Why People Criticize Others and the Downsides

By Somali K Chakrabarti

‘The purpose of opposition is to oppose everything and propose nothing’,  tweeted Dr Debroy.

Indeed, I thought, how easy it is to notice the frailties, foibles, and follies of others while ignoring those of your own!

We all indulge in criticizing others sometime or the other. It comes almost as easily as breathing to most of us. There have been times when I have felt the urge to criticize surging in my heart and given a piece of mind to someone or expressed my displeasure of a person behind his back.

An odd question popped up in my mind.

Why do we like to criticize others?

I tossed this question to my buddies, sought their views, organized my thoughts around it, and jotted them down. Here is what it shaped up like.

It is a matter of fact that to be critical of others is built into the human nature. All human beings are prone to form their judgment and opinion about what is ‘desirable’ or ‘undesirable’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘proper’ or ‘improper’ behavior. Any action of others’ that does not match the expectations, values or judgment of another becomes a potent subject for criticism.

Someone rightly said

Criticism is the disapproval of people not for having faults, but for having faults different from your own.



At times, we criticize with the intent to guide a person to improve and offer constructive criticism. Parents often reprimand their children with best intentions in their mind.

Sometimes, people criticize others behind their back to express their disappointments or dissatisfaction, when they don’t have the authority to speak up or when they realize that speaking out can lead to trouble.

Some even think of it as a learning process to get different perspectives and opinion on an issue and to restate what they would not like to do if they were in the other person’s position.

No one so thoroughly appreciates the value of constructive criticism as the one who’s giving it.  ~Hal Chadwick

For some people it is a way to demonstrate their forthrightness by criticizing others. People who dislike being politically correct, often tend to disapprove of others as soon as they perceive their actions as wrong.

Criticism is, at times necessary to mobilize mass opinion. Inflammatory or insensitive statements made by political leaders or action taken by them draw flak and are often attract severe criticism. This is required to garner public support to oppose their actions that could have a bearing on the citizens or to prevent atrocities or wrong doings.

By being selective in our choice of what we want to oppose, we can meaningfully convey to others our ideology and what we stand for.

Parodies and caricatures are the most penetrating of criticisms.  ~ Aldous Huxley

However, some people indulge a lot more in fault finding and complaining than others.

There are those who lash out at others under every pretext, and have the habit of nagging constantly, criticizing and holding others responsible for all the problems in their life. Some people may even do it for vindictive reasons to vilify a person. It is a way to vent their frustrations on others or to deal with their own insecurities by trying to show that they are wiser, better or superior than the object of their criticism.

The compulsive critic will tell a laborer how to properly dig a hole, and shiver at the thought of being unable to criticize the men who dig his grave.

Downsides of being overly critical

Whatever be the reason for criticizing others, it may have its own repercussions.  As such, it helps to be consciously aware of the possible outcome of being overly critical.

Insensitive criticism may trigger undesirable reaction

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The same applies to criticism too. Unless done sensitively, a sharp criticism can trigger off an equally sharp or maybe sharper reaction. If you go overboard in making derogatory statements or shaming someone in a manner that causes loss of face for a person, the person may be very demoralized and can act in unusual ways. Similarly when you continuously scold someone, they in time become accustomed to it and despise your reproof.

Constructive criticism may not be welcome

Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger. ~ Franklin P.Jones

Even when you have the best of intentions, people may not be receptive to your constructive or well intention-ed criticism. Some may turn a deaf year to your suggestion and some may even feel that you are criticizing them as you despise them.  You can do only as much to offer them concrete suggestion for improvement and leave it to them to accept or reject your suggestion.

Being overly critical breeds negativity in thoughts

The pleasure of criticizing takes away from us the pleasure of being moved by some very fine things. ~ Jean de la Bruyere

Indulging too much in criticizing others or discussing their negative traits breed negativity in thoughts and is certainly is not a constructive activity. Making it a habit to find faults consistently may aggravate the feeling of having been wronged and lead to a victim mentality. Dwelling in such thoughts for long will disturb the harmony in your life and keep you away from appreciating the positives in life.

Besides, if there is a difference between what you preach and what you practice, your credibility is at stake.

By thinking about the positive things that life has to offer, one can check the tendency to complain and criticize. The old adage of ‘Forgive’ and ‘Forget’ is indeed a good advice to heed to. To build tolerance for differences in opinion, to refrain from hasty, silly, or severe expressions or to be communicative without being critical is a skill worth developing.

If instead of finding faults with others, we pay more attention in improving and refining ourselves, we will have little time to criticize others. What do you think? ..

It is easier to be critical than to be correct. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Let the refining and improving of your life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others.  ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr

This post is dedicated to my buddies for sharing their views on the matter.

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3 thoughts on “Why People Criticize Others and the Downsides

  1. Does criticism also originate from the fact that it gets you noticed quickly ? Imagine a scenario I write “Great article”and another comment with a critic” you missed this bla bla point” which case do you think people are likely to read The Article in first place? I think it will be case no 2. We generate 60-70% negative thoughts on average and does that prompt us to fish more negatives?


  2. Yes its true that -ve reactions catch more attention than positive statements. In fact research shows that -ve headlines are more clickable than positive headlines. The ease of grabbing attention could be an incentive for people to criticize others. However, people, when they spread negativity, get trapped in a negative mindset. The kind of attitude we want to develop and live with, it ultimately our choice.


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