Overcoming Defensiveness
By: Jasleen
February 6, 2018



  • When individuals feel attacked or misunderstood they often act out in ways to protect themselves. Many individuals get defensive when they are feeling criticized or blamed. When we get defensive we essentially take that blame and put it on the other person.

A Better Understanding of Defensiveness:

  • I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client tell their partner “I understand how you feel but, that’s not what I meant.” Anytime you use “but” you are negating what came before it. When clients say things like that they are essentially saying “It’s not my fault, it’s yours for feeling/thinking that way.” If you tell your partner “I understand but,” then you haven’t really taken the time to truly understand what they were saying.

Signs you’re Being Defensive:

  • Immediately responding to perceived criticism.
  • Taking control of the conversation.
  • Feeling a sense of urgency to defend yourself as a good person.
  • Talking too much
  • Feeling like you are not good enough or have been rejected.
  • Feeling like your reputation or pride is at stake.

Stopping the Defensiveness: 

  1. Be Aware:
  • The first step to changing any behaviors is to first be aware of when you’re engaging in the behavior.
  1. Take a Break:
  • Asking to take a break from a conversation that is leading to defensiveness can be a great way to take a step back and rationally think about how you want to respond.
  1. Listen to Your Partner:
  • Before you respond to something your partner says you have to first truly listen and show them you’re listening by validating what they said and taking responsibility where you can.
  1. Take Responsibility:
  • Acknowledge when you are being defensive and take responsibility for your actions with your partner.
  1. Change Limiting Thoughts:
  • Identify the thoughts you have that are impacting the relationship and are not true and change them.


  • Limiting Belief: “I am in a competition with my partner.”
  • New Belief: “My partner and I are a team.”
  • Limiting Belief: “My partner is attacking me and judging me as not good enough.”
  • New Belief: “Sometimes my partner will point out things that I can improve on and if I work on these things they will benefit our relationship.”

More information on this topic. . .

Defensiveness Is A Marriage Killer!