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How to stop getting defensive | AuthentiCareer


We all experience situations where we feel the need to protect ourselves and this is exactly how we are getting defensive. It can be at work because we think we are criticized.  It can be at home because our spouses, our children point out something that we don’t particularly want to see.

When the world around us changes something that involves us – directly or indirectly – we either RESPOND or REACT and there are consequences to each action. The same goes for when an event occurs in our personal or professional life. We either respond or react to it.

The act of responding is an act of freedom and consequently has power within it. Responding creates opportunity and involves the ability to act with a sense of responsibility. The act of reacting, however, comes from somewhere in the past, and lacks power because the response is based on resistance or opposition without much thought. Reaction can often perpetuate a problem, or exaggerate an event.


Why are we getting defensive?

By itself, getting defensive is a form of protection. We feel attacked in our integrity, our values or our worth so defensiveness becomes a shield. Getting defensive helps us to protect our self-esteem.

We often have a biased perception of what people think and what their intention is. Because, deep inside, we think people are ”attacking” us. However, in most situations, we project our own fears and  ‘drivers’ that lead us to adopt this behavior.

Why is it a problem?

The only problem is that by getting defensive,  you disrupt the relationship with people.  

Projecting our fears and drivers puts us in a negative energy state. We are all made of energy and like everything in the world, we are made up of atoms. Actually, you probably remember people you have been around and spending some time with them makes you full of energy or completely drained. 

However, the energy state in which we are has a great influence on what we attract in our lives. Being defensive is a typical example of low energy. In this state, it is difficult to attract the right people or the right opportunities. 

How to stop getting defensive

1. Stopping the ”overfunctioning” syndrom

There can be a simple answer: we’re tired! Tired of managing 36,000 things at a time. A slight annoyance drives us mad and we react! It can come from our perfectionism syndrome,  

Tip: Let’s take a break. Make the conscious choice to set the bar a little lower in some areas (it can be the dinner, the birthday party  for one of our children that will not be as spectacular as expected, this presentation that we have been fine-tuning for weeks). We give ourselves a little space to just slow down and this, without feeling guilty. We identify the possible drivers that lead us to put ourselves in over-regime.  Read the article about the drivers that are consuming us. 

2. Knowing and acknowledging our worth

When our self-confidence is not at its best, it doesn’t need a lot to plummet. A comment from our manager about a project, someone who is distracted by his phone while we are talking and we are getting defensive ”He doesn’t find my presentation interesting’ or ”he has no respect for me”. I can tell you that self-confidence is not tied to your position. I know people who are in high management positions, and who still have a fragile self-confidence. These people tend to mask this lack of self-confidence by a tendency to wear a mask of arrogance or to be over controlling. Simply because they want to be seen as very confident people. But finally, deep down, these people are insecure.

Tip: First, gain clarity of your worth and realize how you contribute to your team, company and to your close relationships. How is your value helping others?

The second is to practice self-compassion, treat yourself as well as you would treat the person you care the most. Be more benevolent with your mistakes.

3. Paying attention to our disempowering thoughts

Here are some thoughts that need to be re-framed

Mindreading: Making assumptions about what people are feeling why they are acting as they are and how they feel about you

Example: A co-worker didn’t invite you to a meeting that you thought you should’ve been invited to, and you believe that he is intentionally trying to exclude you from the conversation or that he doesn’t value your input.

Filtering: Focusing on the negative details of a situation and filtering out all positive aspects

Example: You receive abundant positive feedback about your performance at work, but you obsess over one piece of criticism

Fallacy of fairness: Being resentful because you believe everything in life should be fair

Example: I didn’t get this promotion, it is really unfair because I have achieved more than this person

Am I making an sense to you? If you want to know more about these kind of disempowering thoughts, you can read on the blog the top 5 of disempowering perspectives 

Tip : Having this kind of perspective inevitably leads us to feel negative emotions (frustration, irritation, anger) and therefore a tendency to be defensive. The first step is to stop blaming people for our emotion. We can make the conscious choice of challenging Your truth and ask yourself ‘’how do I know it is 100% true?’’

3. Cultivating a growth mindset

We usually think of defensiveness as getting verbally defensive. But we actually defend ourselves against holes in our self-esteem in lots of ways: we might trash-talk our haters, compare ourselves to people who have it worse.

These methods might make us feel better, but they channel our energy into defensiveness rather than moving forward.

So how can we channel our energy into self-improvement rather than self-defense? According to a study by Dr. Carol Dweck, grande dame of the mindset movement, cultivating a growth mindset can help us make the leap. to make the process of moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset …. In which areas do you want to make progress?


Reviewing my article, I really become aware of my specificity as a career and leadership coach. I would even call me a ‘’self-leadership coach’’. To be honest, I don’t care about the glass ceiling, as it is institutionalized. I don’t care how women can implement “corporate” strategies to break down this famous glass ceiling. I am far more interested in developing their authentic self-leadership. Developing self-awareness so they can make choices aligned with who they are and what they really want. Actually, I am partnering with them to shatter their personal and internalized glass ceilings. Because we all should define success on our own terms.

My name is Marie and I support women who want to be successful in their professional career while thriving as an individual. Through coaching, they are growing by identifying their unique talent and building up their impact and influence. Women authentic leadership is about finding the right balance between empathy and self-affirmation, ambition and self-care.