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Sometimes our defensiveness can get in the way of great self-awareness and deeper relationships with others. How defensive are you? Reflect on the ten following questions or inner thoughts and see if they show up in conversations you have from time to time.


1. When people criticize or judge me, I am quick to point out their own faults.

2. If people are upset or disappointed with me, I let them know with explanations and excuses as to why they are wrong.

3. I’m afraid that what others think of and say about me is true.

4. I’m always looking for the hidden critical message beneath people’s requests.

5. If I don’t defend myself, I’ll just get run over.

6. If I’m open to people’s criticisms and judgments of me, it means I’m weak.

7. I can never admit that I’m wrong.

8. I may not defend myself verbally to someone, but I’ll be sure to get back on that person somehow.

9. If I think someone will have something critical to say, I avoid talking to that person by not answering, leaving the room, or changing the subject.

10. If I’m at fault for something, it’s always because of some factor outside of myself over which I had no control.

If you responded true more often than false to the above questions, consider some of the following alternatives to defensiveness.

1. I’m always looking to improve myself, so I welcome feedback from others on how well I am doing (or not).

2. I realize that when I’m feeling defensive, I don’t feel safe, competent or confident, and I don’t learn well.

3. I sit with someone’s criticism of me to see if there is a kernel of truth in it. If there is, I acknowledge it and work to improve in that area.

4. I realize that sometimes people’s criticisms about me are all about the “story” they have made up around a situation. I don’t take it personally, and I don’t take it on as my responsibility.

5. I know that I can actually have greater influence in a situation by acknowledging that I may be wrong.

6. When someone uses the words “always” and “never” I ignore those words and focus instead on the rest of the message.

7. I take responsibility for what I can change.

8. I listen for the (usually) hidden need expressed in a person’s complaint or anger, acknowledge the need, and then see whether there is something I can do to meet it