When Feedback Makes YOU Defensive Here’s What To Do About It

From the time we arrive on the planet, we are in a constant feedback loop. Before we have verbal language to support us, we use body language.

For example: cry for a diaper change or food, and someone shows up. Studies show that babies respond to the nonverbal messages from a caretaker and adjust to kind and loving or gruff and harsh.

Feedback for Success

While most of us give lip service to feedback, there is a deep tendency to shrink away from anything that smacks negativity. As a result, the most common out loud response is “Thanks for telling me.” or “I’ll look into your comments.”

Meanwhile, the inner thoughts are “”That’s just the way I am.” or “Who the heck do you think you are.”

Above all, there is such powerful resistance to behavior change that the tendency is to dig in and prove you are right and the other is wrong.

Subsequently, it takes real effort to listen to feedback and do things differently. Interesting that we all want to succeed, yet, when real and lasting change is needed, we resist.

Look from the outside in

Stop and think about this for a moment. Do you have any idea what you look like, sound like, act like in the eyes of your boss, co-workers, direct reports, Fed-Ex delivery person, spouse, partner, or children?

To clarify, do you ever ask for feedback? And, would you listen? I mean really listen.

Most importantly, it takes real effort to listen and absorb what needs to change.

Moreover, when you internal thoughts and reactions are aligned with your outward thoughts and reactions, guess what?

You win. And so do those around you.

Automatic responses

Certainly, ingrained habits and patterns of behavior have their place. Think about it: what a nuisance if you had to relearn to brush your teeth, comb your hair, or put on your clothes every morning.

On the other hand, perhaps you go on automatic and do not pay attention to how you talk with others and how it impacts them?

Are you living your life on autopilot with much of what you do each day?

For instance, would you eat hamburgers and fries for every meal day after day for months on end? Of course not!

Then why would you repeat the same outdated behaviors day after day for months on end?

Move past distress

In other words, ingrained habits and patterns have their place, yet way too often, the tendency is to stay with what is familiar and comfortable.

Therefore, you remain stale and reactive in daily communication.

Changing what is habitual is a key goal of learning to be self-aware. This is one of the most important elements of becoming a great leader.

It is the way to limit overwhelm, anxiety, sleepless nights, physical and emotional stress.

Gandhi put it perfectly when he said “We should not mistake what is habitual for what is natural.”

Move to less stress

Here is one idea to help you move from “It’s just the way I am. Live with it.” to “This is how I choose to be. Thanks for the feedback.”

First, take the time to really listen. Take a deep breath and go beyond your initial defensive reaction and notice your gut reaction.

Further, check out if you feel tightness in your stomach, clench your fists, or tighten your jaw.

After that, think about how you responded as a kid when you were reprimanded by a parent, sibling, or teacher.

Feedback loop

Above all, this is where we learned to hate feedback. Usually it was a slap on the rear, a taunt, or a detention. Not good for learning better habits. Only good for creating defensive positioning.

That is to say, Gandhi was right. What is habitual is not natural. What is natural is, telling the truth, being accountable, and looking for ways to cooperate.

Firstly, you can get out of a negative feedback loop by observing your body’s reactions and then adjust your thinking. Ask yourself, “Is this similar to what I was called out on as a kid, or is this new information?”

Next, use your emotional intelligence to help you take in the feedback as positive rather than negative.

Think “Feedback is my friend and mentor.”

Finally, focus on the feedback as vital rather than put all your attention on the person who is offering it.

Further, take a minute and decide to how to respond in a more effective, more mature way.

YOU can do it

Like any habit that needs to be changed, this takes time. Don’t beat yourself up. Just keep practicing to love feedback and in about two or three months you will be open to the new and disregard the old.

Overwhelm and stress will diminish, leaving you with more energy for positive and healthy relating. Click the link here to see what great ideas you can get from the Stress masterclass.

Go past habitual to natural and watch your relationships flourish and your confidence level rise exponentially.

To your success,


Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options