Communication Killers: Defensiveness

Upset couple in counseling office. They are facing away from each other with frowns on their faces.

Defensiveness – The 2nd Horseman

de·fen·sive·ness /dəˈfensivnəs/
noun: defensiveness
  1. the quality of being anxious to challenge or avoid criticism.
    “their supporters have reacted with defensiveness and hostility to the disclosure”
  2. behavior intended to defend or protect oneself [from a perceived attack].
    “defensiveness of the hive was related to the size of the colony”

Defensiveness in Relationships: What it Means

Defensiveness in a relationship occurs when one or both partners feel threatened, attacked, or criticized. This can lead to behavior that is intended to protect oneself, rather than to communicate effectively with the other person. Defensiveness can manifest in many ways, including:

Dealing Defensiveness: Take Responsibility

In order to overcome defensiveness, it’s important to take responsibility for your own role in the situation. Practicing mindfulness can help you identify what triggers you and adapt your behaviors accordingly. This will allow you to connect with your partner and communicate effectively, even in difficult situations.

When you feel defensive, it’s important to communicate your feelings to your partner in a non-blaming way. This gives them the opportunity to understand your perspective and take corrective action. It also encourages accountability from them, as they are more likely to own their role in the situation.

By taking responsibility for your own actions and communicating effectively, you can overcome defensiveness and improve your relationship.

*Updated July 10, 2023

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 from 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.

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