Stop criticising

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?

The Australian





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100 Responses to Stop criticising

  1. Ruth Ostrow 1 July 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Thanks everyone for your contribution on this one. A fabulous 100 comments. Most of us feel the same way….Wait for your invitation before entering. Warm wishes Ruth

  2. Erudite Opinions 19 June 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Why is she not allowed opinions?

  3. rob 18 June 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    most people don’t think before they give “advice”
    perhaps if they thought about who will this help? or are they aware of the effect of their advice or comments have on people, they may chose the path where nothing said is often enough

  4. nelli 13 June 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    Hi Ruth & Readers,
    Since u asked…”thats a very brave “friend” u have cause when it comes to our children & any criticisms.. monsters dwell there! Confusious said “Only the very ignorant or the very wise stand their ground. When i am going to respond to others in a way they may not like, i like to ask “do u really want my opinion?” & when i receive advise that raises the shackles i reflect on who owns the problem? if its not mine, leave it, if it is, well then i’m grateful. Sadly criticisms are usually not gentle..please people be gentle with one another & with ourselves! When an untrue criticism sticks i practice changing that story to a true one. But sometimes i do need my ego rubbed with sandpaper…so Ruth the best advise..from the Buddha “take praise & criticism in the same breath” kind regards

  5. Muriel 11 June 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Ruth, how does your friend feel about you criticising her in a national newspaper?

  6. Rowena 3 June 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Dear Ruth,

    I loved your column about this. I haven’t had time to read all the comments and replies but am going to print them out and do it tonight after work.

    1. I think this kind of unasked-for critical behaviou is INCREDIBLY common in Australia these days for some reason. People seem to think they have the right to just comment, criticize and judge other people all the time. Maybe it’s a product of over ten years of “reality” TV shows where the judges, and audience, rate people on their performance, cooking, weight loss, whatever.
    Plus I think a general loss of manners and respect for personal boundaries in society these days.
    My parents generation – born pre-WW2 – had the mantra that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.

    2. I’ve got a sister who’s done this to me all my life, and to other people, but I’m one of the people that she’s seen the most of so I’ve copped it a lot.
    She does not do it so much to men generally or her brothers, and not to young people or children (fortunately) but it’s very destructive and it’s taken me several years of psychotherapy to realize that I can’t change the way she talks to me but I can somehow decrease it’s effect on me by not internalizing her criticisms –
    eg, if I have a new haircut and colour she will say I should have made it blonder/darker, longer/shorter. If I say a new TV show is good, she will automatically criticize it.
    I try to use reverse psychology with her but it’s against my nature to lie or dissemble so I just now don’t give my opinions about things to her straightaway as I know she will disagree, criticise and put down my opinion.

    3. You wrote a great article a year or so ago re “toxic” people. These are the same people as these unasked for critics and boundary invaders.

    It’s comforting to know other people are affected as I’ve been. Maybe we should form a club?
    But it’s sad that people behave like this in the first place as they cause a lot of destruction in their wake.
    I actually think that it’s a case of some people only feel good about themselves by making other people feel bad about themselves.

    Love your articles and thank you.

  7. Julia 31 May 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Thanks Ruth. I am happy to talk further and you can contact me directly at my email address if you wish. You may have questions that you feel I may not wish to discuss in an open forum just yet. General thoughts, however, I am happy to discuss on this site to share with your readers. I have always enjoyed your columns in the Australian, have read some of your books and believe I have a similar approach to life as you do. I feel confident that I can share my story with you. I completely shunned the media frenzy when the accident happened and this is the first time I have made any public comment about it. Kind regards, Julia

  8. Ruth Ostrow 31 May 2011 at 12:45 am #

    Julia I would like us to talk further on this. It is late now and I have to go to bed, nearly 1 am, but will respond to this story when I have some free time. Very brave of you to share this painful story with us. And I’m sure many of my readers will appreciate your honesty. Ruth

  9. Julia 30 May 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    We had moved to Sydney for my husband’s job and had been there about 18 months. Living in Paddington was starting to take its toll on our vivacious and free-spirited daughter (aged 9) who felt co0ped up in the terrace. So whenever we came back to our house near the beach in Coledale, north of Wollongong, she would fling open the front door at first opportunity and take off to explore, breath the fresh air and let her imagination run wild. It’s a safe, quiet area with a close knit community and she knew the place well. This is the childhood I wanted her to have as it was like mine. The freedom to explore, learn and test your own boundaries and develop a sense of independence. This wasn’t possible in Sydney and we were seriously toying with the idea of returning to Coledale full time to give her that opportunity again. However, one weekend, disaster struck when her imagination took her too far. My daughter and her friend ran up to the door and I told them they had another 15 minutes until dinner was ready. A neighbour saw them at the end of the street making flower potion. They must have then decided to quickly go up to the nearby train station – an out of bounds place, but too tempting as she and her friend had spotted a pink torch on the tracks through the gates. As they were avid “spies” and had a midnight feast planned for that night, the torch was too much too miss. My daughter, always the daring one, ran along the ramp and climbed down on to the tracks not realising the danger of the trains which are like quiet assassins. No longer are they red rattlers which you hear in the distance, but silver bullets which suddenly appear with 5 seconds warning. She was hit instantly. I am sure you can imagine the comments posted and bandied about from many who do not know us about our lack of responsibility and poor parenting. “How could I have let my daughter play on the tracks? Why on earth were they allowed to go up there? I should have known where they were at all times. They should not have been allowed out of my sight etc.” Those who do know us and share our view of giving our children freedom and a childhood like we had, have supported us. We do not want our children to sit for hours playing computer games or watching tv. I understand why the New York mother and author who made front page headlines when she let her 9 year old son ride the subway home was so surprised by the fierce criticism she received. I support her stance still today. I don’t regret my decision to let my daughter out to play. She would not have wanted anything else. In the short life she had, she was happy, free spirited with an imagination that could not be entertained by a computer game. She should not have been on the tracks, but her sense of adventure took her there and there was no way I was ever going to be able to control that and keep it locked up. Julia

  10. Ruth Ostrow 27 May 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    Thats too funny! or too terrible. Sounds like she could belong to my family:)

  11. Karen 27 May 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Does Jim Moon rent himself out?!
    Gave me a good laugh!

  12. Karen 27 May 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    How about being told by the celebrant at my partner’s dad’s funeral (after thanking her for such a lovely ceremony) that hopefully the next time she saw us would be for a wedding, and that he will make a lovely father…(we are not married and have no children)
    I was too stunned to reply!
    It was Hobart after all…

  13. Pettina 22 May 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    I’m with Colin here…. one of my favourite quotes is “everything you FEEL is your own creation”. Judgement is human and unavoidable but only you can open the gates to let it in for you to feel hurt. If you feel assured in your parenting then there would be no need to be anything but interested in another’s perspective and what may be triggering her strong feelings about it which may ultimately assist her. What about your parenting is activating such strong emotion in her… I think this is how we all learn and grow by human interaction, good, bad and ugly.

  14. maureen bennett 22 May 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    I read with interest re unwanted advice, here is a curly one. My grandaughter who is 16 has been self harming and threatening suicide. Having watched her being raised over the years I can see why this is happening and I am not alone in this opinion as the rest of the family are aware of the same thing. To try and give unwanted advice has always been a no no, one wonders do you stay unconcerned and hope that she does not carry out her threat of suicide or self harm so that death occurs, and then wish some-one had offered unwanted advice, as you know death is very permanent. Your article set me off wondering, I do not want this printed.

  15. Pascale 21 May 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    Thankyou for unveiling , those ‘well meaning’ passive-aggressive type friends and family, who yes ,’righteously’ declare their so called care and love for one by ‘trespassing’ into our lives.
    This article of yours also links back to one I previously read, regarding clearing out the ‘dead wood’ of relationships was important to moving ahead in our lives with peace.
    My husband and I have, in short , been struggling with the whole infertility journey bravely and as positively as any couple can faced with such insurmountable grief. We have never asked anyone in our respective lives to understand or empathise ( a rare gift in human beings) with our plight, just to allow us the space and time to slowly heal and try to restructure our lives accordly, this has not been respected alas……we have been critised for not ‘getting on with it’ and apparently ‘not living life to the fullest’ and being ‘glass half empty’ individuals ( interestingly mainly from ones who have had their parenting dreams fullfilled !!!! )…..result ? estrangement, damaged relationships never to be the same again ( not a bad thing, were they good to start with ???? at least now they are honest….) and yes, moved far away to have finally some peace and clarity. Not a bad outcome really, just sad and disappointing……..thankyou again P.

  16. Linda 20 May 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Just read the comment by Jim Moon. My absolute favourite. My Air Force husband liked it too.

  17. susan cross 20 May 2011 at 10:24 am #

    How, I’ve stewed about this question! Being at the stage in life where I have to cover the grey hair, I thought I had learnt most lessons. However, this particular topic causes much angst. Recently, a close friend while going through a macerating divorce spent hours on the phone asking advice or ‘venting’. Now, she is in a great relationship but I saw her making ALL the same mistakes, the mistakes she vowed she wouldn’t make, yet again. Do I as a friend talk to her about it? Well, I penned (electronically!) a very gentle letter, saying I was concerned for her. She phoned to say she wasn’t happy with the email, but understood that it came from love for her. However, the truth is, I’ve FINALLY learnt the lesson. Never EVER EVER give advice unless you are point blank asked for it. Even if you feel you are ‘not being a good friend’ in keeping quiet It’s a shame but true. I certainly don’t think one should ‘comment’ on other peoples children, pets, spouses, family and their taste in art. Just keep it to yourself or talk to the flowers!

  18. Ruth Ostrow 19 May 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    Lovely to hear from you and such wise words Norman.

  19. Dr Norman SHUM 19 May 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    Haven’t read all the comments above and somebody may have already said it…but there’s that old adage…the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the road is packed with fools.

    Your old aikido friend, still learning the art of falling down, with honour.

  20. Jim Moon 19 May 2011 at 4:36 pm #


    Hey Ruth,
    Reading between the lines of last week’s column, the critics have got you rattled, so…
    As an avid reader of your column (and despiser of critics) you may wish to try this (part of my Naval training) the next time that a critic tries to rain on your parade:
    Look them right in the eye, and in a firm but gentle voice, say “why don’t you F off!” (using the whole F-word of course).
    This, as a surprise defence tactic, puts you well and truly back in charge.
    Critics are normally insecure, non-achivers, so they don’t know what to do next.
    Best of all, they’ll never pick you again.
    I get rid of all my critics using similar tactics and life without critics is relaxing and far less complicated.

    My favourite description of a critic (metaphorically speaking) is “A person without legs who tells others how they should run”. That says it all…

  21. Ruth Ostrow 19 May 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Thank you Emma, very flattered to have you take the time to explain this so succinctly. I do hope spelled that correctly. We journalists are being caught out on our blogsites for our lack of spell check. But no one better criticise me!! 🙂

  22. Emma 19 May 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Dear Ruth,
    Firstly, I look forward to your articles every week, they are always interesting and relevant. As a Psychologist, however, I would just like to make a sight clarification about the statement you made about Dr John Gottman warning that criticism ruins relationships. I think you mentioned this in a rather broad way whereas, he discusses it in the context of many other factors and not in isolation. I do agree with many of the comments above about unwanted criticism. But perhaps we need to distinguish between criticism and well-meant advice. Yes, many people do step over the mark, however, increasingly, I find that people of all ages in modern society are unable to accept or even consider any advice. We can take on or listen to whatever we choose, but without some other perspectives followed by a little introspection and self-analysis how are we ever meant to grow, develop and evolve as individuals? Instead people have become so sensitive that they close their ears at anything. The current generation is showing that they are unable to take advice and merely wave their hand to it, thus resulting in many individuals with a disproportionate view of themselves and their capabilities. I am a strong advocate for self-confidence and self-esteem, however if it does not match with reality we are only setting these people up for failure and this will lead to depression, anxiety and many other mental health issues. Again, I do think that some people offer some very unwanted, personal and quite vicious advice which I do not support. Also, linking with another recent article of yours about the age of having children and how our mothers raised children with the support of the whole community, isn’t receiving advice from others part of that community support that we are wanting? An interesting article and some interesting perspectives.

  23. Ruth Ostrow 19 May 2011 at 1:19 am #

    Yes I do agree with you Kate, it can’t be taken any other way especially when forced down one’s throat. Thanks all of you for writing tonight, I appreciate your views, and again apologies I wasn’t on-line to moderate. I was at a fund raising function for the animal rights group Voiceless which was very inspiring. G’night.

  24. Linda 18 May 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    Dear Ruth
    Your comment struck a timely chord. I understood exactly how you must have felt. A long time friend and I met for coffee recently to catch up before my husband and I leave for a 1 year posting to the USA. She proceeded to make critical uninvited judgements about my daughter, her travel plans to visit us, her boyfriends intentions and my mother planning to travel solo when she visit’s us. I kept my cool but couldnt wait to leave. I felt I had been assaulted with one criticism after another. I too was seething and hurt. I have never passed judgement on her family and am quite certain she would not tolerate it. It’s sad but I won’t be making time to catch up again. There is just no pleasure in it. Thanks for raising the issue in your article Ruth.

  25. Name (requireGeraldine Thomson 18 May 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    hi Ruth
    I agree entirely with you that unasked for advice is offensive. We wonder why it is proffered in the first place! Is it just through habit and the belief that it is ok and we are being precious for being offended as is usually the case in families? Or is it an attack of some sort as it might be in the case of ‘friends’. If so, what really underlies the criticism? Is it really about us or, as I suspect, something about themselves? How arrogant is it to suppose one has the right to sit in judgement on others! Do people who do this believe they hold some position of superiority that commissions them to deliver advice and criticism? How would they feel on the receiving end? Not happy, I imagine!
    If someone is affected by the behaviour of others -e.g. someone’s kid is really badly behaved or they keep interrupting you or they let you down over and over again – they need to learn how to deal with it. I have learned myself through relationship counselling that when someone is upsetting me (and we do have the right to tell someone when we are affected by them) to address the issue using ‘I’ statements; don’t accuse and dont criticise. For example, and this comes from my own personal experience, my friend is very self-centred and likes to talk about herself to the exclusion of others lots of the time. I considered dumping her but didn’t want to do that because she has other qualities I value. I stopped her one day when I felt annoyed and told her that I had to speak to her because I was upset – I said she might not like what I had to say but because we had been friends for so long I didn’t want to be feeling bad about her and would rather talk about it than resent her behind her back. I said I accepted it if she chose not to be my friend any more even though that would be awful for me but I could no longer go on feeling the resentment I felt. I then told her how I felt and that I too was important and had things to say and that I did not feel we stood on equal footing as friends. I know she wasn’t overly happy about what I told her but she accepted it and since then out friendship has actually deepened and she doesn’t hog the platform all the time! On another occasion a friend of mine let me down at the last minute and I was furious (it was an important event) and she does this too often. My counsellor suggested I say ‘ I was looking forward to seeing you and was very disappointed I didn’t get to enjoy your company that night’ and leave it at that. I did so and my friend then broke down and revealed that it was her husband who made her life very difficult (something we had long suspected anyway)
    So, while we don’t have the right to barge in and overstep boundaries we all have the right to feel comfortable in our surroundings. It is up to you to know where your friend stands here – can you look dispassionately at the situation? Do your parenting habits infringe on others in the room or was she just making a moral judgement? Was her attitude offensive or was she trying to sort something out for the sake of your friendship? I really don’t like that she included “others’ (setting up a triangle to support her – not good!). If others have a problem it’s up to them to bring the matter up.
    We have no right to invade the boundaries of others but we do have the right to protect our boundaries too – the secret is in interacting with respect and courtesy when dealing with difficult issues. If your friend spoke gently and with concern for how your parenting style affected her then she probably wasn’t being nasty, just a bit interfering. However, you have every right to say, well, I understand that you are free to feel …. but this is how I feel …….
    Overall, however, I think commenting on how one brings up their children is a very dangerous thing to do if you want to keep your friends!!!

  26. Kate Yates 18 May 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    Unsolicited advice is usually experienced as criticism.

  27. Cinta 18 May 2011 at 11:02 am #

    I feel for your situation. You would need support and understanding from your friends for how hard it is sometimes, not unwanted criticism.

    warning – advice following, don’t read on if not wanted…..In your initial situation I wonder if showing to your friend how her critique made you feel, deep down, would bring more closeness when she sees the effect she’s had on you? Then she may open up about whats going on for her in relation to critiquing your parenting. Its also possible that she has some wisdom for you and vica versa.

    my best wishes for you and your lucky children

  28. Ruth Ostrow 17 May 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Yes that’s the double edge sword of love, so beautifully put Helen. Indifference can be the true sign of criticism. But then again, you sound like you really believe your brother loves you, and that isn’t really criticism its more that he is absorbed with you which makes you feel acknowledged. I think everything has to do with the intentions of the person doing the criticising, and we do know when we are being loved or conversely when we are being harshly put in our places.

  29. Helen 17 May 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    I have an older brother who loves me so much that he can’t stop criticising either my business, my relationships, my name it. He waits for me to come over because he’s been up for nights, worrying about some aspect of my life that only he knows the answer to. No-one spends so much time thinking about my life than he has, even more than I do, and always it’s about what I have been doing wrong and how he can help me make whatever it is better. If only he didn’t love me quite so much! In complete contrast, my other brother never calls me, drops over or gives me a second of his time. Criticism can be an expression of love, as you know. And silence can be an expression of not caring much at all.

  30. Ruth Ostrow 17 May 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    Good words, balance is always the key- balance and good intentions.

  31. Ruth Ostrow 17 May 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Thanks Charles, I do remember you and I had exactly that talk with a therapist today. She told me that it was very difficult to hold one’s tongue but that people were never ready to hear what they weren’t ready to hear so it was often offensive and a waste of time to boot. Thanks for writing, and please keep contributing, I value intelligent contributions.

  32. susan 17 May 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Dear Ruth

    Your article in The Weekend Australian Magazine asking if anyone feels as strongly as you do (i do) with regards to “Want some advice?” certainly made me want to share my thoughts …. it is not right for people to judge and criticize at all. No one is perfect and sometimes there are many reasons/sides to what is going on in someone’s life. Criticizing only makes things worse. It is not helpful. If you are sincere & have pure intent you offer your love and understanding … you try to help, guide and protect. This might be just to listen & not offer any advice … let them empty their cup & empower them to work out the best solution. Especially, our children – if they live with criticism – they learn to condemn. Being a mother is the most difficult job in the world – and a mother is the first teacher of her children. You need all the encouragement & support.
    People do talk behind our backs – (I feel it) – and I have learnt that it is none of my business what other people think of me and if it is negative I would rather them to keep it to themselves. However, this has taken me many, many years to master because we are humans and we like to socialize, fit-in and feel that our life is of value.
    God has asked us to try very hard to treat people the way we like to be treated – with respect and dignity. Our mental peace and happiness depends and needs this. If we know we have done nothing wrong, our self-respect & confidence helps us stop letting the unkind comments from people hurt us. Their critical words are not welcome and make you feel worse (as they did – you said you “stewed” for a few days.) They break our spirit emotionally & mentally.
    I believe we learn from each difficult test and we can use our tests to make us stronger.
    We all make mistakes – this is how we learn. No one is perfect. To self-righteously put someone down is not respectful. It makes people miserable and it does ruin relationships and causes more pain and suffering … how can this possibly be ‘someone’s right?’
    I try to turn every negative into a positive & I believe your ‘friend’ is unaware or mentally unconscious that her judgment (and “other people”) and her eloquent, liberal views of your parental skills might hurt you.
    Forgive her … and do not dwell on her unkindness – use this experience to teach your children the power of living a life of unity & compassion.
    We should not look at others faults … we should only look at our own.
    Imagine if everyone would do this – our world would not be in so much chaos … we need to focus on living a good moral & spiritual life and not use our ‘ego’s’ to invalidate our friends and loved ones. No one has this right.
    To back-bite and hurt another’s soul /spirit is cruel. We must not hurt or humiliate anyone.

    “Where there is love nothing is too much trouble and there always is time.”

  33. Colin Brown 17 May 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    It’s always a balance. If a friend cares enough to approach you on such an obviously difficult subject then I recommend that you hear that friend out. It would be courteous to discuss once at least and you might come away with some new insight. You might also have to agree to disagree – this a healthy outcome too, wouldn’t you agree? Your anger and other negative emotions is really your issue. I think that it’s hard to maintain a relationship with someone who hides behind anger rather than openly dealing with issues as they arise.

  34. Charles Kovess 17 May 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    Hi Ruth
    YOu and I have both met and spoken at Mind Body Spirit in the past.
    I’ve been a full time speaker for 18 years, following my 20 year legal career.
    I agree that criticism ruins relationships. I am minded to share with you the wisdom of Buckminster Fuller, who was awarded 47 Honorary Doctorates and died in 1983. I share his wisdom with my audiences. His view was to never give unsolicited advice/suggestions/criticisms. As a professional adviser, I agree!
    Sometimes, love dictates that we take a step, and my former partner, a psychiatrist, opined that avoiding comment to a loved one can sometimes be a wimp’s act, to avoid the risk of conflict or rejection.
    I reconcile this in the similar way to what you wrote in your article: ‘is it ok to make a suggestion?’, and if the answer is no, then I shut up!
    Love your work
    And your honesty and vulnerability
    Cheers, with passion
    Charles Kovess
    Australasia’s Passion Provocateur

  35. Ruth Ostrow 17 May 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Yes but Jane it is very different me declaring broad opinions on controversial topics as a commentator to inspire public debate, to me coming up to you personally and questioning the school you are sending your child to, or pulling some sort of judgemental face when you tell me that you’re getting your kids teeth braces. (the face being, God what a waste of money) These sorts of criticisms open or veiled get people angry and wanting to say: Mind Your Own Business! True???

  36. jane 17 May 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Whilst I agree with the sentiment of this piece I find it laughable that Ruth objects to people who “pass judgement or offer righteous advice on the decisions we make”? She does it every week when taking the moral high ground in her column!

  37. Colin Brown 17 May 2011 at 8:31 am #

    Hmmm… There is a difference between discussing, criticizing and badgering. We all think that what we feel and think is real, is ‘right’ but how does one know? Discussing with compassionate others, friends certainly helps. Reading is really chatting with someone who’s taken the time to organize their thoughts and research (though there’s a lot of rubbish been written down). Of course one does have to be receptive to new ideas and willing to reflect on one’s own behavior. If I might quote Australian Dr Julian Short, ‘Always act with kindness and dignity’. Seems to me to be good advice and those who feel compelled to ‘criticize’ and those feeling a little touchy about being criticized might achieve better outcome.

  38. Ruth Ostrow 16 May 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    Yes agreed. But your heart is in the right place, and that is ALL the matters. You are coming from love not resentment jealousy or self righteousness rather real friendship.

  39. Ruth Ostrow 16 May 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Think it all depends on the tone of voice, and the intention behind the criticism. You are correct in saying that “constructive” is the important word here.

  40. Ruth Ostrow 16 May 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    A big sorry to all of you because I’ve neglected my duties as moderator and not accepted your posts till this late hour. Back now. Thanks Anne and Tom and even Karlos (who isn’t at all happy with me), Megan, Nicola, Nina and Colin, hope I haven’t forgotten any one who I kept waiting these last hours! Please keep posting, I am finding your comments so interesting and challenging.

  41. Ruth Ostrow 16 May 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Hi Sue, I think you will see that I am too angry in that column to have made it up 🙂 I wished after it was published that I didn’t sound so emotional about it all. But to answer your question it is comprised of pure raw emotion, and a lack of understanding at why people even bother trying to run other people’s lives when their own are not so perfect. Thanks for asking.

  42. Ruth Ostrow 16 May 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    Frank you are an anti-Semite. I am happy to have a laugh with my readers even the one’s who don’t like what I have to say but your latest post which I have withheld is blatantly racist and any form of bigotry is vile and unacceptable. My readers would be disgusted if I posted it. Whether they agree with me or not they are a fair minded intelligent bunch of people, and I doubt any one of them would condone your anti Semitic comments thrown at me because I am a Jew. Or perhaps I should send your post straight to the anti-Defamation league?

  43. Wally 16 May 2011 at 8:34 pm #


    We’re all in receipt of advice/feedback/criticism/backstabbing etc. It provides us with a tool to self reflect and understand ourselves better in handling these awkward situations. Could the deliverers also benefit from this by their own self reflection?

  44. Ann Pratt 16 May 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Dear Ruth, I have never responded to a column before, but was compelled to do so after reading “Want some advice”. You use the word “friend”? Has this friend had a child or children of her own? And what about her parenting skills? If she feels so confident about dispencing advice, maybe she should write a parenting book to all those who obviously lack the necessary skills. Parenting is such a unique and personal thing, everyone is different. My opinion is that if it works for you and your child, then it is right. Obviously, if there is any danger to the child, both physically and psychologically, then common sense prevailes. Beyond that, I have two quotes: “If I wanted your opinion I would have asked for it” and my favourite, I would advise my friend “to give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticise others”.

  45. Frank 16 May 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    Did you actually read what I wrote? If so, there was little comprehension. Not all that surprising because you prefer the “sound of your own voice”…. (Ruth writes: The rest of this post was edited due to racist references; please see my response below)

  46. Tom 16 May 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    I’m on Bill’s #27 side here to a point, as I too am a culprit….Yes, I would be the first to assert that one should never criticise another’s parenting, but what about between parents? I can’t see why both parents shouldn’t be able to constructively criticise each other, because the bottom line is it’s all about the kids, and if upsetting someone means better care for the children then I’m all for it.

  47. Karlos 16 May 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Sorry Ruth, but if you expect me or anyone else to kiss you where the rocket should go as a prerequisite to having you do what is right, then you are sadly mistaken.
    The fact you see my point as valid and makes your wish for me to couch you in certain ways invalid.
    Whether you are willing to look at yourself, learn and change is up to you whether I am eloquent enough to meet your superficial standards or not. Laughing out loud might make you feel better or superior for a moment or two, but the validity of what I said still stands.

  48. sue 16 May 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Ruth I have not read your column before and I have to ask if this really happened to you or do you make it up to get a reaction and comments? I am not a synical person at all it is just a thought! Makes the job interesting if you do!

  49. Nicola 16 May 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    Ruth,wow, great topic.My seeming perfect mother and sister continually express criticism of my parenting, since my ex husband of 24 yrs left after finding out he was having an adulterous relationship( 7 years ago).They have never been around me or in my house hold for more than half an hour once or twice a year but apparently think a single grieving parent of grieving teenagers should grieve a certain way and act accordingly. Also similiar , recently after meeting a lovely man and having a great relationship for 2 yrs,one of his co-work friends , after meeting me for 4 hrs decided to tell him she didn’t think I made his sparkles sparkle.I am so angry at her interference, as I was a minority that day in a group of work people that I wasn’t part of and she judged me and result , relationship now over.

  50. Nina Long 16 May 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I agree with Colin. To quote the magical Burt Bacharach “That’s what friends are for..”
    I have a friend who is obese and drinks to excess every night of the week. She has become very reclusive and I am very worried for her mental and physical health. I feel that I should be entitled to broach the subject with her and offer my support and help in the best way I know how. I should like to think she would appreciate, if not immediately, that I come to her in love and compassion.
    Having said all this, I haven’t yet offered my opinion to my old friend. I don’t want to hurt her, I don’t want to seem patronizing.
    I need to get the language right, I need to be sure I’m not too confrontational. But I do think I really need to walk into her home uninvited and offer my advice and friendship.

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