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  5. Defensive communication while arguing is harmful in relationships: 6 major signs

Defensive communication while arguing is harmful in relationships: 6 major signs

Defensive communication prevents effective communication, creates resentment and frustration, and can lead to a breakdown of trust and intimacy. Both partners need to recognize the signs of defensive communication and make a conscious effort to communicate openly.

Kristina Das Written By: Kristina Das @ New Delhi Published on: October 31, 2023 15:26 IST
Defensive communication
Image Source : FREEPIK Defensive communication while arguing is harmful in relationships.

Communication is the foundation of any successful relationship. It is through communication that we express our feelings, concerns, and needs to our partners. However, not all communication is created equal. There is a type of communication that can be detrimental to any relationship – defensive communication during arguments.

Defensive communication refers to the act of responding to criticism or conflict in a way that protects one's self-esteem rather than resolving the issue at hand. This type of communication is often seen as a defence mechanism, a way to avoid feeling vulnerable or attacked. While it may seem like a natural response in the heat of an argument, defensive communication can have damaging effects on relationships. Let's take a closer look at six major signs of defensive communication and how it can harm relationships.

Refusing to Listen

One of the most obvious signs of defensive communication is when one partner refuses to listen to the other's perspective. This can manifest in various ways, such as talking over the other person, interrupting them, or dismissing their thoughts and feelings. By shutting down the other person's attempts to communicate, the defensive partner is essentially saying that their opinion and feelings are not valid.

This lack of listening not only hinders effective communication but also creates feelings of frustration and resentment in the other partner. It can also lead to a breakdown in trust and a feeling of being unheard, which can be extremely damaging in any relationship.

Blame Game

Another major sign of defensive communication is playing the blame game. When faced with criticism or conflict, a defensive person will often deflect responsibility and shift the blame onto their partner. They may use statements like "you always do this" or "you are the one causing this problem." By doing so, they are avoiding taking accountability for their actions and putting all the blame on their partner.

This type of communication only escalates arguments and creates a hostile environment within the relationship. To resolve conflicts and move forward, both partners need to take responsibility for their actions, and that cannot happen if the blame is constantly being shifted.

Denial and Minimising

Defensive communication can also take the form of denial and minimising the other person's feelings. This involves downplaying the severity of the issue at hand or completely denying that there is a problem. It is a form of self-protection, as the defensive partner refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing or negative impact on their actions.

This type of communication can be extremely harmful in a relationship because it dismisses the other person's feelings and experiences. It sends the message that their emotions are not valid, which can cause deep-seated resentment and hurt.

Deflecting with Humour

Sometimes, when faced with criticism or conflict, people resort to using humour to deflect from the issue. While humour can be a great tool to diffuse tense situations, using it defensively can be harmful in relationships. When one partner uses humour to avoid addressing the problem, it shows a lack of willingness to engage in open and honest communication.

Moreover, using humour can also come across as dismissive or belittling of the other person's feelings. This type of communication can create a disconnect between partners and prevent any real resolution from taking place.


Stonewalling refers to completely shutting down during an argument or conflict. It involves withdrawing from the conversation and refusing to engage or respond to the other person's attempts at communication. While it may seem like a way to avoid further conflict, stonewalling only exacerbates the issue.

By refusing to communicate, the defensive partner is essentially shutting down any chance of resolution or compromise. This can lead to feelings of frustration and hopelessness in the other partner and can severely damage the relationship.

Criticising and Deflecting

Lastly, defensive communication often involves criticising the other person's character or actions in response to criticism. This can be seen as a way to deflect from one's faults and flaws. For instance, if one partner is criticised for being late, they may respond with, "Well, you are always nagging me about time." This type of communication not only avoids addressing the issue but also adds fuel to the fire by attacking the other person.

ALSO READ: Spending Quality Time to Respecting Each Other: 5 ways to build a secure relationship


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