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Gabby101's avatar

What is the difference between being defensive and being angry?

Asked by Gabby101 (2453 points ) October 25th, 2012

I was thinking about a couple times at work when people told me that I was being defensive. Usually, this situation would occur when someone was making, what I considered, to be a really poor suggestion and I thought it a waste of time to even have to make a counterpoint against it. (I.e. I was thinking, “you’re an ass.”). I’m not saying it’s nice to behave this way, but curious as to why this behavior is labeled “defensive” and not simply “impolite.”

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9 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Well, when someone makes a suggestion, a person who is not defensive listens to the suggestion with an open mind. They do not get angry. They are not invested in the status quo to the point that they get defensive about suggestions from outside.

gailcalled's avatar

Being defensive implies that you are defending a position. Your example here is that of being impolite.

You say that the earth is flat. Others explain that that is incorrect. You insist that you are correct, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. You are being defensive.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

When something or someone makes you feel that there is something offensive or painful to you, anger is an appropriate feeling. If everything you hear or see makes you angry and causes you to feel isolated, then you make need some help to identify the reasons why your life experiences are so hurtful to you.

It is important to avoid getting caught up in psychological jargon that far to many people may use without the necessary background or proper understanding. Often people will use such jargon to manipulate the feelings or behaviour of other people.

JLeslie's avatar

You can be both at the same time in my opinion. They are not mutually exclusive.

If they are accusing you of being defensive they probably perceive you as not willing to keep an open mind about the suggestion, and that you seem to take it very personally. Like it implies how you do the task is wrong or a bad idea. Are you bad at hearing criticism in general? Even constructive criticism?

Next time someone makes a suggestion, maybe start with saying “thank you for the suggestion.” Unless you don’t want people to come to you with ideas. Maybe you don’t? And, then explain why you do whatever it is how you do it, and why you think the suggested way won’t work. Maybe the other person doesn’t have all the information, and once they do they will have a better understanding and see it your way.

rojo's avatar

Why do you ask and it’s none of your f*%#ing business.

_Whitetigress's avatar

I think with anger, you can channel this emotion into the physical world. As in, you can express anger physically as well as emotionally.

Being defensive, can only be done through verbal gesture. I think it can lead to someone becoming angry. Or it can be the result of someone having anger inside.

BosM's avatar

The difference between being defensive and being angry is the amount of emotion that binds the two. If your highly emotional about your position and feeling the need to defend it then it’s quite possible to exhibit anger in doing so.

Rather than taking a judgemental position (“what I considered, to be a really poor suggestion ”) keep an open mind, and respond through active listening, such as: ‘what I heard you say is _____, am I understanding your suggestion correctly’? Follow that up by asking: ‘can you help me understand how that assists in solving our problem’? Do it sincererly without “mocking” the other person.

That approach is going to win you allies and show you’re interested in learning perspectives of others. Being defensive, angry, and judgemental is only going to alienate you from them.

dabbler's avatar

Sounds like they are using the word ‘defensive’ incorrectly.
You don’t give a lot of details about what you did say but it might be more correctly labelled ‘critical’ or ‘snarky’ or ‘impolite’ or ‘arrogant’ or ‘condescending’ or ‘judgemental’ or ‘uncooperative’ or ‘unconstructive’ or just plain ‘rude’. But your description does not sound like ‘defensive’ to me.

Anger is a feeling, defensive is a behavior. They can occur without each other or together.
You might be feeling angry, annoyed is a mild form of angry.
Defensive behavior is countering an attack of some sort toward you or your ideas. Sometimes defending yourself is warranted, but usually when people say ‘defensive’ they mean one is defending themselves without a good reason to do so.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

The maturity level of the individual with which you are arguing.

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