We all know someone like that; you almost do not dare to express your feelings because you are afraid of his or her reaction. Maybe you are a bit like that yourself? Often these people are labeled as spicy, or hot-tempered, but often there is more behind. Why do they have the idea that they have to constantly defend themselves and how do you learn that? We have four practical tips for this!

If you always shoot in the defense, this does not mean that you are a bad person who always has to get his / her right or that you think you know everything better. It is much more likely that you, like no other, are extremely critical of yourself. You could say that you yourself are your worst critic. If things do not go the way you want, you blame yourself, even though other people might not even notice it. It may also be that you blame others so that they are wrong instead of you. This is, of course, a less attractive feature, but no matter how you look at it, chances are that there is a lack of self-esteem and that you do not quite know who you are and what you do.


Self-esteem is how you judge and appreciate yourself and how you talk to yourself. Someone who often shoots in the defense sees many things (actually all criticism or feedback that is not 100% positive) as an attack and feels that he/she falls short. You understand that if this happens to you often your self-worth is automatically reduced. You become less dear to yourself, while it seems to the outside world that the person is very satisfied with himself. This is where miscommunication often begins.

In the past I have often avoided this kind of people, I did not want them around me anymore, because the conversations quickly became negative or felt hostile. In the meantime, I have learned that it is very important to start the conversation, also to get the other person out of his / her negative pattern. This defensive attitude hampers their growth, without them knowing it for themselves. The best thing is to have a conversation with someone with an “open heart”, without condemning someone, not yourself! When you are always in the defense you are doing nothing but condemn words, actions, and persons (including yourself). But how do you learn it?


Do you remember that your parents used to say: Count up to 10? Exactly that! Pause for a moment for your answer. By pausing for a moment you allow yourself the time to think. Of course, you do not have to do this with every answer, but it is useful when you feel that you want to shoot in the defense. Thinking about what you are going to say is at work or in people we do not know something that we often do naturally, out of politeness. Remarkably, we have more trouble with it when it comes to our partner, sister or best friend. This is a shame because these are often the people you care about the most.


The point above under control? Make sure that your body relaxes when you feel a defensive reaction. Breathe in and out quietly, lower your shoulders and relax. Taking a break means not only literally waiting with answers, it also means landing in your body and feeling what the criticism or feedback does to you. When you take a break and you are relaxed you will notice that you feel a lot more relaxed, your answer will not only be different but will also sound different and different for the person you are talking to and for yourself.

Be honest

Admit that you often defend yourself and that this is your first reaction. Tell them that you are working on this to learn or to deal with this, but that you may find this difficult. That’s how you create an understanding. Do you want to stop the conversation because you do not know how to react without shooting in the defense? Tell them how you feel, or just leave it and pick up the conversation later. You learn by experience, so that is not bad.

Search for the truth

What exactly does that person say? What feeling does this appeal to you and why do you feel this? Would they really mean that? Is there a core of truth? Often it says more about the other than about yourself. You can of course also stand up for yourself, there is nothing wrong with that, but be aware of the difference. What is important in any case is that you become less critical, especially yourself. Teach yourself to speak lovingly and learn to perceive what you really feel and feel, then the opinion or criticism of someone else is also a lot less important or intense.


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