Signs of defensiveness

Use this list to identify when you are shifting from collaboration to defensiveness. Check all that apply to you. If none seem to, ask a trusted colleague or spouse. They might be able to help you see more clearly. Then circle the three signs you most often display. These are your early warning signs. Use them to complete your Defensive action plan.

  • Loss of humor
  • Taking offense
  • High charge or energy in the body
  • Sudden drop in intelligence
  • Wanting to be right (“No question about it!”)
  • Wanting the last word
  • Flooding with information to prove your point
  • Endless explaining and rationalizing
  • Playing “poor me”
  • Teaching or preaching
  • Rigidity (closed to other opinions)
  • Denial
  • Withdrawal into silence
  • Cynicism
  • Sarcasm
  • Making fun of others
  • Being critical of others
  • Terminal uniqueness (“I’m so special; rules don’t apply to me”)
  • Thinking or saying “It’s just my personality. It’s just how I am.”
  • Not wanting to negotiate
  • Blaming
  • Sudden onset of illness or accident
  • Confusion
  • Suddenly tired or sleepy
  • Intellectualizing
  • Acting crazy (the temporary insane defense)
  • Eccentricity
  • Being too nice
  • Selective deafness
  • Attacking (the best defense is a good offense)
  • Holding a grudge
  • Trivializing with humor
  • Inappropriate laughing or giggling
  • Negative attitude (sour grapes)
  • Defensive awareness (“I’m aware of that. Leave me alone!”)
  • Addiction to alcohol, drugs, people, shopping, working, gambling, chocolate, workshops, etc.
  • Personalizing everything
  • All or nothing thinking
  • Catastrophizing–thinking the worst of a situation
  • Fast breathing/ fast heartbeat
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Hot, sweaty skin
  • Mind reading
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Magnifying everything
  • Minimizing everything
  • Emotional rigidity (I feel it. It must be true)
  • Tight stomach
  • Speaking too fast
  • Becoming physically immobile
  • Obsessive thinking
  • Others?

Source: Radical Collaboration by Jim Tamm.