How Your Defensiveness Is Preventing You From Being Successful

A defensive personality is a symptom of brokenness. It’s a person deeply afraid that the words of another might steal their self-worth and affirm their fear of rejection. Words that might reveal a reality that they can’t handle. That their resisting ownership of a problem, that they’re prideful, and that they’re in need of correction.

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As many of you have likely noticed, defensiveness, offensiveness, and sensitivity typically run in the same crowd. A community so hurt that any criticism is treated as if you’re stealing the last crumbs of a meal they need to survive.

And it’s true. A defensive person is someone who can’t take another blow at their inner-value. They feel as if your words are a threat and they must defend themselves from being harmed. And because of that, your correction or criticism whether helpful or hurtful is shot down with an almost hostile response.

The takeaway is this: Defensive personalities are broken personalities. Broken personalities who don’t seek healing are almost never successful.

If you’ve followed me long, you know I focus less on the ever-changing tactics of entrepreneurship, and more on the timeless lessons of leadership development. It’s my belief the majority of the struggle in launching a business stems from our personal immaturities, not our tactical incompetencies.

From where I stand, defensiveness is an immaturity. One definition I found was “Devotion to resisting or preventing growth.” A dangerous character trait, especially when entrepreneurship might as well be a synonym for constant correction.

I can’t tell you how many times as an entrepreneur I’ve been pulled aside and corrected to the point of tears. I can’t describe the mortifying experience of sitting in a board room full of investors criticizing my leadership to the point of rebuke.

Growth is rarely comfortable. But it’s taught me an illogical lesson: The secret to speeding up success is to enhance our ability to embrace correction regardless of how awkward, painful, or humiliating it might be.

So if you’re defensive or easily offended or overly sensitive, I have provided three lessons from my life that healed my need to fight back, to resist ownership of my problems, and to prevent growth as an entrepreneur.

1. You’re only as mature as the number of times you’ve been corrected.

We must end the fight against helpful correction. When we’re defensive against someone trying to help us, we’re vaccinating ourselves against what we need. An unproductive tactic for trying to get ahead in this world.

A few years ago I read a sentence in the Bible that changed my outlook on critique. It read, “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you for it. But a fool despises correction.” Love you for it? What? The idea that someone might invite reprimand was foreign to me. And to call it “wise” seemed ridiculous.

But years later, I crave correction. I’ve learned the value in knowing my flaws always outweighs the pain of not knowing them.

Task: Give a one or two safe, willing people permission to correct you on a regular basis. Consider scheduling a time to hear constructive criticism that might help remove unseen personal flaws and accelerate your pace as an entrepreneur. Do this practice for three months.

2. Your defensiveness always looks worse than what you’re trying to hide.

It can be very difficult in the midst of hearing criticism to listen carefully to what the other person is saying. The urge to defend yourself might come in strong. Your heart might race with indignation, and your adrenaline might start to churn in preparation for a “fight.” But you must stop these physiological reactions in their tracks.

Instead, look at their heart and decide if their words are intended to be helpful. If the moment is painful but not harmful, push away own need to react. Focus on listening. Remind yourself that listening to what someone else says is not the same as accepting or agreeing with it. You will have time to respond later. The better you listen now, the more you understand, the better equipped you will be to reply productively.

Watch your facial expressions. Keep a poker face if you can. Studies show that eye-rolling and smirking at your partner during a disagreement is one of the top indicators of divorce in married couples. Respect your critic’s opinions, even if you don’t share them.

Task: Identify why you’re defensive. What are you trying to hide, protect, or avoid? By understanding the cause of your defensive state, you’ll be able to control your behavior when the stakes are high.

3. The way You handle correction tells me a lot about how successful you’ll become.

When people are defensive in the face of helpful correction, we see three common responses:

1. They move away: The correction is too difficult to face, so they disappear or withdrawal from the conversation either physically or emotionally. Psychologists call this passive avoidance.

2. They move against: The correction is perceived as a threat and triggers a need to challenge, reject, or deflect the conversation and is often done with aggression.

3. They join in: The correction is too much for the person, so they passively surrender. Similar to playing dead during a bear attack, they believe, “Maybe if I don’t react, they will leave me alone.” Often, this form of deflection comes with a victim mentality. “I’m terrible. I know… I’m a complete idiot.” Which turns out to be another crafty form of defense.

At this point, the person has made themselves out to be so horrible that you’re no longer discussing the problem and now you’re rescuing them from the pool of guilt and shame.

The bottom line is this: Solving problems requires us to come out of our invulnerable state. When we want to move away, we shouldn’t. When we want to push against, we can’t. And when we want to play the martyr, we’re just avoiding growth.

Success requires a person willing to own the conversation, manage their behaviors in the moments of conflict, and understand which wound from their life is causing them to react a certain way.

Task: Identify which path of deflection to which you default. Then determine how you can remove that habit and embrace the correction, grow from it, and move on.

A regular state of defensiveness comes with great consequences. From the loss of relationships and careers to death of a dream. If your intention is to become successful in building the business and family you love, then you must learn to enjoy correction and make the necessary changes required to advance.

Are you defensive? Do you struggle with correction? If so, what’s worked for you in overcoming this behavior? Let me know in the comments below.

Author

Dale Partridge
Dale Partridge is the Founder of StartupCamp.com. He's also a keynote speaker and author of the Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling book People Over Profit.

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  1. I join in. Man I totally do that. Really needed to hear these words today.

    “Instead, look at their heart and decide if their words are intended to be helpful.”

    Powerful stuff. Going to try to do this more.

    Reply
  2. This is one of the best articles I’ve read, period. Nice work, Dale. I’ve struggled with defensiveness my entire life. I found improv comedy/theater to help with getting regular doses of critical feedback that i couldn’t get from people who were already too entrenched in my life to trust or collaborate with.

    Defensiveness is a poison that we learn from our parents, either in reaction to them or in mirroring them. I believe that understanding our childhood dynamics and the negative love patterns we have with our parents allows us to bring greater awareness to negative behavioral patterns like defensiveness. Thank you again.

    Reply
    • Joe Kabes says:

      Hello Paul,
      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Defensiveness can cripple us and we need to pay attention to those feelings when they emerge.

      Reply
  3. I learned years ago to ask for, welcome, and crave correction. It’s a lifesaver! Learning to pray for the Holy Spirit to give correction is truly a liberty. It allows me to grow and become the person I long to be — the woman He created me to be. I have also learned to ask others about “blind spots”. I’m always surprised by what I hear.

    Honestly, I think people cringe with correction or criticism because of the manner in which it’s often delivered. Instead of speaking the truth in love, people who give criticism often do so out of their own offense or hurt. So, as recipients, we must learn to separate the message from the messenger. And that’s hard. Real hard. Especially when what may be true is NOT spoken in love at all.

    But in all, yes, giving ear to wisdom means allowing others to shed light on those dark areas we don’t see. I’ve never regretted listening to that truth, even when it initially hurt to hear it. I’ve learned that listening carefully to what is really being communicated as objectively as possible is always helpful. A genuine desire to become a better person is what motivates me to hear criticism.

    However, finding a person who can deliver the message well, is not easy to find. Those who have grace, who can speak the truth in love, are invaluable leaders. We’ll always be better people for openly receiving correction. Even if we don’t like the manner in which it’s packaged for us.

    Reply
    • So true, Erin! And thank you for packaging this comment so well! I often find myself writing and rewriting and rewriting again an article or Facebook post because I feel the power of not only what I’m saying, but how I’m saying it. That absolutely matters!

      Reply
  4. Ann says:

    Just left a meeting with my boss in which I got defensive…again. Wish I had read this earlier! I struggle to have what I know to be true (i.e. Everything your post describes) override my compulsion to react. I get there eventually but usually not until after the meeting and then I have regret for how I responded. I think focusing on your three points will help. Especially trying to find the true source. Thanks for sharing your insight!

    Reply
    • Yes, Ann! Thanks for commenting this! Meditate on what you know is true, focus on and bind yourself to the three points so that you’re reinforcing your boundaries on yourself whenever a conflict comes up. You got this. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Whitney says:

    Boy did you hit the nail on the head. This is so hard to learn and I struggle still with lots of tears and anxiety especially when the criticism is very belittling and disrespectful. But, I have learned a lot through those tears especially in my professional life. It’s like the saying goes rain grows flowers not thunder. I feel the tears helped me grow more than the loudness and defensiveness of my voice. But, every time I receive criticism I just need to say thank you and move on and reflect of what can be learned. But on a bad day when my self worth is already struggling it much easier said than done.

    Reply
    • Wow, thank you for sharing that quote/saying, Whitney. I love it. There is such a fine line between sadness and anger, and more often than not, we’re all more likely to choose anger. But you’re so right. Let the tears come out.

      Reply
  6. Wendy says:

    I’ve never read your words before, but I really appreciate what you’re saying and feel I can benefit from the council in a multitude of ways! It is my belief that each of us suffer at times with defensive behavior. I know I do! But I also know I want to improve and become better at accepting the honest reality of my weaknesses. Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • That’s awesome, Wendy! Wow!! I’m honored and encouraged by your words, seriously. Thanks for being a reader and such a receptive one!

      Reply
  7. Matt says:

    What helped me most was hearing “why are you being so defensive/sensitive? I’m trying to help you.” I can’t count how many times I heard this. Eventually I’d say to myself “why are you being so defensive, just listen.” Soon enough I stopped it all in its tracks.

    Reply
  8. Charlotte says:

    My partner becomes very defensive when we argue and I honestly don’t know what to do in those situations. He himself knows that he is defensive, but can’t stop.

    Reply
    • I would go so far as to believe that he can indeed stop. I have found that pulling a very trusted community into the conversation with you–people that know you and him. Ask them for wisdom, insight, perspective, accountability. Seriously. It might be helpful and healing to you as you work through these seasons. Hoping good things for you, Charlotte!

      Reply
  9. Michelle says:

    Your content on this article and most blogs you write resonates deeply with me. I appreciate your vulnerability and experience. I did, however, chuckle ever so slightly on this particular blog, as I would respectfully like to correct you. As a technical writer, I’ve been meaning to send you some typographical and grammatical errors throughout your website. Your content is so strong that I’m sure these are generally overlooked. But they can be a distraction for the writer and the teacher. If I can be if any assistance in this matter, please let me know. And again, the heart and intent of your articles shine with purpose and great meaning – but proofing also ensures no distraction. Thanks for all you do.

    Reply
    • Thanks for saying so, Michelle! I totally agree. Working with such a small team, it’s challenging for them to keep up with all the content I churn out. 😉 But as of a few weeks ago, we’ve started to slowly work through all the content to clean it up in a multitude of ways! Stoked for that. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Sharon says:

    I love the points this article makes! But I think there’s a key missing point – in my experience, my defensiveness is, yes, from my own pride, but also from my lack of realizing the depth of God’s love for me and just who I am in Christ as a Christian. I had to learn all of that and how my true identity is found in God alone before He could work on my defensiveness. Because of knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt where I stand with God and that He loves me more than I can imagine, I don’t have to get defensive about anything because what God says about me is infinitely more important than what any human may think/say. Not that that allows me to reject criticism, but it helps me to process it in a much healthier way now (e.g., “Does what this person says about me hold any truth? How does it measure up to God’s word? Etc.”).

    Reply
  11. straydogs says:

    this made me tear up. i dont know, it’s very hard for me to receive corrections. i feel worthless everytime someone criticizes me. i feel really hurt and the passive avoidance you mentioned, that was me. i think it’d be near impossible to rid myself of this.

    Reply
    • Not impossible at all! Many, many, many of us hate correction and criticism, which is deeply rooted in not feeling truly loved or accepted in the first place (because if we felt truly loved and accepted, correction and rebuke would land on that foundation safely.) Remember, “love is not easily offended.” If there is easy offense, then work on receiving, understanding (maybe having a clear, open discussions about it), and returning the love. That’s where I would start! Correction and learning is so good, and such a vital part of growth. I am thankful to have leaders and friends correct and rebuke my entire life, even now. It’s never easy, it’s never comfortable, but it can still be received in humility without hurt. I believe this for you!

      Reply
  12. Brad says:

    Thank you for this message! My marriage is ending and my job is not going well….so i am going through a extremely hard time right now. And as I reflect and read this article I know that I was and still am defensive towards correction and change. It is not the sole reason for my marriage ending as that takes 2….but it played a role I am sure. I must learn to listen to the advise/criticism and find a way to change and move forward, and be better in all that i do!!!
    Easier said than done….but I must learn to improve and provide for my 2 boys!

    Reply
    • Glad you’re learning and growing, Brad, and thankful you’re here. 🙂

      Reply
  13. Timothy Regan says:

    So my defensiveness goes through all three of the steps listed:
    Initially I try to avoid the criticism. Secondly, I attack the source, and then, finally, I succumb to the conclusion that I must be a failure- especially since I can’t seem to grow out of these situations, and seem doomed to repeat them.

    Reply
  14. Nondumiso says:

    I just wanna say your write ups are amazing, you have miost definately impacted in my life in ways beyond imaginations, people like you should recieve oscar upon oscars but then agains blessing from God are the greatest. I had to be vulnerable with my ex boyfriend after reading this and boy was it amazing because he had been that person whom has offended me through his correcting me and i would attack and attack him but all he was doing was look out for me. This has helped me a lot as I have been going through some changes in my life.

    Thank you God bless

    Reply
    • Thank you, thank you! I’m so glad to hear this has been helpful for you. Keep crushing!

      Reply
  15. Barbara Ariho says:

    I still struggle a lot with defensiveness; well stemming from a background of struggle to get to the top back in school. I actually did get there till i found myself at the bottom of yet another lot of geniuses. With some level of arrogance amassed along the way, my soul mission was always to be the winner.
    I find that however hard it is (ooohhh it is painful), being wrong doesn’t imply failure. Appreciating criticism is still a struggle but i will get there.

    Reply
    • You’re so right, Barbara! Being wrong doesn’t imply failure. However, if it weren’t painful to be wrong, we’d be wrong a LOT more often. Pain helps us move, just like too much comfort can kill us. Keep crushing it, Barbara!

      Reply
  16. Silvina says:

    This is a huge one, people tend to be offended by everything nowadays but the reasons why are all different. I am about to start my MEd in Psy and I have taken many a behavior class, and have learned that not all of us come from the same standpoint when it comes to this. Growing up with a verbally abusive mother, made me defensive in my youth and it took years for me to overcome it. I enjoy constructive criticism though, because I am a bit of a perfectionist and I aim to excel and I make an effort for it, so if people have advice for me then by all means I want to hear it. I however struggle when people aim to hurt, because there is a difference between wanting to hurt and wanting to help with correction. It is true that we must overcome and move on because being defensive does not work, at least it never did for me, but with the years I have become better and matured enough to be able to not take offense anymore. I think this subject is very relevant to business as much as daily life.
    One thing that has always worked for me is reframing, even if the criticism is harsh and something that is eye opening, I direct my thoughts to “well, it could have been worse” and then it is all good again.

    Reply
  17. Hi Dale,

    This might turn into a long one so I strive to stay precise. I have followed your career and read your wisdom for a few years now and I cannot describe how much I have learned and found encouragement from it.

    My issue is about the wisdom on personal growth regarding the quality of life, relationship with my spouse and professional success. I have been married for almost 3 years to a wonderful lady, she was 21 and I was 25 at the time. The issue is that as I seek for wisdom, personal growth and maturity both personally and professionally, I have failed to do the same in my wife´s life.
    In other words, her behaviour and character has remained immature, or even become more immature since getting married. The behaviour is often reactive, emotional and defensive, instead of confidently living by design and acting out her true values.
    When trying to discuss issues, plan our future and share life, mainly the reaction is what you have described passive avoidance. Also, I have initiated marriage counceling, but she sees the issues in me to be the problem and refused to join, so I go to counceling alone. That has been helpful, however a comment I received from the councelor during my first session was “I recommend you to not go to a non-christian councelor, because he would recommend to divorce asap.” Not sure what to think about that comment.

    I am aware of the love I have vowed her and the commitment and effort to take care of her heart, but her resistance for maturity and growth both personally and as a couple is taking high tax in form of limiting my ability to work and provide for my family. We have no children yet, however she has expressed that it would solve many problems in our marriage if we would start having them soon. I disagree and believe the marriage should have healthy foundation prior to children.
    Would you have any advice for me how to approach this situation?

    Entrepreneurship and growing into a mature leadership is what I am after and I agree that success without success at home is not worth much. That is why I am asking you for advice.

    Thank you very much Dale and keep up the impactful and highly valuable work you do.

    Best,
    Joel

    Ps. Your latest books are arriving today to me and my wife, really looking forward diving into them!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for sharing this, Joel. I am limited in my ability to counsel and advise well from such a distance both from a scheduling stand-point and a relational one. However, I sincerely hope you can find a trusted circle of married couples with whom to share your burden and walk together. Its been absolutely ground-breaking, healing, and rescuing for my own character in my marriage as well as so many other friends we have here. Home church seriously rules. Godly friendship is a gift I will never sell or misplace. 🙂 I am glad you have the books, let me know what you think! I hope they are a light that provides clarity and reaffirmation of promise in your marriage.

      Reply
  18. Samantha says:

    I have been told several times by my husband that I am “getting defensive” over things. I will try to pay attention next time I feel that way to see what the topic is about, why do I feel I need to put my defenses up. Also what in my past has caused me to be this broken? Thanks for this article.

    Reply
    • That’s a wonderful way to ask that question, Samantha. Love it and thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  19. Jose Lainez says:

    Unfortunately I have that type of personality and I just dont see how to overcome to be a better person. Anytime my wife provides to me with a critic I become defensive. I know I have to overcome all those issues because she doesnt deserve the way I respond to her critics.

    Reply
  20. Amber Erazo says:

    This is an amazing article. Been praying about this “attitude” I have for a long time. I have come a long way but still have forever to grow. lol Thanks for the challenging reminder to never give up and keep growing up.

    Reply
  21. Ashley deRoche says:

    Dale, your words of wisdom on marriage and maturity are always so helpful to me – but this one really hit home. In fact, it hit home so much I didn’t even want to read it, because it would make me feel defensive. I don’t even know how or why I’m doing it most of the time, but my husband tells me constantly how difficult it is to communicate with me due to my incessant need to defend myself in every little thing. I have saved the link for this article, and will look back on it when he mentions this fact, so that I can try to identify my behaviors – and then change them.

    Thanks again for all your Daley wisdom.

    Ashley

    Reply
  22. The old saying “I’ll take it under advisement “. Those words have helped me handle negative yet helpful words from clients, no- it-all people who have think they can handle my everyday business obstacles better than me.

    Reply
  23. Brid says:

    Absolutely delighted to find your article. I am a manger with lots of experience yet feel my vulnerability much more after I had to take stress related leave. If I believe that there has been some injustice in what I hear I find to my horror that tears just fall and I end up being so embarrassed and this makes me worse, someone told me that this represents anger turned inwards would love to hear your opinion on this and more importantly how do I stop the water tap of tears?

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing this, Brid! I’d say, not knowing the situation well, that a season of lament or particular sensitivity doesn’t really work around our own timelines. By that, I mean you might find your tears to be inconvenient or frustrating, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. Find someone to open up to and release your feelings of injustice relationally.

      Reply
  24. Liesl Woods says:

    This article couldn’t come at a better time. I have definitely been finding myself defensive in some situations in my life. I have often questioned why but just end up either getting upset with myself for doing so, feeling like I’m at rock bottom, or just thinking that I’m right and how dare they say such things to me. I wasn’t always defensive. In fact, most of my life I welcomed criticism as I knew it would help make me better… at least with the criticism I felt was beneficial to me. I was good at taking advice and keeping the parts I liked and not lashing out at the person who gave me the advice over the parts I hated. However, after a personal crisis that happened, I found that my mental state has suffered immensely and my defensive mechanism has been full throttle. I like the way you talked about it being an immature thing. At first, I read that line and became upset (you see? Defensive me.) but then I took the time to realize what maturity really is and why you call it being immature. I always thought of maturity continually being an upward climb. I had never thought of a person being mature, having a life setback resulting in an immature being, and then working your way up to a mature self again. I just saw immaturity as a youthful naivete. This is something that I really feel is SO IMPORTANT. Becoming a mature and less defensive human being is really something to aspire to. Something that I ASPIRE TO. Thank you for this article. It’s helped.

    Reply
  25. Jenna says:

    I’m definitely working on this but I have taken the advice to give a few trustworthy people a free pass at correcting me. It’s extremely difficult not to negatively internalize someone’s criticism and allow it to become a self-depreciating part of your thought process. With my trustworthy people, I’m learning the difference between true humility and constructive change as opposed to acting humble but really ‘playing dead’. Thank you so much for this article Dale.

    Reply
  26. P Van Why says:

    As a child and growing up I was hurt so deep I built up a defensive shell that no one could reach in and I could not reach out. It took many years to begin to tear it done and even now if she sees me putting up a defensive wall my wife will say your going into your shell again. I realize it is a problem and need to be very careful as I know I do not receive criticism well but I continue to work on it.

    Reply
    • That’s great that you’re able to acknowledge the issue. By doing so you’re absolutely on the right track. Keep it up!

      Reply
  27. Bridgette V says:

    Very interesting article. As a college student, correction is something I feel that I’ve started to deal with on a daily basis. It’s also something I find difficult at times. I have never heard of passive avoidance but I find it relatable. I would love to understand how others have learned to deal with this. Thank you for the great read!

    Reply
  28. Simona says:

    Wow, this is exactly what my boss should read, it’s as if it’s been written about him and for him!
    He is defensive and avoidant both in his relationships and in his business.. Me and him have a quite strong personal relationship, and by now I see how he has built up walls of lies and pretend both at work and at home.. During one of his more open moments, he told me he feels like his life is out of control, and I know too that his business is failing as is his marriage, I know the stakes are high, and yet it’s impossible for him to be completely honest with anyone, and face the truth. He is stuck.
    I feel so frustrated, and kept trying to help him open his eyes, and show him he can be truly great, but he always comes back to his old ways. I’d love for him to read your post, Dale, but I really think this wouldn’t go down well if I showed it to him..

    Reply
  29. Victor says:

    Love this Dale! I’ve recently started following you and listening to your podcasts on startupcamp.com. Your guests are amazing. This article is spot on! I was just thinking today, that I want to start a task of encountering an uncomfortable situation daily so I can conquer and grow from it. I find myself being defensive daily (both personally and in my career). First step is acknowledging it. The tasks you laid out will help me correct it! Thanks for giving me inspiration, motivation, and some much needed knowledge! Keep doing what your doing sir!

    Reply
  30. Casey says:

    I know that too well… Being defensive… They can’t see they are human too, that makes mistakes. They can’t admit they can be wrong. 😛

    Reply
  31. Maynard Kappel says:

    You’ve touched on a key area of growth in oh so many areas of life, careers, family, etc. I’m thinking having something like an “accountability partner” is in order, like you’ve mentioned. Effective article, Dale.

    Reply
    • Thanks Maynard! An Accountability partner/ Mentor is pretty important.

      Reply
  32. Thanks for describing defensiveness. There was a time not too long ago that I was regularly accused of being defensive. I was super-frustrated because everyone seemed to use the word differently. Consequently, I couldn’t get a handle on what I needed to change. I realize they were describing various symptoms of a problem in my heart. Once I started working on my heart, the symptoms decreased. Your article is incredibly helpful because it give language to something I’ve been working on without any real guidance. Appreciate the time you took to put this together. Helps a lot.

    Reply
    • Thanks Paul! Defensiveness is something many people face. Few lack the desire to change. Great work!

      Reply
  33. Ginger Dorr says:

    This is excellent! Very timely for me! Going through a lot of healing personally right now and this helps me to understand a lot! I do try to be open and listening when others bring an area that is of concern. I have found that especially when I know that person loves me even if what they have to say is hard to hear in the end it is beneficial . Of course how they say it does help if they can approach it with Grace but if they are angry and speak with anger I can hear it and sift through the anger to really hear what I know they are trying to communicate to me because what they say is being said out of love. They can see things in areas where I am blind. I do want to grow and I am very motivated to have healthy relationships.

    This reveals to me how I can pray for those who are being defensive because they are afraid of hurt. I can pray that God can open their eyes and see past their hurt and allow God in to heal.

    We are all broken.It is just a question of how broken ? Will we allow God and His GRACE to come into our brokenness and bring healing?

    Reply
    • Great points and great questions! Thanks Ginger! I appreciate your support.

      Reply
  34. Alicia says:

    Thank you for this article. It has really helped me with personal reflection on my defense mechanisms I put up all of the time. I continuously do this not even knowing that I am always defending myself if someone corrects me. It is very frustrating since I have noticed that I have done this for years. I am going to try and try your three months corrective therapy suggestion with two important people in my life and see how it works.
    I have noticed that if you grow up with someone that defends themselves all of the time, I learned their negative tendencies that they have. I hope that I can break these bad habits and teach an old dog new tricks.
    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom.
    Best regards

    Reply
    • It’s hard kicking those old habits, but so worth it. Thanks Alicia!

      Reply
  35. Marie says:

    What do you do when both you and your husband are extremely defensive? It has affected our business as well as our marriage. I need to become more active with my husbands business..he needs help.. But almost 100% of anything I try to fix (& a lot needs to be fixed) he responds defensively and is extremely argumentitive. Makes me not want to contribute and help even tho he needs help so bad!
    And then of course I get defensive. It’s an ugly cycle that we can’t seem to break. We are in dire need of help and I don’t know where to turn!

    Reply
    • Great question Marie. Defensiveness is rooted in pride. It might be time to eat your own cooking and show him with actions what humility looks like. Be patient in this and when the time is right, ask him for permission to discuss a specific issue that is causing you hurt. Remember, growth is extremely painful from those who don’t want to grow. Compassion works wonders. The Bible says, “A gentle response turns away wrath.”

      Reply
  36. Julie says:

    You said at the beginning that defensiveness comes out as a response to weakness. I’ve definitely noticed that for myself as well. When I first began my career, I had no idea what I was doing, but was expected by outsiders to be flawless (which I obviously wasn’t). Fortunately, I had a great mentor who was able to help me find my way. Now, I do look forward to constructive feedback, because I enter the conversation with the confidence that I am good at what I do. It takes time, but iconfidence can be gained, especially when you learn to listen to what people say and then analyze it later to see if it’s valid.

    Reply
  37. This is why I love you! I’ve grown so much personally during startup camp… thanks to great articles and lessons like these;) Thanks Dale!

    Reply
  38. Widianto Zhu says:

    What is the root of defensiveness? What’s the cure after we recognize it?

    Reply
    • Teresa says:

      the source is shame and the cure is healing self love and trust

      Reply
  39. Abie Giordano says:

    This article is absolutely for me, thanks for sharing (and pointing out the “hidden” obvious facts) Dale!

    Reply
  40. Michaela Clayton says:

    It’s not hard at all to follow you as a believer myself. The way you carry yourself… I can recognize the spirit of God. Just wanted to let you know it doesn’t go unnoticed! (: I watch all your stuff ( multiple times) … Hope to meet you at the summit! My husband thought I was crazy when I drained our account without having the funds to get the hotel yet. I was in ministry for the past three years, full-time I was in ministry for the past three years, full-time and Jesus called me out to revolutionize something. I’m so grateful for your wisdom, because I feel so unqualified to carry this load. I will follow your steps and hope to gain your trust. Like Elisha, I have slaughtered my cattle And I’m following you like a disciple which is why I can’t wait to someday repay you! My personal fear was always to be in the spotlight… But this is my greatest opportunity to overcome. Thank you for being a part of helping me through this! Lessons you teach, plus the Spirit of God… I find safety in the conviction of your words because I know they’re from Jesus Himself. I hope this encourages you, because I step outside of myself to glorify the King as well! This is a great time for Christians indeed! =D

    Reply
  41. Casey Faul says:

    I enjoyed the article and the value is very timely! I have found myself needing someone I trust to correct me more because I have started to notice blind spots in my character. Having someone give me an honest evaluation of my weaknesses has been a great learning experience.

    Reply
  42. Perryn says:

    Great article! I really needed this right now… but oddly enough, more for my personal life than professional.

    Reply
  43. Somewhere in this conversation humility needs to be thought about. A truly humble person can receive correction. Very hard to do if you are proud in the negative sense. So, humility can be gained, little by little, as we face critics and not get bitter or defensive… Yes, I struggle with this, and the inappropriate or “immature responses”. This is a hard lesson to learn.

    Reply
    • Great point! A hard lesson to learn but absolutely worth it. Thanks Don!

      Reply
  44. Excellent article. Really glad I found your site. The balance of hearing correction well is pretty hard to strike, so these thoughts are on point!

    Reply
  45. Ahnivah says:

    Thank you so much for this! I have struggled with defensiveness for a very long time and I realize it’s because of my own pride. I’ve also come to realize that this attitude is impacting my marriage. With the Lord’s help, this is something I’m working through and hopefully I will no longer allow it to impact my success and my relationships.

    Reply
  46. DeLane Catlett says:

    Great article, Dale. This one really resonates with me. Learning to love correction/being less defensive is something I’ve started working on recently, so this was very timely. I appreciate the practical tasks. Keep doing what you’re doing!!

    Reply
  47. Irene says:

    Unfortunately, I haven’t overcome it yet((( It does give me even physical pain and shame. Especially when the criticism is unjust. I really feel like I’m a piece of disgusting shit. Is it really possible not to care about the negativity and only listen to the essence of what’s being said?

    Reply

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