Have you ever received criticism, even constructive criticism, and immediately denied it, made excuses, or blamed someone else for the problem? If so, you might be a highly defensive person. Defensive individuals are usually resistant to change, skilled at offloading blame and often have low self-esteem. Here are three strategies to combat your defensive tendencies:
- Pause and breathe. Whenever you feel like you might react harshly to someone, take a moment to step back from the situation. Relax your neck and shoulders and take a deep breath. By remembering to pause in the face of criticism, you can avoid saying or doing things you’ll later regret.
- Acknowledge your defensiveness. Practice self-awareness and recognize your tendency to be defensive. Let others know that you struggle with defensiveness so that it’s not a surprise when you need to take a break from a conversation. Maybe the other person can even turn their criticisms into requests, for example, “You never have time to…” could be redirected as, “When is a good time for you to…?”
- Take responsibility. Realize that often a criticism is not about you personally, but when it is, take responsibility and apologize. For example, your partner might say, “You’re always working late, I never see you.” Instead of responding defensively with, “I wouldn’t have to work late if we didn’t need the money,” try another phrase, such as, “You’re right, I’ll try to come home earlier on Wednesday so that we can have dinner together.”