Gottman Therapy

Overcoming Defensiveness: Tips for Improving Communication and Strengthening Your Relationship

John Gottman is a world-renowned relationship expert who has studied couples for over four decades. In his work, he identified four behaviors that are particularly destructive to relationships: criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness. These behaviors, which Gottman refers to as the “four horsemen,” can lead to the breakdown of even the most loving and committed relationships.

Defensiveness is one of the four horsemen and it is often an automatic response to feeling attacked or criticism. When we feel defensive, we are trying to protect ourselves from feeling hurt or rejected. However, this defense mechanism can actually do more harm than good in a relationship.

Defensiveness can take many forms, including denying responsibility, making excuses, or counterattacking. When one partner is being defensive, it can feel like they are not taking ownership for their actions or acknowledging the other person’s perspective. This can be incredibly frustrating and can lead to even more conflict and negativity in the relationship.

Gottman suggests that instead of being defensive, we should try to take a more constructive approach to conflict resolution. This means being open to hearing our partner’s perspective, taking responsibility for our actions, and trying to find a solution that works for both parties.

By working on our defensiveness and adopting more constructive communication techniques, we can improve our relationships and build a stronger, more loving connection with our partner. It takes time and effort to change our default responses, but the rewards of a more positive and supportive relationship are well worth it.

It’s important to recognize that defensiveness is a natural and common response to feeling attacked or criticism. It’s a natural instinct to want to protect ourselves from harm or rejection. However, if we are not careful, defensiveness can escalate conflicts and cause more harm than good in our relationships.

One way to reduce defensiveness is to practice active listening. This means fully paying attention to what your partner is saying, without interrupting or jumping to conclusions. It also means trying to understand their perspective and expressing empathy. By showing your partner that you are truly listening and trying to understand their point of view, you can reduce their feelings of frustration and resentment, and create a more positive and constructive dialogue.

Another way to reduce defensiveness is to take responsibility for your actions. This means acknowledging when you have made a mistake or caused harm, and apologizing for it. By taking responsibility, you show your partner that you are willing to own up to your mistakes and work to make things right. This can go a long way towards building trust and repairing any damage caused by conflicts.

Finally, it’s important to try to find solutions to conflicts rather than just focusing on who is right or wrong. When we get caught up in trying to prove our own point, we can lose sight of the bigger picture and the needs of our relationship. By focusing on finding solutions that work for both parties, we can move past conflicts and work towards building a stronger, more loving connection with our partner.

In conclusion, defensiveness is a natural but destructive behavior that can harm our relationships. By being more aware of our own defensiveness and working to adopt more constructive communication techniques, we can improve our relationships and build stronger, more loving connections with our partners.