Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions on the Forums.

Forums guidelines

Our guidelines keep the Forums a safe place for people to share and learn information.

Combatting criticism

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

We've spoken a lot about stigma of mental illness and the hurt we experience from naivety and ignorance. Tolerating this can become a battle ground as we try to develop strategies to overcome it. How do we do this? Well again, we've talked about "equalising" the onslaught based on the notion "a immoveable force is only equalled by an equal and opposite reaction". I agree with this because in the animal kingdom the strongest survive and the weaker, the vulnerable, the mentally ill are usually the victims. We have to strive harder to become less victims and more recognised as individuals. Different doesnt mean inferior.

Enter the part phrase "How would you like it....". EG The common comment we use is "you're too sensitive". When someone tells you that, they are saying a number of things-

  • you arent normal in terms of sensitivity
  • you should do something about it
  • you are intolerable (to them) with your sensitivity.

So a standard answer for me nowadays is "you're too short, can you reduce your height 150mm"? The idea being, just like my sensitivity which I have no control over, their height is fixed! They get a taste of their own medicine.

There is one thing wrong with this countering technique- it comes under the "two wrongs dont make a right" rule. It comes across as nasty and potentially explosive whereas education should be the name of the game.

So, the part phrase "how would you like it if I said you were too tall and can you make yourself shorter"? Effectively you are turning a nasty statement into a question and a question puts the pressure on them to answer it. Another one- "would you feel comfortable if I asked you to be less talkative"?

Some people's assumption is that our symptoms of mental illness is "wrong" whereas we the mentally ill should accept our symptoms is normal for us. The outcome of same could mean eg "you are so moody its intolerable" and answer thus- "do you think moodiness is a bad thing or is it that you live life in a way so stable it might be boring"? You could continue the theme based on the fact that as a moody person with bipolar for example, that you wont take criticism simply on the basis that you, in their mind, dont fit inside the circle of normality.

The most successful combatting techniques are ones that dont escalate the conversations , educate the critic and keep them as friends and family. After all if we upset everyone we talk to about their poor knowledge levels of mental illness we'd be very lonely.


12 Replies 12

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hey Tony Thanks for sharing

I understand what your saying and I'm sorry if someone hurt you
I completely agree with you
I have learnt to not let things affect me although this is hard to do everytime

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor
I have found a retaliatory “maybe you’re too blunt/insensitive” to be relatively effective. Because the person is then hamstrung, usually it is the people who are most sensitive to criticism themselves that seem to dish it out. But if they react then they then expose themselves as being too sensitive, in which case you can turn around and say “who did you say was being too sensitive?”, it’s a bit of a mind game perhaps but I figure that they cast the first stone!


No one has hurt me recently, but as a highly sensitive person HSP, I the topic has had me thinking a lot on the topic.


I love how you see things. To suggest the person claiming we are sensitive as being sensitive themselves never crossed my mind.

Critics get away with actions from aggression eh


Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Tony....tricky in practise....

My former friend once said to me she sdidnt know anyone like me, who had serious mental health issues....anyone as stuffed up as me....it was still the most rude and off thing anyone's said.

I guess I should have said, I've never known anyone as blunt as u....with as little knowledge of mh.

If I'd said that, it sounds so rude. Yet how come her horrible statement was OK?

It is not OK to make such rude remarks. Maybe it would be appropriate to say something like Sorry I find that comment quite offensive.


It is a by-product of a life time of having dealt with abusive and unpleasant people unfortunately! You have to eventually develop strategies to put them in their place, and sooner or later they choose an easier mark.

Sleepy21, ah this is where most of us fall down. Politeness has been drilled into us so much from an early age that we don’t even feel as though we can stand up for ourselves, that it’s considered rude. Yet this is precisely how these people get away with their behaviour, by ignoring these social norms and niceties that we are internally hamstrung by. If you want to soften the edge (although I don’t think you really should considering what was said to you), you can always try a “wow, tell us what you really think” with a laugh. I have found humour to be another remarkably effective weapon against these people and also tends to diffuse the situation, because no one likes to be seen as they can’t take a joke. It’s sad that we all need to come up with ways to deal with this people but here we are.

I see it this way Sleepy,

If Britain didn't fight against Germany to halt their intended invasion they would have been taken over.

If it isn't in our nature to "equalise" aggression then we need to learn how. By "equalise" usually means confront, not allow them to crush us morally. But we can also combat with ignoring them and getting on with our lives.

Whatever we do we are doing ourselves a disservice by cowering to them, indicating to them that their cruelty can be successful, that their words can be indeed repeated to hurt again and again.

As a young prison officer some 40+ years ago an older and wiser warder told me- "you don't have to yell to make an impact". In your case if we are abused at home simply and quietly say "you can leave now".

Sarcasm isn't recommended but we are also mindful that these abusers do a lot of damage. To master a skill like sarcasm merely adds another technique if required.

"Thankyou for bringing to my attention your lack of education on how to talk to someone with a mental illness. Duly noted".

Finally, bare in mind that some people that are confronted for their abuse, will actually apologise and make effort.


Thanks Elizabeth, part of having cptsd, I always doubt myself, I would have justified her words, she must not mean it... etc

We give ppl permission that way to be offensive. I must learn not to make excuses for bad behaviour.

A lot of abusive ppl have got me in by playing the victim.

I'd think, they are having such a rough time, poor thing, they say they have no friends, maybe they just don't know that's an offensive statement?

They know.

And they know I'm soft and forgiving enough to let them get away with it.

Hi Tony

Much wisdom there. To be firm and calm is powerful.

And hopefully sometimes we once we speak up ppl do feel that quiet power, and adapt to it. We say that we have a boundary.