The antidote to defensiveness is to accept responsibility for your role in the issue.

Think about the word responsibility.

Response. Ability.

You have the ability to respond with patience and kindness. The key is to be aware of your triggers. And to understand the difference between a perceived attack and an actual one.

If you feel defensive-that does not mean you’ve been attacked necessarily. The ability to look for the grain of truth in a statement by your spouse, when in a conflict, is a skill that will not come easily. When we feel defensive, we often retaliate with defensiveness, naturally. This response makes it worse. It’s better to ask for a break, or take a minute, to look for a grain of truth, something in the statement that you can own up to. Then do it. Easy for me to say.

Sometimes we are being attacked, sometimes our souse may be resorting to criticism, and our natural tendency is to defend. Looking for the grain of truth is hard, but still the first step. After looking inward, if you still feel defensive, you can ask for what you want such as a break, or to cool off and talk about this later. Regardless of the reason, if you feel defensive and act on it, this will go the wrong way.

Feeling wrongly accused is one of the worst, most intensely negative feelings we have. And we usually want to defend to get our point across. Even when we dispute what is being said, saying so with patience and kindness can make a difficult conversation stay on track.

The goal is to work on your response-ability. The ability to respond in a constructive, not destructive way.