Defensiveness – The 2nd Horseman
the quality of being anxious to challenge or avoid criticism.“their supporters have reacted with defensiveness and hostility to the disclosure”
behavior intended to defend or protect oneself [from a perceived attack].“defensiveness of the hive was related to the size of the colony”
What it looks like in relationships
When a person becomes defensive they typically appear to be at least mildly angry or frustrated as they deflect responsibility away from themselves.
Defensiveness may look like any of the following (and more):
- Making excuses
- Righteous indignation (often presented as anticipatory defensiveness)
- Petty rebuttals (passive-aggressive counter-arguments)
- “Poor me” victim mentality that shows up as whining
- Blaming. Often follows the victim mentality
What to do about it: Take responsibility for your role
Practicing mindfulness helps you get to know yourself at a deep level. When you are clear about what triggers you, you have the ability to adapt your behaviors so that you able to connect with your partner instead of becoming defensive. A mindful lifestyle also helps you know when you are actually being criticized versus when you perceive an attack that may not be intended. Again, this helps you steer clear of defensiveness when you are not actually being attacked or criticized.
When you can simply tell your partner how you are feeling and what is being triggered within you, it gives them the opportunity to take corrective action. It also encourages accountability from them . . . in other words, they are more likely to own their role as well.
To learn more about red-flags to look out for and how to fix them, please visit my Couples Counseling page. Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.