Better Communication for Couples (Part 2): How to Avoid Becoming Defensive

Now that you’ve had the opportunity to diffuse defensive behavior in others, it’s time to work on your own defense mechanisms. What causes you to feel insecure? Do you go on the defense every time someone brings up something about yourself that you don’t want to hear?

Here are some tips that will help you avoid becoming defensive:

  • Know that the person critiquing you means well. That’s why it’s important to listen for the truth in the conversation. It doesn’t matter if it’s your partner or your boss offering the criticism. They’re doing it because they need to bring up something important to you and it’s the easiest way they know how.
  • Let the speaker know that you’ve heard them. Give them the validation that they need to feel at ease. You don’t have to agree with them but you should acknowledge their feelings. A simple “I’ve heard what you said and I understand,” goes a long way in resolving an issue. Part of communicating is feeling heard by the other party.
  • State what you’re in agreement on. If your partner brings up the fact that you’ve spent more time on your phone than you have with him or her, you can accidentally make matters worse by accusing them of doing the same thing. Instead, you can say, “I agree with you about that. I’ve had more work-related issues come up and I’ve spent some time at home dealing with them.” You can agree and still state the facts without coming off defensive.

You can avoid confrontation by choosing how you speak. Now that you know how to keep others from becoming defensive, you’ll be able to control your own behavior better. It’s ok to feel emotional when someone criticizes you. It is not, however, good to act on feeling angry because you feel like they’ve threatened your sense of self.

How you choose to answer another person is something you can often choose. By identifying defensive behaviors in yourself, you can address them accordingly and improve your actions.