3 Responses That Work Every Time To Stop Someone From Getting Defensive With You

The second someone gets defensive, your chances of changing their mind get closer to zero.

Jefferson Fisher tiktoker defensiveness justaskjefferson / TikTok

Have you ever entered into an argument with someone only for them to immediately wall themselves off and defend themselves no matter what? Fighting back as if trapped in a corner? That's defensive behavior.

Whether you're arguing about what someone did, or criticizing them for something that they do, it's important to practice effective communication in order to prevent someone from having a defensive reaction. It's a coping mechanism, after all.


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Jefferson Fisher, a trial attorney and self-proclaimed "argument expert" from Texas, claims that he has the answer for how to diffuse defensiveness during an argument with a defensive person.


In a TikTok video, he teaches a few key responses that will help people in diffusing defensive behavior.



3 Responses That Diffuse Defensiveness Immediately

1. Start with what you agree on.

Before saying anything, make sure to stay calm, have a soft tone of voice, and take some deep breaths. Acting on anger will only elicit a defensive response and will negatively impact your argument overall.

Similarly, to keep tensions low with the person you're arguing with, a good method for starting out the conversation is beginning with what you agree on.


"Now, you don't actually even have to agree with what they said," Fisher claims, "you can go macro and just agree that the two of you are talking."

Even if you say something along the lines of, "I agree that we should talk about this," and show that the conversation is important to you, you will bring down the wall that they put up. Pay attention to their body language and watch it open up with this response.

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2. Tell them what you've learned.

Fisher says that this response could be as easy and as simple as showing them that you're listening. "I've learned that this topic is really important to you," is the phrase he uses as an example.


Affirming someone else's feelings could be instrumental in opening them up as well. They'll feel as though they're being heard.

"As long as they hear the phrase 'I have learned,' it makes them feel like they're educating — like they're understood — and now they're less defensive," Fisher explains.

Letting someone know that you've now learned something about them that you didn't know before will also make them feel seen and stop them from feeling defensive — it's a feeling of understanding.

3. Say that they've been helpful.

Fisher suggests flat-out using the phrase, "That's helpful to know."

"If you tell them that they've been helpful, it makes them feel like they're invested in their own mutual understanding," he explains. As a result, Fisher believes that this will make the person you're talking to more receptive to the things you have to say.


The worst part about arguing with someone who is being defensive is that they'll try to take down and pick apart every single thing you have to say, but using any of these three responses means you may be able to lessen the load of their defensiveness or stop it altogether.

Keeping these things in mind could even help you in managing your own defensiveness as well. Nobody's perfect, but that doesn't mean we all can't strive to be.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is an Assistant Editor who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Keep up with his rants about current events on his Twitter.