Ever spend some time with someone who is highly defensive? It’s a lot of fun, isn’t it?

In fact, they may even become aggressive and turn on you or others in an effort to make themselves feel better. This is just a simple misdirection on their part and don’t take the bait.

If someone lacks confidence, when they feel challenged, this triggers their insecurity and they move to defensiveness. It makes sense.

Their self worth doesn’t come from within, it comes from outside of themselves. And this is a dangerous position because in addition to being defensive, when feedback they don’t like comes their way, they are likely to want to bring others down as well, so they feel better about themselves.

This can be disastrous to those around them.

If you have someone in your organization who is prone to defensive behavior, also be on the lookout for behavior that may not be supporting the self esteem of others.

This may take the form of criticism, a high level of complaining, focusing on other people’s weaknesses, etc. This is likely not the environment you are going for, because when the self esteem of your staff takes a nose-dive, so do the results they produce.

Beginning to build the esteem of everyone on your staff will help improve the situation. The defensive person will certainly benefit as will those who have been hit by their arrows of criticism.

Keep in mind that it is hard for someone to undermine your confidence when it comes from within, as it should. This is because you have two things going for you.

First, you are willing to hear feedback and make adjustments that might be necessary.

Second, if the feedback is malicious, you are able to spot it as such and ignore it.

Highly productive teams are made up of confident individuals.


John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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