My 5 helpful ways to deal with opinionated people

When you go against the norm or conventional way of thinking, it’s inevitable, that you’ll encounter, not one but probably numerous opinionated people.  Most of the time very close to home, like friends, family, your partner, your doctor and best of all the in-laws. And this is completely exemplified as soon as you raise your ‘own’ kids. Whether it’s because you’re breastfeeding ‘exclusively’ past a few months, you’re not giving your kids ice cream because you suspect a dairy allergy, or gosh forbid you want to buy an organic carrot.  Whatever it is, you can be sure an opinion is coming your way.

No matter the topic of conversation, you get their two cents worth and suddenly they become the expert. With absolute precision they have an uncanny ability to scrutinize and zoom into every little problem there is. Following which, they fixate on these issues and offer unwanted opinions on them. If that’s not enough, they top it off with their projection of all the possible bad things that can happen. Despite your good intentions, your confidence is shot and you’re p*ssed off. Sound familiar?

Since raising two boys that don’t eat dairy, gluten and refined sugar I’ve had my fair share experiencing opinions, criticism, advice and judgment from ‘well-intentioned’ people. I suspect that will never change, but how I respond has and here’s what I do, when I’m put to the test (most of the time)!

My 5 helpful ways to deal with opinionated (and critical) people

Don’t take it personally

Most of the time, their opinions and criticisms reflect more about themselves than about you.  They react this way because of their own beliefs and understanding about life.  You may think the critical person is all out to get you, but it’s more likely they react the same way to everyone else too.  And what they go on about is the same. If they’re married just take a look at their partner and you’ll see!  Same comments…same opinions…same old hang-ups.  So remember its not you. It’s them.  How liberating!

Seek to understand rather than being understood

Sometimes opinionated people are often misunderstood.  They may be genuinely concerned about something and offer an opinion in a rather tactless way, creating a massive misunderstanding.  We then judge them as that’s just who they are and respond accordingly always being on the defense.

Often we’re occupied with “how” someone talks to us (the words and the tone), rather than “what” was being said (the message).  Critical people can come across harsh, but its up to us if we choose to attach negativity to their words.  They may also lack tact, but that’s because they can simply be unaware of how they’re coming across.

There’s often a good chance that we take their comments negatively when they don’t mean to be negative at all.  So filter the words and get down to really understanding the message.

Appreciate opinions as a source of honest feedback

Wouldn’t you rather someone be upfront, blunt and direct with you to your face, than with someone who’s seemingly nice when you’re around, but behind your back it’s a different story completely?  Take it as a compliment that they care.  They just have an unlikeable way of doing it.

I also believe it shows the degree of closeness in your relationship.  So in many ways when I get an uninvited opinion or criticism upfront, I see it as a compliment. They care and are comfortable enough to say so and so I have more respect for that relationship.  Those that criticize and judge only behind my back…not so much!

Shift the focus on you

When we feel unjust by someone we spend so much time fuming about that person, what they said, how they behaved, and like a movie director we’ll add our drama to it.  We give these people far too much credit. Often they’re not that clever or conniving, but because we have internalized it for ages in our heads our perception of the situation gets completely distorted.

Now imagine using all that time and energy to work out what it is that’s actually bothering you.  Why do you feel uncomfortable or unhappy with a certain opinion or comment.  Just as their opinions reflects something about them, our discomfort reflects what’s going on inside of us too. Keep asking yourself and drilling down to get to the root cause. Ask yourself – why do I feel uncomfortable with his/her comment?  Why is it making me so mad? It could be a belief or a reminder of a similar situation from the past.   The final answer should be one that gives you closure, making you in charge of the situation, without expecting anyone else to change.  It’s an amazing opportunity for self-growth, awareness and conscious living.

Kill them with kindness

This is a really tough one and very hard to put into practice.  After all how can you be kind to someone who is causing you so much anguish and misery?  The last thing they deserve is your kindness…or is it?  It’s often said that “the people who are the hardest to love are the ones who need it most.”

the-skinny-on-fatsI think that’s so powerful.  Why are they so critical, so quick to judge? Why is it so hard for them to be positive, supportive and encouraging? Why are they so tight with their emotions?  It’s because they lack it themselves.  They can’t offer something they don’t have.  And if they’re so critical of others, chances are they are exactly the same to themselves or worse.  They don’t even give themselves the love they need. Be generous with your emotions, give them a compliment, ask how they are, invite them for a coffee, help them out.  Get to know them personally.  Don’t be quick to get discouraged.  They may not react they way you want or at all.  They may even react adversely at first, but that’s because they’re caught off guard by your behaviour and chances are they’ve rarely been treated is such a proactive way.  Just carry on with your kindness, and soon enough you’ll see a glimmer of hope and they’ll react positively…eventually. While the effects may just be a small improvement in your eyes, in their world it’s a huge shift.  With time and effort your once nemisis may turn out to be your biggest ally and cheerleader.

Whatever you do, DON’T ask for opinions if you can’t take it, especially from someone you know is likely to be critical.  Look for the validation and acceptance somewhere else.

And if all else fails avoid and ignore! Instead of retaliating in anger, give a simple 1-2 liner response, one that acknowledges receipt of the opinion but doesn’t engage further in discussion.  Often this will encourage a reaction or a response, but just as critical people need to take responsibility for their comments we have to take responsibility for our response.  Remember you can’t change anyone, but we can change how we act and respond to them.  We always have the choice.

I must admit by practicing some of these strategies I’ve gone from feeling offended, angry and hurt by peoples opinions to feeling empowered, confident and fulfilled.  Not always of course…I am human after all.  But I love being proactive and surprising people.  Best of all I love what I’m teaching my kids. I’m teaching them how to be resilient, in charge and to have complete confidence and faith in themselves.

Did you find this helpful?  Do you have any other strategies or insights that work? Or any funny stories?  I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to my eNewsletter for more tips, advice and nourishing recipes.

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  1. Sharon Stander on March 30, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Brilliant article – how to deal with opinionated people

    • Sharon Selby on September 3, 2021 at 10:43 am

      Thank you! Appreciate the feedback.
      Sharon xx

  2. Marian on May 2, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Very useful information . To my query . In relation to opinionated people . And Illini them with kindness . It’s amazing how it works .. with someone who you know dosent like you . Or is envious of you . But I will give it a go . I will find it hard with certain people . But as you suggest . I have a choice . And it’s my choice . And I can’t change people .

    • Sharon Selby on September 3, 2021 at 10:44 am

      Marian, kill em with kindness as they say. Or at least respect.
      Thank you for sharing your feedback.
      Sharon xx

  3. Lisa on October 11, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    This article has literally changed my way of thinking and understanding my highly opinionated boyfrien

    Thank you


    • Sharon Selby on September 3, 2021 at 10:44 am

      Thats amazing to hear Lisa.
      Thank you for sharing.
      Sharon xx

  4. Caroline Manera on March 5, 2022 at 9:18 am

    I just came across your column as i was searching for the meaning of the word opinionated, and as i was looking up on it it took me to your site, and it caught my attention and led me to start reading your article. It opened my awareness on how to deal with overly opinionated or critical people using the 5 ways on how to deal with this kind of people. I have been having difficulty dealing with my son who has this kind of personality. I will try to use this ways on how to deal with him. It is really so hard on me bcos he’s been like this for many years now. Thank you, and i will be looking forward to reading more of your articles.

    • Sharon Selby on March 5, 2022 at 11:16 am

      Caroline Im so happy this article helped. You are not alone and as kids get older it’s part of our parenting journey dealing with opinions! I find a simple tool of ‘pausing’ before I react incredibly helpful. Often we react immediately and come from a place of lack (we feel a lack of respect, lack of love, lack of security). And those are the issues for us to work on. Why do we feel these things? It’s our responsibility to dig deeper and reach our fulfilment. Our kids are beautifully reminding us that we have work to do on ourselves. That’s the real lesson. Hope this helps. Sharon xx

      • Gigi J on August 21, 2022 at 2:23 am

        I had to read your article after a long drive home last night with my opinionated sister. I’m ready to provide her with more love and validate her opinions instead of focusing on our differences. Thank you so much for your spot on tips!

        • Sharon Selby on August 21, 2022 at 8:24 pm

          Gigi, I’m glad it helped. I find pausing and reminding myself to come from a giving place is a whole lot more peaceful than reacting in the moment. Not always successful but a WIP 😉 Thank you for sharing. Sharon xx

  5. Rayleigh on May 23, 2022 at 4:21 pm

    Needed this read. Thank you!

    • Sharon Selby on May 25, 2022 at 2:04 pm

      You’re so welcome. Hope you/re ok. Sharon xx

  6. Sophie on June 10, 2023 at 12:26 am

    I really needed to read this today. My brother has a kind heart, but tends to be quite opinionated after reading a book/ news/ watching a movie about social-political stuff that often doesn’t align with my values. I find it hart not to engage in discussions as I feel I have to “correct” his perceptions or opinions of other people that he resonates with, but this often ends in endless discussion (he won’t stop talking) and leaving me exhausted. I also feel like distancing myself from him although he’s never unkind to me personally, he’d always help me if I needed it.

    So trying to not focus too much on the content of what he says but rather on what might be the deeper message/ need he’s trying to communicate is a good practice. And an important reminder that I can always choose to engage in such a conversation or not. I’m also working on setting boundaries with family members to improve our relationships in the long run <3

    • Sharon Selby on June 13, 2023 at 11:35 am

      Sophie, Im so happy the article helped. I find pausing before responding so helpful (yet very hard to do when you’re triggered in the moment). By pausing I can evaluate whether I engage and then choose how to respond rather than react. Reacting leads to a momentary relief or gratification but leads to chaos afterwards with regretful exchanges. It also allows me to gather my thoughts and come from a loving place rather than lack. loved hearing from you. This awareness is an amazing and healing step forward. Sharon xx

    • Sharon Selby on June 30, 2023 at 8:34 am

      Thats an amazing reflection Sophie. I find in moments when I get triggered is to ‘pause’ and not react in the moment which often can lead to chaos and regret after. Pause until I dont feel charged and then respond. This has been a bit of a game-changer. Sharon xx

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