Defensive: Meaning, Purpose, Impact, and How to Handle It

Defensiveness is – We’ve probably heard the saying “Why are you so defensive?” from a friend or acquaintance. In fact, it could be that we ourselves have said that to someone because of their attitude. Often, people say things like that without knowing exactly what they mean.

Of course, we need to know how the word “defensive” is actually used in a sentence. In order to really know this, of course we also have to know the meaning of “defensive” in psychology. Because, defensiveness refers to an attitude that is commonly found in learning related to psychology.

Sinaumed’s, let’s look at the discussion about defensiveness below!

Definition of Defensive Attitude

Before getting to know more about defensiveness, we definitely have to think about defensiveness. Because, the word defensive itself is an absorption form of ” defensive” which means “to endure”. As for more deeply, the meaning is “guarding or protecting from injury or attack”. A number of other words that are often used in general also more or less refer to the same meaning.

Fundamentally, this attitude is related to defending or protecting something or someone. This is often done by a country through military action to defend itself, or parents who defend their children from danger. When we behave psychologically, it means that we are trying to defend ourselves from someone or something and we feel it is important to do this.

Even so, what exactly do we want to protect? In general, we behave this way because we want to protect the ego. We want people to think we are smart, kind, or fun people, just like how we wish we were.

It could also be that we want to justify decisions that have already been made, things that have already been done, or even who we are personally.

Feelings and behavior are references to defensiveness. Usually, feelings arise when someone seems to be criticizing and causing feelings, sadness, embarrassment, and anger. Meanwhile, behavior generally stems from these feelings, so we may give the silent treatment, sarcastically, or respond back with criticism.

The Purpose of the Defensive Stance

The goal of defensive behavior is to distract yourself from feeling humiliated or hurt. Whether we realize it or not, we want to divert attention to other people’s mistakes so that we feel better afterwards.

With this goal that some might consider “evil,” this behavior may actually help us feel better, but in the short term. In the long run, being defensive will only make us feel worse.

In order to avoid feeling attacked, we point out other people’s shortcomings. This will eventually lead the other person to behave this way too and make the whole thing like a vicious cycle of defensiveness that goes back and forth, with no end, and probably no one even tries to understand.

Defensive Signs

By knowing only its meaning and purpose, we cannot necessarily be sure that our attitude or that of someone is defensive. Because even this attitude can be difficult to recognize, especially when it comes from within ourselves.

When you feel criticized, pay attention to whether Sinaumed’s does any of the following:

  • Don’t want to listen to other people.
  • Blaming others for their criticism of us.
  • Making excuses for the thing the person is criticizing.
  • Accusing others of doing the same.
  • Trying to find justification for our attitude.
  • Point out the wrong things others have done in the past and avoid talking about current problems.
  • Telling people they shouldn’t be doing and feeling things like that.

If Sinaumed’s experiences some of the above attitudes when receiving criticism, it indicates that Sinaumed’s is on the defensive.

Why Someone Becomes Defensive

Defensiveness is a potentially damaging psychological defense. Indeed, our brains are wired to protect against threats and that is good because it defends us from helplessness.

However, defensiveness is a very complex type of behavior. It is based on a combination of our attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and personality.

Early in life is the most time people start to engage in defensive behavior. We may have learned this behavior from others when we were young. When we feel threatened, we also find ways to be defensive of the threat in order to feel more secure, just like everyone else.

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When we grow up, we then apply the same behavior, whether to respond to the environment or even when facing threats. Often, these defenses are not what we really need now but simply because they have been learned in the past.

Keep in mind that people who are behaving defensively are not usually doing so out of malicious intent. Basically, the only thing they cared about the most at the time was a way to feel better after what happened. Unfortunately, this behavior is generally dangerous for both those who do it and those who receive it.

In short, sometimes these gestures are used inappropriately or in ways that prevent effective communication even though these mechanisms are not inherently a bad thing.

Defensive Stance Type

The clearer about this, this attitude is actually divided into several types that have several differences. So, what are the types of attitude?

Let’s try to check if one of these types corresponds to our feelings and behavior:

1. Ad hominem attack :

It is a type of attitude in which we attack others in some way in order to discredit their statements or criticisms.

2. Bringing up the past

This type means that we talk about the past mistakes of someone who criticized us.

3 . Silent treatment or silent treatment

As with many cases Sinaumed’s is probably familiar with, this type of defensiveness refers to not interacting with someone who criticizes us to get back at them.

4. Gaslighting

Denying or lying that we have done something to make others question their memory and sanity. This type is usually done together or in the form of an innuendo that the person is not thinking clearly or rationally.

5. Blame/aggression

The next type of defensive attitude is blaming. In other words, diverting criticism of us with other people’s mistakes.

6. Righteous indignation

Act as if no one is allowed to ask the topic that triggers the defensive attitude for some reason. For example, calling ourselves hard workers and that is a reason to put family first.

7. Innocent victims

Crying or blaming yourself excessively after agreeing to a critique to cause the other person to sympathize, feel guilty, and decide not to criticize further.

The Impact of Being Defensive

Sinaumed’s, why is it a bad thing to take a defensive stance to protect yourself? Actually, what kind of loss could arise if we continue to do so?

1. Influence Individual or Group Relations

Defensive attitudes can affect our relationships with individuals or other groups that relate and interact with each other in life. If we often respond to other people with a defensive attitude, our relationship with that individual is very likely to not be good from day to day.

2. Can Make Relationships Become Strained

Then, we may also create a hostile and tense environment if we continue to be on the defensive with our partners or loved ones.

3. Can Complicate Relationships

On the other hand, a defensive attitude at work can also complicate relationships, both with supervisors or managers, and co-workers. An overly emotional attitude like this can even make us banished from social groups or become the center of the group but secretly humiliated and unwanted.

4. Can Create Distrust

Defensive behavior can also create unprecedented mistrust and hostility instead of protecting us from psychological attacks. This will also eventually create a “vicious circle” where there are defensiveness, feelings of frustration, defensiveness of frustration, and ultimately make us feel worse.

For better results for everyone, it’s better to be clear from the start than to be defensive.

Control Strategies for Reducing Defence

The more you know the causes and effects of a wrong defensive attitude, the more you want to know how to control this attitude so that you become less defensive. What’s the strategy? Are there some things we can do to minimize and eventually eliminate our bad defensiveness?

Here are some strategic tips to get started on being less defensive:

1. Recognize Our Defensiveness

The first step to stopping defensive behavior is to really recognize when it is happening. Indeed, it is very easy to avoid confronting the behavior or admit that we are behaving defensively.

Instead, try to pay attention to how you feel and react to other people in that moment. We can also journal about feelings at the end of the day and explore how different situations make us feel or react.

2. Feeling Validation

Once you become aware of when you become defensive, it is important to begin validating how you feel when you are criticized. The simple act of admitting that we are feeling hurt, worried, embarrassed, scared, or insecure can help defuse the situation.

Instead of feeling worse for having these feelings, try not to complicate things. Acknowledge the feeling so we don’t become too focused on it.

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3. Avoid Acting on Emotions alone

When we validate our feelings of having been hurt or embarrassed, and then show compassion to ourselves for how we feel, we can also acknowledge the fact that there is no need to act on impulse to react defensively.

While it may make sense to feel defensive, that doesn’t mean we have to take action. Instead, we can show compassion for ourselves for those feelings and recognize that everyone feels this way from time to time.

4. Align Yourself with Self-Value

Is acting defensively compatible with how we want to be a certain person? Most don’t, and it’s time to get clear on how we want to behave. When we feel as if we are getting defensive, how can the best version of ourselves handle the situation?

If unsure, use a journal or Sinaumed’s diary to write a list of things that can be done right now instead of acting on purely defensive feelings.

Here are some ideas for actions you can take to prevent yourself from acting on the defensive in certain situations:

  • Let others know that their comments make us feel hurt and why that is.
  • Behave assertively and demand respect from others, regardless of their criticism.
  • Stay on topic and discuss solutions to problems rather than trying to get sidetracked.

5. Anticipate When There’s a Chance of Being Defensive

Does Sinaumed’s have a pretty good sense of when we’re usually going to get defensive? Perhaps around people or in certain situations, the best thing to do is to make a list of situations that might cause defensiveness.

Feeling caught off guard or surprised by someone can make us tend to react defensively. Therefore, if we can anticipate when it might happen, we can plan how to show ourselves compassion and how we want to react.

6. Increase Self-Esteem

If there are certain problems or areas in life that tend to put us on the defensive, it may help to do things that make us feel more confident or increase our self-esteem.

For example, if you feel bad when someone talks about your physical health, you may feel more confident when you know that you are doing everything you can to be the healthiest version of yourself.

7. See a Therapist

If Sinaumed’s has trouble with defensiveness and can’t seem to control it on his own, he might try investing in therapy or counseling to deal with the problem. This can be especially helpful if we are experiencing a defensive attitude in the relationship.

In fact, we can even attend counseling for couples to practice communication as a couple.

8. More Responsible

Instead of reacting immediately to how you feel hurt or criticized, you can try taking responsibility for whatever part you may be responsible for in the situation.

For example, if you were asked to do something and didn’t do it, you could respond by saying, “You’re right, I should have done that. I am sorry.”

Acknowledging that you played some role in the problem will help defuse the situation and allow you to work with others to solve the problem.

9. Improve Communication Skills

Another way to manage defensiveness is to improve communication skills. If Sinaumed’s knows that certain topics always make us feel hurt or angry, then that could also be telling others that we don’t want to discuss them unless the goal is to find a solution.

Constantly rehashing issues for the sake of arguing is not effective communication. To get better at communicating, try practicing in low-stakes situations beforehand or imagine how you might want to communicate before the situation occurs.

Imagine yourself remaining calm while discussing the problem, instead of reacting defensively.

How to Respond to Someone Who Is Being Defensive

Some of our acquaintances, friends, and friends may have an overly defensive attitude even though we have wholeheartedly supported them. How will Sinaumed’s feel if he continues to face this situation? Here’s how to respond to someone who is on the defensive.

1. Finding the Middle Way

It would be great if we and our friends could find a middle ground or something to agree on, even if it’s just a small thing. If your friend is being defensive and very childish, it might be even better if you can ignore some of these behaviors.

2. Keep Calm

Generally, a calm attitude can help us to talk about problems in a simpler, direct, and honest way depending on the closeness of our relationship with the social environment, especially friends who act like that.

3. Avoiding reactions in the form of defenses

Avoiding reacting to defenses from friends may also help us respond in a good way. The reason is, often our response without realizing it is a negative way and very offensive. Again, most people with this attitude learn this behavior early on or because the emotional stress is too great.


Everyone has their own way of being defensive. In addition, everyone will also be defensive at certain moments.

From all the explanations above it can be said that this attitude has a considerable influence in everyday life. Of course, it’s important to keep this attitude in moderation and not negative because being defensive is a vulnerable behavior. Thus the discussion about defensiveness and how to respond to it, I hope all the discussion in this article will be useful for Sinaumed’s.