1. excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one's ego, or exposure of one's shortcomings
  2. made or carried on for the purpose of resisting attack

"Whadda ya mean I'm defensive? How can you say I'm defensive? I'm just trying to tell you what I mean. It's really complicated and I don't have a secretary and I blah blah blah blah... But I'm NOT DEFENSIVE!"

"A tree never hits an automobile except in self-defense."

"I've learned you can make a mistake and the whole world doesn't end. I had to learn to allow myself to make a mistake without becoming defensive and unforgiving."
Lisa Kudrow

"Insecure people are so quick to be defensive over nothing."

I'm not clumsy. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, and the wall gets in the way.

  1. "It's not my fault."
  2. "Yes but..."
  3. "You did ____." (accusation)
  4. "Yes, but look at what you did." (deflection)
  5. "All I did was..." (minimize accountability)
You feel like you have been punched so you want to punch back.


  1. You feel that you have been attacked and must fight back with emotion to maintain yourself.
  2. You have interpreted what the other person said or did in a negative way and consider your interpretation or their action or words as the truth and not your perception of what is going on.
  3. You think you're at fault and you fight back with emotion, not logic.
  4. You stay safe, self-righteous and protected and avoid input or criticism.
  5. You're unwilling to hear anything else - other possibilities.
  6. It's to cover up your self-perceived weakness.
  7. You can't truly appreciate what the other person's intention really was.
  8. You think there's something wrong with you and you have to protect it.
  9. You think you you've lost, either emotional, standing, pride, money.
  10. Your interpretation of what they said or did may have nothing to do with the other person's intention.
  11. Your defensiveness/close-mindedness is an attack on their point of view.
  12. You are triggering the same defensive response in the other person.


  1. Keep your mouth shut. Take a step back. Take a breath. Take a time-out. Cool down. Let that head of steam dissipate. If you speak when your buttons are pushed you will create a negative reaction in the other person. Don't speak until you are calm.
  2. Go look in the mirror and make a funny face at yourself.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes - take on their point of view and let them win; you will win too.
  4. The more you defend your position the more you get locked into negativity. It's fine to hold your ground, just don't get stuck there.
  5. Engage and verify. Hear the other point of view. Ask questions. Find out what's going on over there. Ask them what they meant by what they said or what their intention was behind their actions.
  6. What are you defending?
    • Is there any truth in what they are saying?
    • What could you learn from the other point of view?
    • What if they didn't mean what you thought they did?
    • Replace “yes, but” with "yes, and."
  7. Acknowledge the place where you felt attacked or hurt and find some things about yourself that you can truly appreciate. Build your self-esteem.
  8. Acknowledge what you are doing right.
  9. Ask them what they meant when they said ______.




© 2016 Jim Peal