How To Be Less Defensive

Do you find yourself getting overly defensive when you are in conflict with someone? Whether something was said to you in spite, or you merely misinterpreted a comment, avoiding an aggressive response is often more prudent, as being defensive only serves to escalate the situation and create further barriers to meaningful communication.

Here are some ways to stop being so defensive:

  1. Realize that everyone is doing the best they can. That’s not to say that everyone is demonstrating 100% of their potential. But each minute of the day, everyone is operating the best they can, given their mood, past experiences, skills, coping skills, and so on. If you can adopt this belief, it’s just about impossible for anyone to upset you.
  2. Recognize that it isn’t personal. We can all be grumpy. You might remind someone of their ex. Some individuals are just rude. Allow someone to have a bad day without allowing it to ruin yours. Everyone has their own biases and opinions. It’s about them, not.
  3. Take a moment to clarify. We often jump to conclusions. Before you do, ask a few questions. Know what’s going on before taking things to the next level.
  4. Pause. How many times would you have changed your words or deeds if only you had waited 30 seconds? Give yourself a minute to respond if you’re feeling emotionally charged. Consider how much easier your life would be with simple pauses sprinkled throughout your day.
  5. Stop defending yourself. If you have a healthy level of self-esteem, you’re much less likely to be defensive. Be comfortable with who you are.
  6. Relax. The more stressed you are, the more likely you are to respond quickly and inappropriately. When you’re calm and relaxed, you’re more capable of responding in a reasonable manner.
  7. Figure out if the criticism is accurate. We may not recognize the areas in which we require a little work. Examine the criticism you receive from others and judge the accuracy. If it’s accurate, be grateful and apply the newfound knowledge. If it’s inaccurate, let it go and move on.
  8. Realize that you’re not perfect. If you can accept the fact that you don’t know everything, it’s easier to respond in a more appropriate way.
    • Be mature enough to admit when you’re wrong, rather than getting defensive. It will satisfy whomever you’re interacting with and defuse the situation.
  1. Understand what being defensive is costing you. Think about the consequences you’ve experienced by being defensive. Soured relationships, issues at work, alienated family members, and loneliness can all be consequences of overreacting.
    • Realizing the negative impact defensiveness can have on your life will enhance your motivation to change.
  1. Make a list of your positive qualities. When you’re feeling defensive, reflect on a quality you like about yourself. This can be challenging in the moment, so it helps to have a list of your positive qualities already in mind.
    • Reminding yourself of your self-worth is a worthwhile habit to develop.

Everyone has been overly defensive from time to time. It’s part of being human. However, there are negative consequences to being overly defensive. If you can learn to be less defensive, your journey through life will be a lot less difficult.


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