The defensive behavior can be harmful both personally and professionally.

We generally perceive defensive behavior as an intentional offense to us. But what we do not realize is that we are also capable of unintentional offense. As human beings, we react to our surroundings and, when we feel threatened, we try to protect ourselves. So if it’s so instinctive, how can we control it and stop being defensive all the time ?

6 hidden things behind defensive behavior

The defensive attitude usually comes from a perceived threat. But there are several ways that defensiveness can manifest itself in human behavior. We react to different stimuli in different ways, and the same is true when we are on the defensive. It is the type of threat that we perceive that triggers a specific defensive behavior.

1. Dogmatism

Dogmatism is defined as ” the expression of an opinion as if it were fact .” The same is true of a dogmatic character.

For the dogmatists, either you are wrong or you are right, all or nothing. This thinking can cause people to act defensive when they are in a gray area or when they have ideas that are not necessarily tied to “black and white.”

2. Impulsiveness

Impulsiveness can make people act before they think. If they are wrong, they may not always be willing to accept their mistakes . Trying to shift blame or make excuses for impulsive behavior is an easy way to spot those who are trying to rationalize their actions.

3. Manipulative behavior

Manipulative behavior causes tension in any situation, as no one wants to feel like they are a puppet for someone else’s gain. Defensive behavior in these situations is often cautious and suspicious.

4. Be watched

Protected people tend to behave more defensively, as they are trying to hide information from others. This can cause friction when they fear that they will be questioned or confronted.

When defending themselves, protected persons are generally very evasive when questioned. They will try to change the subject as soon as possible and may even get irritated easily.


Superiority typically causes defensiveness from those on the receiving end in a manner similar to manipulation. Usually it is a trait of someone with a higher position.

Defensive behavior in these circumstances may not be at the moment of a conversation, but it may appear later in the form of ridicule or gossip. Pointing out the flaws of someone who is seemingly superior is one way to make them feel less of a threat to us in the future.

The criticism

Critical people will always get defensive behavior. Focusing on the negatives or mistakes within a situation causes a defensive attitude in the future, as people are more sensitive to being told they are wrong. This is usually presented with impatience and rejection of criticism.

How to deal with defensive behavior

Defensive behavior can be difficult to handle, as it doesn’t always come from ourselves. There are times when we must learn to manage other people’s defensive behavior in order to keep the peace.

Where defensiveness is a personal trait, it can be difficult to change another person’s behaviors. Therefore, you may need to learn to moderate yours.

There are a number of strategies you can use to control your own defensive behavior, as well as remain calm in the face of the defensive attitude of others.

Rethink the scenario

By reframing the situation and taking into account the perspectives of others, we can see the situation in a new light. What we can perceive as defensive behavior can be natural reactions to threats in our own behavior.

By looking at things from the perspective of others , we can learn to regulate our own behavior and be more respectful and calm for better results in the future.

Be aware of yourself

Taking the time to analyze what makes you feel defensive can help you recognize these triggers in the future and be aware of them.

By taking into account what problems can make you defensive, you can keep them out of your environment, or simply regulate your behavior when they are present.

Have an open mind

Keeping an open mind to the perspectives and feelings of others will make others much more receptive. Simply respecting the needs of others and taking them into consideration can quickly erase both your own defensive behavior and that of others.

Take deep breaths

There are times when we cannot escape a difficult situation and we must be in control of our behaviors so as not to offend. When we can’t get away from a situation, it’s important to  stay calm and breathe deeply until we can get away.

The defensiveness may cause serious problems in relationships . It can also offend those whom we do not want to offend.

By creating a calm environment and being open to the opinions of others, it is easy to eliminate unwanted defensive behavior and improve our personal relationships along with work productivity.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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