Love, Self

2 Phrases That Will Shut Down A Critical Partner Fast (And Help Your Relationship In The Process)

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criticizing in a relationship

Can you remember the last time your partner criticized you for something, or at any time for that matter? How did it make you feel? And perhaps more importantly, how did you find yourself reacting to the situation?

Did you become upset, insecure, and defensive and argumentative in response to a partner criticizing in a relationship, and then start trying to refute their criticism by denying, explaining, excusing or justifying yourself, your choices or your behavior, all in hopes of proving them wrong?

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But have you ever stopped to consider what kind of an undesirable situation taking this approach puts you in? Have you considered that by protesting and refuting their criticism, it places you in a position where you’re now answering to them, and now it’s completely up to them whether or not they accept your counter-arguments?

But who has the power here? Is it you or is it them? Are you now nothing but a worm squirming on their hook?

If you want to be a powerful communicator, it’s wise to realize that every time we take the defensive role in an interaction, we’re putting ourselves in the weaker position. We’re giving our power to our partner, and now they have the control over the outcome of the situation. But you don’t want this, do you?

So what’s a better approach for how to deal with criticism, instead of defending ourselves and arguing our position, hoping to change our partner’s mind, all the while sacrificing our power to them?

In answering that, let me ask you this: When your partner criticizes you, what’s the reason you have the urge to defend yourself?

Is it because it makes you insecure and you want to relieve yourself of that feeling? 

Is it because it makes you uncomfortable to have them think ill of you and you want to prove them wrong to regain their approval? 

Is it because it injures your pride to have your perceived faults pointed out and thrown under the spotlight and you want to save face?

But what does all this boil down to? Isn’t the root cause of our desire to defend and explain ourselves when our partner criticizes us, our investment in their opinion of us?

Thus, the real secret for how to deal with criticism in a relationship without losing your cool is to foster an indifference to their opinion of you.

When you truly don’t care what they think of you, when they criticize you, it no longer stirs or arouses any emotion in you. Then you no longer have the desire to defend yourself and prove them wrong, which usually just leads to a heated argument where you’re slotted in the losing role.

But what do you say? How do you demonstrate that you don’t care what they think, so you can diffuse the situation and prevent them from exercising power over you?

Before we get to that, let me ask you this: How important is it to you to become the best version of yourself? And how important is it to you that you become aware of your current faults or weaknesses so that you can correct them, thus improving yourself and your ability to relate with your partner more effectively?

If you place a value on true self improvement — continually developing your character and improving upon your personality — isn’t criticism actually a beneficial thing sometimes? After all, can’t our partners sometimes see us for who we truly are when we ourselves are blind to it?

Their criticisms can sometimes actually make us aware of our current faults and shortcomings if we choose to listen to them, instead of becoming defensive and argumentative. 

Thus, the very best way to deal with criticism is to first listen to it with an open mind, then compare their criticism with your current awareness of yourself to see if what they’re saying is true or false.

If it’s true or you just don’t know until you investigate further, the best response is to calmly say, “You might be right.”

A lot of the time when people criticize us, they’re expecting us to start an argument with them. They’re expecting us to defend ourselves. In fact, many times they actually want us to get upset and get into an argument so they can gloat over us for our futile attempts to protest whereby they become the person who has the power to accept or reject us and our arguments.

Let’s be honest: some people get off on exercising their power over others and having them squabble at their feet. But when you calmly say, “You might be right,” what can they say to that?

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It’s like you take the logs right out of the fire. It can no longer burn. The flame is extinguished.

Taking this approach allows you to keep your power for yourself. Instead of answering to them and trying to prove them wrong, which gives them your power, you remain rooted firmly in yourself. 

Then, if you’re sincere about improving yourself, ask yourself some questions later:

  1. Was what they said of me true?
  2. Did they reveal a current fault or weakness in my character or personality that I wasn’t aware of, but needs to be corrected to become a better, more influential person?
  3. Criticism can sometimes be instrumental in improving our self-awareness, and isn’t self-awareness usually the first step to change?
  4. After all, how can we change something about ourselves if we don’t know that we’re doing it, except by fluke?

But how about when your partner criticizes you and you know they’re wrong? What then? Should you argue?

If they criticize you and you know for sure that what they’re saying about you isn’t true, the best way to handle that situation is to calmly say, “Maybe.” Give a short pause and perhaps a shrug, then add, “Maybe not.”

Again, what can they say to that? You haven’t given them any fuel to fan the flame. You’re not arguing with them. You’re not taking the bait and falling into the trap they’ve set for you to get you under their power and answer to them.

Simple, but powerful.

Responding to criticism in these prescribed manners will instantly demonstrate that you exercise self-control. And people who exercise self-control rarely if ever find themselves under the power of others, answering to them.

So I encourage you to memorize these two phrases, and use them the next time your partner criticizes you:

  1. If you don’t know whether or not what they’re saying is true of you, just say,“You might be right.” Then think about it later.
  2. And if you know for certain that what they’re saying of you is false, simply say, “Maybe... maybe not.”

If you’ve responded to your partner criticizing you in a relationship in the past by defending yourself and putting your best argument forward, only to get into a heated argument where nothing but frustration and resentment are the result, you might be surprised at how your partner reacts to you.

You might be surprised not only at how it diffuses any arguments and allows you to keep your power for yourself, but it actually makes your partner respect you more, because they will sense that you answer to no one. You keep your power for you and you alone.

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Keenan Cullen is passionate about becoming the very best communicator she can possibly be. To learn more about what she's discovered about dealing and relating with people effectively, visit her blog or sign-up for her free weekly articles at

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.