Q&A: What can I do to help a relationship where someone is critical of me?

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Hello, I have a question relating to a friend. First of all he's a great guy and he's very intelligent. He has a good humor sense. I have been friends with him for 6 to 8 years now. When I'm with him we mostly talk about intellectual ideas and we have a good time. He's sort of like a man with principles and takes pride in what he does. He has saved me from many situations that I couldn't handle alone. He is one of my best friends and I have shared many secrets with him that I don't with all the others. But whenever I'm with him (after first year), he's been critical of me. Most of the time he's spot on and very accurate. It may be his heightened sense of perception. He has a knack for observing things that other people ignore. But he expresses critical points about me in a way that I don't feel comfortable with. Here's the reason why. My father was an alcoholic in my childhood and he's pretty emotionally abusive (Not physically but emotionally). He's also overcritical without any logic or reason to it(My father). Hence from there I don't feel comfortable with people who yell at me, even if it's for a rightful reason or argue with me in a cold manner. I like people to point the mistakes I made in a simple way (which I always try to do). So whenever someone criticizes me in front of others or in a loud manner, my mind just shuts off and cannot respond to it or argue with them back. I don't have this problems with my mother or my siblings. So back to my point.... I sometimes feel I can share anything with my friend. But him being critical in the way that I mentioned above is haunting me. I told him how I felt, but it always feel at the end the fault bounce back to me. I even tried tell him what I told just now about my father and all and suddenly he feels angry that I compared him to someone like my father. I really didn't compare him with my father in other aspects, just only in this small characteristic. So what shall I do. Is it my fault. Should I see him less from now on. Because we use to hang out all the time. I don't know what to do. I'm confused. Or maybe I'm hoping for someone to agree with me so that I feel better. Any Thanks in Advance.....

- Ezio


James S. Anthony, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist -

How to deal with difficult people
Before I get to the point, let me make a few preconditions:  First, some issues require more than a simple response and this issue may be one of those issues.  Second, I'm always aware of 2 sayings:  the Golden Rule and the Serenity Prayer.  Third, we must always be aware of appropriate boundaries.  Now, for my attempt to address your issue, I agree with you that it might be best for you take a break from this guy for a while to get some perspective on the issue.  In counseling, we are taught to strive for objectivity and professional distance when addressing our clients' issues.  Perhaps, your friend has become too overly familiar with you and your issues and feels free to speak his mind without filtering things out in a positive manner.  I suggest that you attempt to re-establish boundaries with him that are comfortable for you.  Should your friend not honor your requests, then it may be necessary for you to move on without him.  Sometimes, we outgrow our friends or no longer need that type of relationship in our lives anymore.  Now, if you are having difficulty moving on, then might I suggest you seek counseling to help you with this transition.  Other resources that may be helpful are Alanon and Children of Alcoholics groups and their principles.  Good Luck!  

--James S. Anthony, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist
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