How to Deal with Defensiveness in Others

This article, is going to cover how to deal with defensiveness in others. You are gonna get my BEST 5 tips. Before we dive in, I want to level the playing field a little… We all get defensive sometimes. If this is a pattern for you and you want learn how to stop being defensive? Go here to learn more about changing defensiveness within yourself.

A pattern of defensiveness can be a really big problem in individuals in relationships. Patterns of defensiveness will cause us to become stagnant. It is the opposite of learning and growing. Defensiveness and relationships squashes resolution. Without resolution, relationships can become increasingly tense.

In order to learn how to deal with defensiveness in others, you need to be able to spot it. Let’s talk about what defensiveness looks like…

title how to deal with defensiveness

What is defensiveness?

Defensiveness is a defense mechanism used to self protect. When one perceives criticism they may feel defensive and then act defensively, as a result. Behaving defensively avoids negative or distressing emotions such as fear, shame or hurt. Defensiveness can play out in many different ways.

Often, defensiveness uses tactics such as justifying or excuse making. Blame shifting, which is pointing to another’s flaws to avoid taking responsibility is another way defensiveness plays out. Some people minimize the other person’s feelings or simply stop listening. Dredging up the past to shift focus is another common way defensiveness plays out. None of these tactics leave anyone feeling good. It is a destructive pattern of relating to others and overtime will lead to an erosion of self and relationships.

Dealing with defensiveness in others is frustrating!

In the secular world, relationships are too quickly discarded. As Christ – followers, relating and loving others well, while setting boundaries can be a balancing act. It requires complete dependence on the Holy Spirit for guidance. There is not one perfect formula for how, where and when to set boundaries.

As we dive into how to deal with defensiveness in others, please consider strongly how you can change the way you engage with someone being defensive. Every relationship has a pattern that each person contributes to in some way, shape or form. You might need to be the first to change. Read that again… You might need to be the first person to change.

How to Deal with Defensiveness in Others: Top 5 Tips

1. Be Prayerful

Never underestimate the power of prayer. Pray before confronting. Seek God‘s wisdom, words and guidance. Pray for protection over the situation. Additionally, pray during the conversation so you and the other person don’t get reactive. Finally, continue to pray afterward- that truth would penetrate their heart.

2. Be Deliberate in Your Delivery

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. Proverbs 15:1-2

When you are purposing to speak the truth in love, be deliberate in your delivery. You are half of the conversation… Fifty percent of the relationship. While you don’t have control over how the other person responds, you do have control over how you offer constructive criticism. Additionally, keep in mind, you can do all the right things and still not get the outcome you desire.

Use “I” statements, avoiding “You” statements. Approaching a sensitive topic with “you always” or “you never” is not effective. Make your request known. Rather than offering a personal inventory of the other person’s faults, simply state your observation and follow up with a request. For example, “Those are harsh words, please choose kinder words in the future”.

3. Ask Good Questions

We have a tendency to make a lot of assumptions. Instead of making accusing statements, seek to understand. Doing so opens up the dialogue. For example, “Help me understand (fill in the blank)”.

4. Stop Participating in the Problem

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Proverbs 26:4

When dealing with someone who is acting defensively they may dredge up the past or point to your flaws. While it is tempting to become defensive in that situation we have to stop participating in the problem. Otherwise, it will turn into a battle of defensiveness and that is no good for anyone!

5. Don’t Have Two Conversations at the Same Time

Remember, defensiveness is a defense mechanism intended to deflect and self protect. When we bring an uncomfortable topic up, in their defensiveness, they may point to your flaws. And they may be bringing up some valid points. Simply validate their points, “You are making some valid points, and I am up for discussing it after we finish talking about (current topic).”

Wrapping Up: How to Deal with Defensiveness in Others

Learning how to deal with defensiveness in others is a game changer! It will decrease frustration and sorrow for everyone. Don’t forget, we all get defensive at times – remembering that, helps enhance compassion for the person who is self protecting with defensiveness. Additionally, you may need to be the first to change the pattern of relating.

Five best tips for how to deal with defensiveness in others includes being prayerful, be mindful of your delivery and seek to understand rather than make assumptions. Additionally, don’t participate in the problem and don’t have two conversations at once!

It’s not uncommon to see some of these patterns in yourself. If so, give it to God – His forgiveness and transforming power is vast! Check out How to Stop Being Defensive and do a new thing. It’s never too late to change course.


  1. Tab M Battle on June 2, 2022 at 9:49 am

    Excellent tips!! I enjoyed reading it. Keep them coming

  2. Sunshyne Gray on June 2, 2022 at 11:27 am

    So glad it was helpful! Blessings:)

  3. Robbie Sidney on June 6, 2022 at 11:51 am

    Thank you for Article. I am one that can be defensive depending on the conversation and what is said. I am asking that you keep my family and myself in prayer.

  4. Robbie Sidney on June 6, 2022 at 11:59 am

    Thank you for Sharing Article. I can become defensive myself depending on conversation and what is said, and the reaction from the person speaking to me. Please keep my family and myself in Prayer.


    Robbie Sidney

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