My Answer to the Question, Are People Who Cry When Criticized Immature?
Recently, I wrote a post titled, “Responding to Criticism by Crying: Is it a Sign of Immaturity?” In that post I explained that I had, in earlier posts, put forth a model of how to respond maturely to criticism. To help readers to rate their own skill level, and that of others, I had outlined five levels of maturity. Level 1 was viewed as the most immature level, level 2 as a little more mature, and so on. Level 1 had been described as follows:
1. This level requires displaying one or more of the following:
- Weeps or sobs with tears or pouts
- Physically attacks the criticizer
- Damages property
As you can see from this description of level 1, I had come to believe that weeping or sobbing with tears was best to view as one of the most immature responses. I then explained several reasons why I had come to believe that, but I won’t repeat them here. I then wrote that since I came up with the five levels of maturity, I had met some individuals who seem rather remarkably mature to me in many ways, and yet they had revealed to me that they find themselves crying quite often when they are criticized. They say that they are very sensitive individuals, that they don’t hurt anyone or anything when they go through this experience, and that I should consider removing crying from the description of the lowest level. As I thought about this, I thought it would help me if I propose a change to my readers, ask for feedback, and only then make my decision whether or not to make the change. I ended that post as follows:
Weeping, sobbing and crying will only be viewed as the lowest level of maturity if the person responding to criticism does nothing else but that, or if he or she does that along with the other lowest level responses such as physically attacking the criticizer or damaging property. If, after crying, he or she then begins to display responses consistent with level 4 or 5, crying will no longer be viewed as a sign of immaturity.
Although I could make this change after I get some feedback, I hasten to point out that it won’t change the fact that many people will still consider crying in the face of criticism as a sign of immaturity. Some will lose respect for those who cry.
Perhaps these sensitive individuals can help to reduce the lack of respect that they might encounter. They can explain that their sensitivity helps them to more deeply consider the criticism. Moreover, they might suggest that for people who feel uncomfortable around someone crying, they can provide the criticism at first by email, snail mail or voice mail. This will allow the sensitive person time to process the criticism. Then, a follow-up meeting to further process the criticism can be arranged.
I hope to hear from readers on this.
After I published this, I received more feedback on this post than anything I had previously written. It came mostly from several Facebook groups I belong to, but also from a couple of professional organizations as well. Today I’d like to share with you several of these comments, and then provide my new description of level 1.
The first three comments came from psychologists.
I have read your material, and tend to agree w/ you. It appears to me to qualify for a level 1 response, as it reflects a lack of (age appropriate ) skill development (if it is not a reflection of serious cognitive inefficiency in general). It does invite further negative input from the criticizer and others. It increases the victims sense of vulnerability. There are many other alternatives which could be modeled or practiced — even if they are not available for immediate accessing by the victim. In this sense, I agree with Dr. Phil (who I many times don’t agree) “Fake it till you make it”
Dr. Charles Morrissey school psychologist and lic.clinical psychologist NY
Your query is very intriguing to me. As a psychodynamic therapist, I have found that crying can occur when a criticism becomes associated with an old psychological wound that has yet to be fully processed (e.g., perhaps the criticism sounds like something painful someone heard from his/her mother repeatedly, but they did not recognize this past hurt until it was activated by the current criticism). I hope this example makes sense. I like your revision and think it takes into account such a consideration. I hope that helps!
Ashley Curiel, Psy.D.
The rest of the comments came from members of Facebook groups that I belong to.
|Phoebe Âû Perlman-Miller|
Crying can only mean to show your sensitvity for a certain moment or thing!
IMO, crying releases all the pent up anguish that is toxic, it is a way to cleanse. On the other hand, it can also be an overwhelming emotion that can only be expressed through the release of the flow of tears….words just can’t express some of the emotions we feel…good or bad!!!
Sometimes, criticism can remind someone of a bad place in their Life, re-open a wound that never was quite healed..I agree with no right or wrong here.
Crying is natural and very human. If you feel that you want to cry as a response, then cry! Your feelings are your feelings. There’s no right or wrong feelings.
And so, those are some of the many thoughtful responses that I received. After giving them a great deal of thought, I have now decided that in future posts, when I describe the five levels of maturity, I’ll word the first level as follows: 1. This level requires displaying one or more of the following:
- Weeps or sobs with tears or pouts and then does nothing else to address the criticism. (Some mature people are very sensitive and do cry on occasion when criticized. If they cry and also address the criticism in a manner that is consistent with level 4 or 5, crying is not viewed as a sign of immaturity.)
- Physically attacks the criticizer
- Damages property
Although this is my plan for the future, I am always open to hearing additional comments and suggestions for improving the wording of all of the five levels of maturity. My Best, Jeff
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.