How to Stop Being Defensive
Updated: Aug 28, 2018
Do you clench your jaw and fists when someone critiques you? Do you take feedback as if it was an accusation? Do you feel like you always need to defend yourself from any negative thoughts, comments or disagreements?
If so, you may be a highly defensive person.
Here's the thing: If you're very defensive, that doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. If anything, it likely means that you're someone who is very driven and works very hard. You likely put a lot of pressure on yourself to be successful, accomplish your goals, and be perfect.
So when someone critiques you, it can come across that much harsher than it is because you already have a giant, loud critic in your life: Yourself.
If you feel like others are blaming you, it may because you’re already blaming yourself. It’s time to release the self-defensiveness so you can use feedback and criticism as a powerful, positive tool for self-improvement, and a way to practice a little more love and grace for your own inner self. Here’s how.
1. Take a Pause Before Replying
When someone gives you feedback that you perceive as negative, don't jump immediately into the frey. What you want to do is create a gap between the moment and your response. In this moment is your opportunity to shift your energy, redirect your thoughts, and create a sacred opportunity for grace to enter.
“I think normally we tend to react impulsively,”
says meditation expert Andy Puddicombe in a column for Psychology Today magazine. (1) “The instinctive response is to defend. This sets up a loop of attack and defense. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.”
He says we’ve all experienced thoughts that we knew were irrational or unnecessary, and we were able to simply wait for the moment to pass. When it comes to self-defensiveness, the same thing holds true: Observe the thought, pause and let it pass on by.
2. Acknowledge Your Reaction
Don’t deny your feelings or your need to push back. Acknowledge that feeling. Perhaps you’ll even say to yourself, “I’m feeling defensive right now.”
Then, acknowledge that this critique or feedback means nothing for your own inherent self-worth or value. It’s simply someone’s observation, and they can’t possibly know the whole truth about anything.
We have many courses on how to acknowledge and shift your internal thought system. Explore this topic more with CUE, our free virtual coach. CUE is completely free and you get access to hundreds of courses, articles, videos, and audios on personal development. If you want to learn more about how to think a new thought from a place of strength and positivity, click here to get free access now!
3. Look for a Piece of Truth
Now, turn that criticism that you feel so defensive into a powerful tool for self-improvement.
In most cases, negative feedback or critiques are more about the person who’s delivering the feedback than the person who is receiving the feedback. It’s often more about THEM than YOU, as they are reacting from their own perspective, emotional energy and past experiences.
Almost 99 percent of what someone might say is false or misplaced. However, search what they just said for one small piece of truth. Yes, maybe you could have done that work project a different way. Yes, perhaps your partner is right and you said something in haste that was hurtful.
Whatever it is, look for a small kernel of positive feedback and learn from it.
This turns the negative critique from something that crushes you to something that helps improve you and helps you become more of the person you already are.