How to React to Criticism Without Feeling Defensive

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How to React to Criticism Without Feeling Defensive

Have you ever gone into defensive mode after someone criticized you?

Defensiveness describes ways in which we react towards another person after they criticize us. It’s a coping mechanism that happens after being criticized. As opposed to listening to the criticism, when someone is defensive, they shift focus away from the criticism by criticizing back or giving someone the silent treatment.

Instead of dealing with the conflict or criticism, defensiveness shows up as a form of protection.

Everyone has felt defensive before. It’s a completely normal reaction to criticism. However, in the long run, defensiveness can block us from both connecting to others and growing as a person.

There are a few reasons why people may react to criticism with defensiveness. Maybe they did not receive the unconditional support that made them feel confident when they were young. Defensiveness could also be a result of anxiety or lack of assertiveness. Sometimes, defensiveness also reflects guilt or shame that a person wants to keep hidden.

Overall, defensiveness stems from fear or insecurity.

If someone is defensive, that defensiveness gives them an illusion of control. However, if we are constantly defensive, deflecting criticism or blame, how can we grow or become closer to others?

Are you wondering how defensiveness might play out in your relationships? There are common types of defensiveness that we might display when we react to criticism.

3 Common Types of Defensiveness:

  1. Ad hominem attacks. These are attacks on your partner’s personal character or history.
  2. Silent treatment. The silent treatment is when silence is used to punish someone and make them feel hurt. I been through this during my 30 years of marriage. 😊
  3. Bringing up the past. This looks like bringing up something someone did in the past to use against them instead of dealing with the criticism or issue at hand.

Here’s the thing, defensiveness is a completely normal reaction. But it can prevent you from getting closer to those you love and care for. To strengthen your relationships, we’ve provided some different strategies to feel less defensive.

How to resolve a disagreement when you feel yourself becoming defensive:

  1. Practice noticing your defensiveness. The first step to overcoming your defensiveness is being able to notice how it shows up in your daily life. Working on your self-awareness will help with this.
  2. Identify the feeling. When you notice yourself becoming defensive, be transparent about what you are going through. What feelings does defensiveness bring up for you? Are you defensive because you feel sad? Angry?
  3. Think about the intention behind a comment. Sometimes, we hear criticism from someone else and immediately perceive it as an attack. But what is the other person saying? Take a moment to reflect. Are there different ways you can interpret what’s being said?
  4. Feel your breath. When you notice yourself feeling defensive, calm your nervous system by taking a few deep breaths.
  5. Take responsibility. Most importantly, accept responsibility for the role you play in each situation. Learning to take responsibility can help grow as an individual.

When you find yourself getting defensive, take a few moments to think about the intention of the person who is speaking. Can you see the good in their intentions? Is there somewhere you can take responsibility?

Always remember, disagreements are a natural part of any relationship. Both personal and professional.

We are rooting for you!

Avery and Brian