Criticism and mockery

Sensitivity and criticism

Social phobics, but also many of your patients, are probably sensitive to criticism and can therefore be easily hurt by it. Fortunately, like communication in general, there are techniques for receiving criticism and for delivering it. This is what we will see today.

There are three types of criticism that your patient may receive:

  • justified criticism
  • unjustified criticism 
  • vague criticism

Justified criticism

Listening to criticism

What is important when your patient is criticized is that he takes the time to listen to the criticism, just as in conflict management, to ask himself: “What exactly am I being criticized for? What exactly is the problem? Am I being criticized for being late? for not doing my homework well? for not being serious? for not turning in my work on time?”

The patient should really take the time to listen to what the criticism is about. Then, apply the same techniques that you can find in Chapters 1, 2 and 3 of the self-affirmation. To view Chapters 2 and 3, you will need a subscription.  Even if your patient is sensitive and feels carried away by his emotions, he will have to come to terms with them, especially with the chapter on managing emotions. He must, in fact, decentralize himself. It is not his personality that is being criticized, it is simply his actions. Your patient must take the time to let the emotions pass and then, only afterwards, to resolve the conflict that is linked to the criticism. No personal interpretations should be made. Your patient must remain focused on the subject of the criticism.

The same principle and the same rules apply to his response to the criticism. That is, not to be aggressive, not to try to be defensive but, on the contrary, to simply say what he thinks and what he feels as clearly as possible.

So the first thing to do is to listen to the criticism. If the criticism is justified, it is necessary to acknowledge the mistake and not to justify it in order to avoid a conflict. Admitting your mistake when the criticism is justified avoids 99% of conflicts. Once your patient has demonstrated active listening, he can apply many of Dr. Malbos’ techniques. 

First technique: Clarify your position

Your patient will have to clarify his position: “I think you’re right, it’s true that I should be more careful to arrive on time. From now on, I’ll be more careful and I’m more motivated.” 

Second technique: make a self-disclosure

The patient can, for example, admit that this criticism hurts him, that he is a bit sad. Or, conversely, this emotion may be positive. The patient may share that he is glad that his manager told him about the problem so that they can work together better from now on. 

Third technique: the broken record

In the case of too much criticism, i.e., too much repetition, your patient can use “the broken record”: “As I told you, it’s true, I made a mistake, now I’m going to move on and work to change it.”

Fourth technique: negative inquiry

Sometimes your patient will come across someone who is going to give him a criticism but it is not the actual criticism. Often, this criticism hides something behind it and is not justified. In this situation, it is necessary to make a negative inquiry: “As I told you, I am going to work on this question but I see that you are repeating it to me, that you insist. Is there by any chance something else behind your criticism? Aren’t you blaming me for something else?” 

At this point, it gives the interlocutor the time and the chance to express his real criticism that was hidden behind this superficial criticism. 

Fifth technique: end the criticism

Finally, your patient should always warmly end his response to the criticism: “Thank you for raising this issue with me. It was very helpful. I will now work on this issue.”.

This allows the issue of criticism to be resolved well and without, precisely, suffering from it.



False criticism 

What about when it is a false criticism? In other words, unwarranted criticism. First of all, your patient doesn’t have to apologize or acknowledge it. But be careful, your patient must understand that this criticism must be objectively unjustified. On the other hand, your patient must listen carefully to the elements of the criticism and then use them to demonstrate that the criticism is unjustified. Again, active listening is very important: “I understand that this work to be done is important,but, I have done my work as necessary.” 

If the interlocutor insists, your patient will have to go “broken record“: “But I already told you. I did my job.”  

Also, your patient can use the self-disclosure technique: “It saddens me that you think I haven’t done my job.” 

Or, use the technique of positive emotion disclosure: “It’s nice that you brought this up, but that’s not the problem because, really, I did my job.”

Even in the case of unwarranted criticism, make a negative inquiry: “I didn’t make that mistake, but I’d like to know if there’s something else behind it because I can see that you’ re insisting.”

And always make an offer of compromise: “I see that there is this problem, I did my job as planned, but on the other hand maybe I can help you. Let’s try to find a solution together.”



Vague criticism

For vague criticism, simply clarify the situation. For example, your patient might say to the other person, “What exactly are you criticizing me for in this situation?” Vague criticism is easy to resolve, it just needs to be clarified to determine whether it is ultimately justified or unjustified criticism. Once you have determined its type, all you need to do is adopt and apply Dr. Malbos’ techniques.



It is also important to tell your patient to be careful about manipulation. We often notice that social phobic patients are easily manipulated. For example, in a discussion about relocating, the speaker will play on the patient’s fear of losing his friendship if he does not help.

Your patient should learn to recognize manipulation and not play the other person’s game. Always express your emotions: “Yes, I am your friend, you are very important to me, and yes, we have known each other for a long time, but I really can’t help you move this Sunday. That said, if you leave some of the furniture on Monday, I can help you that day.”. Your patient needs to demonstrate clarity, self-disclosure, and a willingness to compromise.

Detecting manipulation by the other person (without always realizing it, by the way) is very important for your patient because it will allow him to respond appropriately


How can a social phobic defend himself against mockery or insults? 



The first and easiest thing to do is self-mockery. Your patient must take the insult of the person he is speaking to and exaggerate it. For example, if someone says to your patient, “You look like a clown,” your patient can reply, “Yes, that’s right, I am a clown. Yesterday I was still working in the circus and it pays well. In fact, I’m going to be very famous soon.” . The interlocutor then finds himself trapped. This is the simplest technique because you simply have to repeat what the other person says, whatever the subject.

Practice with your patient on examples such as “But your clothes are horrible and what’s with the purse”, “You’re a complete idiot!”, “You’re too weird, you’re an alien”…etc.


Incongruity is the second technique your patient can use when faced with mockery. It is about responding to a mockery by using a response that has nothing to do with the mockery and the situation. If the other person says to your patient “You look ridiculous with your clothes on”, then your patient can answer: “Yes, I was walking along the quays yesterday and I saw the seagulls. It is really nice to see seagulls on the landscape”. Here again the interlocutor will feel trapped.  This technique of “shifting” can sometimes be very practical. 


This technique is much harder to apply because it requires a certain quick mind to respond quickly to an insult. It requires some practice before it can be applied effectively.

This technique consists of finding a way to mock the other person in return. Let’s take the example of “you look ridiculous with your clothes”. The patient must analyze the other person’s clothing style. Once his style of dressing has been analyzed, let’s say he’s a bobo, your patient can, for example, respond, “Maybe I look ridiculous, but at least I don’t look like a bourgeois dressed as a bum like you.”

Reciprocity can be merged with self-mockery to facilitate its application. For example, if the interlocutor tells your patient “you’re dumb,” your patient can respond, “Of course I’m dumb, that’s why I’m in the same class as you.” 


We’ve just seen Dr. Malbos’ techniques together on how to receive criticism and how to respond to mockery. Find more videos on assertiveness and all of Dr. Malbos’ advice on




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