empowered and realistic place.

Fourth, criticism is often associated with the shame and religious guilt. We might feel the pain of how our parents or others wielded religious doctrines and used them as a way to violate our integrity. Some use religion to inflict condemnation and angry judgments. Yet the same religious precepts also can instill forgiveness, compassion, and wisdom. So, religion may not be to blame as much as the same core emotional wounds that cause some humans to wield religious doctrine as a sword of violence rather than as a compass for compassion.

In sum, by changing our perspective and embracing our greater good, we can turn what seems to be the negativity of criticism into something helpful.

Recommended articles by Jack Adam Weber:

About the author:

Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., is a licensed Chinese medicine clinician with over 20 years of experience working with patients. He is also a life coach, climate activist, organic farmer, artist, and celebrated poet. Jack has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. His most recent creation is Climate Cure: Heal Yourself to Heal the Planeta comprehensive guide to help navigate all manner of crisis.

Jack is an advocate for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, mind-body integration, and climate crisis, while encouraging his readers to think critically, feel deeply, and act boldly. He also developed the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, somatic meditation practice that doubles as an educational guide for healing through the wounds of childhood. His work and contacts can be found at jackadamweber.com.


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