On being defensive

Much of my work is in the area of presence – being present with others, being in the moment, and really engaging in the relationship. One thing I notice is that people wanting to develop greater presence have  habitual behaviours that might well create distance, or barriers with others.  Others might experience them having a wall or a smoke screen around them. Habitual or default behaviours are more apparent when people are under pressure. These behaviours tend to generate strong feeling responses in the recipient(s).



Here are some examples of defensive behaviours.

  • Walking away, escaping, going silent
  • Justifying your position
  • Making excuses
  • Verbally attacking the other person/people, being aggressive
  • Acquiescing, giving up
  • Blaming
  • Condemning, being judgmental or critical
  • Using derision, sarcasm, cynicism
  • Denial and delusion

Let me ask you – what is your most likely defensive behaviour when you are under pressure?

Essentially the person being defensive is keeping their real thoughts and feelings to themselves. Our job as leaders and developers of others is not to understand this behaviour, or to work out why the person is reacting this way. Our role as leaders is to be a mirror to the person – to identify what you see happening, and to outline the affect of the behaviour on you, others or the task in hand. Encouraging good working relationships means how people work together is as important as what is being done.



What behaviours build relationships? 

  •  Taking responsibility
  •  Relating to vision and goals
  •  Being accountable
  •  Taking action
  •  Problem solving, issue resolution
  •  Being willing to admit when you are wrong
  •  e.g. I was wrong, my part in it was……
  •  Being willing to make mistakes and correct them
  • Being helpful and collaborative



 Thinking of having more options when you are rattled and under pressure?  Consult Diana