Getting defensive is a way to protect and defend ourselves from what we think is a threat. We don’t want to be blamed for our mistakes and shortcomings. And we definitely don’t want to look bad. Either way, feeling defensive is pretty normal, but it usually backfires and makes you look worse, not better. So, if you’re feeling defensive, these five coping skills can help you feel better and look better, too.

Be your own biggest fan

Encouraging words from teachers, bosses, friends and family remind you that you are capable of great things. But don’t wait for their encouragement and support. Remember that you are your own biggest fan, and by showing yourself compassion and love, you can go far.

Focus on your values

In the face of criticism, you can get swept up in negative storm of self-doubt and frustration. Or, you can remind yourself that you do feel confident and capable in different areas of your life. Take some time to identify them – it can help to put things into perspective.

Be curious and grow

Messing up is frustrating and looking imperfect stings. However, is it possible to look at your mistakes more objectively and see that they’re not a reflection of your worth? Can you get curious, adopt a growth mindset and do even better the next time?

Time is on your side

When you’re feeling defensive, you might succumb to a knee-jerk reaction and justify what you did. Instead, take time to listen to what’s being said, and most importantly, to breath. This can help you respond from a more grounded and centered place, rather than react.

Avoid “you statements”

If you don’t like what you’re hearing, or the person you’re listening to for that matter, you might want to resort to “you statements”. But these tend to increase feelings of defensiveness and can even be an attack on the other person. Instead, focus on “I statements” that help you express disagreement from a more objective standpoint.