How to Stop Being Defensive in 5 Simple Ways

If you’ve ever been accused of being defensive or going on long tangents to prove a point to no end, then maybe you have a quick-to-react personality. Maybe someone told you that you get defensive all the time and you had to take a minute to check yourself. If this sounds like you then you want to keep reading…

Being defensive isn’t always a bad thing but when you find yourself doing it over every little thing just for the sake of argument you aren’t doing yourself any favors.

On top of that, it’s frustrating and annoying to the people around you.

The root of the problem is likely that you have trouble taking criticism, even if it is constructive. You may have trouble taking responsibility for your actions and so you end up finding someone else to blame. Your defensiveness may also be coming from a place of feeling insecure and thinking that you're not good enough.

Being defensive doesn’t mean you are a bad person who loves to argue! If anything you feel like other people always get you going and you feel cornered into defending yourself or your position.

Maybe you feel like you aren't doing anything wrong but are sick of always feeling the urge to argue back.

It is especially frustrating to you when it’s friends, family or your significant other because you don’t want to fight with them.

Positive communication is extremely important to maintain healthy relationships.

If you are unable to receive criticism without feeling personally attacked it can stunt your personal growth as an individual. This can affect your work life, your love life, and your friendships.

To gain the ability to control your emotions, and take a step back to look at the situation for what it is, will have a major impact on the conversations you have with others.

Practice these 5 strategies to conquer your emotions to not let them get the best of you…

1. Constantly check yourself

If you find your blood starting to rise in response to what someone else is saying, do not react. Do not act on what you're feeling. When we have an “in the moment reaction”, often times we aren't thinking rationally. Think to yourself what you would say, and then turn the heat off. Instead, say to yourself, “it’s not worth it”. You don’t have to agree but you don’t have to disagree either. If the other person has made their point they’ll likely just leave it at that.

2. Step away from the conversation

If someone else is being irrational and you feel like they are just trying to egg you on, then be the bigger person and remove yourself from the conversation. If you partake in an argument with someone who is acting like this there will never be a winner and you will both end up peeved!

3. Press pause

  • Is what they are saying actually offensive or are you being overly sensitive to their criticism?
  • Is there truth to what they are saying?

Try to see what you can learn from the conversation and don’t let it affect you beyond that. There is no reason to get upset. What other people say is merely a matter of opinion. If their opinion holds weight, great take it into consideration. If it doesn’t, who cares what they say anyway, it’s just the opinion of one person.

4. React in a calm manner

If you have to respond then respond in a calm manner…

  • Make I feel statements, “I feel differently about that”.
  • Don’t tell others that their opinions are wrong or flat out that you don’t agree with them.
  • If you can find something about what they’re saying that you do agree with and make a point to talk about the one thing you do agree on then just listen or excuse yourself from the conversation.

5. Learn how to receive criticism

If you're being defensive whenever anyone tries to give you criticism about what you can do better, your immediate thoughts are likely, “well what do they know” or “that’s just not even true”.

Don’t go there right away. Consider what they’re saying. You are not perfect and no one expects you to be, so listen to what the other person is saying and find some truth or value in it.

Related Resources to Help You Stop Being Defensive

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5 Responses

  1. Hi Carly,

    Getting defensive isn’t something that I have had to deal with personally (if anything, I need to stand up for myself more!). However, I work with children who are learning to get their reactions under control. I really like the tip to check yourself. A lot of times, kids get into these situations that escalate without realizing what is happening. By tuning into their physical feelings (like maybe they can feel their faces burning, their necks growing tense) the kids can start to realize when they need to take a timeout.

    One idea that I also read about on the web was the 5-second rule. The idea is to count down from 5 when you realize that you are falling into old habits. This seems like a great way to press pause.

    Thanks for the great article. It helped me think over an important part of behavior management before the school year started.

  2. Hi Eva,

    I’m so glad that you found this article helpful. I love that you can relate it back to your work, you are obviously very passionate about teaching and children.

    I love that you bring up the 5-second rule because I think it is such a big part of checking yourself and taking a second to just breath (which we all need to do sometimes). I hope that some of these tips will help you throughout the school year.

    Thanks for the great feedback!

  3. I am so defensive; terrible of me. I’m told I’ll never have any friends, but I feel like people just have to understand me. I need to be myself and not try and conform to others’ perspectives of me.

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