Do friends/family and our partners ever have a right to criticise, or interfere if not invited? Share your stories.
A FRIEND recently stood in open judgment of me. She criticised my parenting without invitation. She’d clearly felt the way she did for a long time, given her eloquence. She also chimed in that “other people” had agreed with her, which clearly buoyed her up enough to liberally share her views.
For a few days I stewed about it, then decided it was a topic worthy of public debate. To what extent are people entitled to intrude on our lives and pass judgment or offer righteous advice on the decisions we make? I mean if our children’s lives are not at stake and we’re not heroin addicts.
A group of my friends who came for lunch weighed in on the discussion. One woman, from a southern European family, says she has an interfering family who due to cultural factors feel it’s their right to give advice on everything she does, from her choice of friends, hairstyles and work hours to the school she sends her child to. The advice is full of veiled criticism. It’s uninvited and offensive to her. As a result she lives in another state.
One of the husbands offered this: “I think it’s OK to pass judgment if it’s asked for. I’m in a men’s group and we put our stories on the table each week for scrutiny. But the guys give their views with full permission and without criticism, because that’s the rules of the group.”
The other male at the table said he didn’t think it was a good idea to be surrounded by those who only ever praise you. “People are going to say whatever they say behind your back anyway,” he added. “At least it’s honest to step forward. Otherwise the judgment comes out in sarcasm or disapproving looks.”
Here’s my view on the etiquette of judgment. No one has any right to give their uninvited opinion on how someone else lives. It’s emotional trespass. I include disdainful stares and snide remarks in this category.
The word here is boundaries. We don’t walk into people’s homes uninvited. It’s not OK to intrude on people’s souls. If we need to tell a friend or family member something we feel is of service, why not say: “I have a view on this. Is it OK to tell you what I think?” If told to shut up, promptly do so.
I wonder if anyone else feels as strongly about this as I do? US relationships and parenting expert Dr John Gottman warns that criticism ruins all relationships. Do you agree?
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