Tag Archives: defensiveness

When People Are Overly Defensive

Sometimes people can be very defensive.  The least little comment can be taken completely out of context, leaving the commenter baffled, wondering what just happened & how what they said could be taken so differently than how it was meant.  Defensiveness obviously is very damaging in relationships, yet it happens all the time.

Defensiveness comes in many forms.  It can appear as avoiding discussing a matter, denying what has been said, verbal attacks, lying or gaslighting.  To sum it up, defensive behaviors send the message that the person confronting is wrong, is the problem, or behaving in an inappropriate manner.

This sort of behavior shows that defensive people have control issues & believe that anyone confronting them is a threat.  They are clearly uncomfortable with emotions, & that means they are uncomfortable not only with their own but those of other people.  This makes them very impulsive & fast with their reactions.  They don’t think things through in a balanced way & they tend to avoid too much emotional closeness with others.

When someone gets defensive, survival instincts can kick in, which is why they behave as they do.  The defensive person is acting this way in the hopes of avoiding accountability & to make the person that is confronting them back down to protect their ego.

Please don’t misunderstand me at this point.  I’m not saying that defending yourself is always wrong or a product of dysfunctional thinking.  Far from it.  It is reasonable to defend yourself sometimes.  What is NOT reasonable is to jump on someone who confronts you the moment they say something you don’t like.  A functional person weighs what is being said & if the other person is right, admits it then makes appropriate changes in their behavior.  Or if the other person is wrong, a functional person defends their behavior.  If the other person is using criticism as a means of control, a functional person may not defend themselves but instead limit or end the relationship.

Back to the original topic..

If you are in a situation with someone who is being overly defensive, if at all possible take a moment to inhale deeply then exhale slowly.  This action calms your mind &

body which allows you to respond rather than react.  It also gives you a moment to pray for guidance on how to handle the situation.  If you feel yourself still feeling unable to handle the situation in a calm manner, then try getting away from this situation for a few moments.  You can say something like, “I need a couple of minutes.  I’ll be right back”.

Also, don’t tell the defensive person that they are being defensive.  This only makes such a person more hot headed, most likely because they have heard this comment before.  Hearing it again triggers their anger at someone who sees through their behavior for what it is.  Remain calm & as emotionless as possible.  Remember the Gray Rock method that helps dealing with narcissists?  That also is appropriate in this situation, whether or not the defensive person is a narcissist.  If you are calm & unemotional, the defensive person may feel less threatened & calm down as well.  If the defensive person is a narcissist, they may become more agitated.  Their reaction will help you to determine the best way to deal with this person & also whether or not to continue this relationship.

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Filed under Mental Health, Narcissism