Facing A Defensive Personality? 6 Tips To Calmly Communicate With Defensive People
Conflicts are a part of communication – whether in a professional relationship, personal, or social relationship – conflicts are bound to arise. To be honest, conflicts are a part of healthy and effective communication. However, the problem occurs when you conflict with a defensive personality.
Being defensive in a conversation can almost always turn negative. The outcome and the communication can turn negative when facing a defensive person.
Generally speaking, defensive behavior comes from being accused or hearing/saying something that goes against one’s beliefs. Even if your intention wasn’t like that, a defensive person may catastrophize your words and act accordingly.
Defensive behavior is being aggressive in response to something negative. This kind of response to something is fairly easy to spot. Defensive behavior can also be a feeling that one may experience when someone is being too critical of them. Such criticism may often follow feelings of shame, disgust, anger, or sadness.
Let’s look at why people get defensive, the signs of defensive behavior, and how to deal with defensive people calmly.
Why Do People Get Defensive?
Being defensive can be a sign of people taking a break or guarding themselves against something they may perceive as negative. People get defensive for reasons such as:
- Misinterpreting messages
- Deflecting blame
- Trying to protect their ego
- Protecting their feelings
- Avoiding the consequences of their actions
- Detaching themselves from the stressful situation
- Trying to avoid feelings of anxiety (in situations they might find threatening)
In some cases, being defensive can be a hidden sign of poor mental and emotional stability, response to helplessness, shame, or guilt.
Signs Of Defensive Behavior
Here are signs of defensive behavior to look out for:
- They stop listening to you
- They make excuses for the criticism
- They deflect blame to others about the topic of criticism
- They accuse others (or you) of doing the same thing they are being criticized for
- They try to justify their actions
- They bring up past responses to skirt around the current issue of criticism
- They tell you that you should not feel the way you are at the moment
How To Deal With Defensive People?
No one can avoid conflicts forever but knowing how to deal with defensive people in a conflict can help you calmly (and effectively) communicate with a defensive personality. Here are some tips to help you out:
Before you can begin to analyze others’ reactions, know yourself first. How do you react to the response of a defensive person? Knowing yourself and how you react can help manage your emotions and open your mind to new ideas and viewpoints of others.
Increasing your self-awareness means increasing your emotional intelligence or EQ, the ability to understand, control, and use one’s emotions to communicate positively with others.
2.Start Using “I” Sentences
When communicating with a defensive person, steer clear of using “you” statements and instead use “I” sentences. Using “I” sentences means framing the conversation around your experience rather than emphasizing the other person’s wrong or negative points. For example, you can use,
- “Your actions make me feel that I am not worthy or that I can’t meet your requirements.”
Using such statements has a better chance of making a defensive person understand what’s wrong.
3.Know When To Walk Away
You can’t always avoid conflicts but when things become too overwhelming or emotional, you can choose to walk away. When dealing with a defensive person, walking away means taking a break, calming yourself down, and then reapproaching the subject with a clear head – on both sides.
You can also choose this time to appoint a referee to help solve the problem. Having a third person’s perspective can also help keep away high emotional responses such as anger.
4.Don’t Compete With Them
Another way to deal with defensive people is to avoid competition with them. When you’re being competitive, your tone of voice can be misinterpreted as being aggressive which can, in turn, make an already defensive person more aggressive and defensive. If you’re facing a defensive person, then it’s best to respond calmly.
If you have to be forceful, then make sure you only do that during an urgent situation such as when life’s in danger or when safety is a concern.
When you ask questions, it means you’re open to hearing the other’s defense. And when they see their voice is being heard, they are likely to stay calm and respond non-defensively. Asking questions is not only a great way to effectively communicate but can also allow the other person to voice their opinion.
This action shows that you care about their opinion and want to build a better relationship with them while avoiding being defensive – on both ends.
6.Compromise And Collaborate
Compromise is also a good way to deal with defensive people as this step shows you’re open to negotiating with the other. Compromise can also be a good tool when you want to avoid conflicts with a defensive person. Although make sure that you allow room for collaboration too.
Collaboration allows you to work together to resolve an issue and meet individual needs without compromising too much.
Conflicts in conversations can be healthy and can be a good tool for effective communication but they can also make conversations challenging when communicating with a defensive person.
Understanding why people get defensive, the signs of defensive behavior, and how to deal with defensive people can help you effectively (and calmly) maintain a flow of communication.
Refer to the above tips when dealing with defensive people. If you’re facing trouble effectively dealing with defensive people, then you can reach out to a mental health professional.
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