Defend or Attack Back?


Have you ever been stuck in being defensive? Let’s say, you are having an argument, and from the very beginning, you try to defend yourself. The other person is accusing you of something, or blaming you for doing something that is not your fault. Whether you are at fault or not, you try hard to defend yourself, which makes the opponent even angrier.


Some people go into attack mode if someone accuses them of something. They immediately try to revert the attention from themselves and start bringing everything imaginable up that can distract you from addressing the issue at hand. All of a sudden, the argument is about you and what is ultimately wrong with you. A lot of times, “attackers” start bringing up things that happened way back in the past. They accuse you of saying or doing something that happened a long time ago and has nothing to do with the argument you are having. Sometimes they start making stuff up, accusing you of talking about them, or inquiring about them from a mutual friend, and something apparently hurt their feelings, which you might or might not have done, but you did not even remember any of it.


By the end of the argument, after your have tried to defend yourself from every attack that was shot at you, you both are mentally exhausted, very mad at each other, swear not to talk to each other again… But the issue at hand has not even been close to being solved! Now, there is a whole lot of other issues that you two have to figure out. Now, your feelings are hurt. Maybe you even discovered some new things about yourself, like you are too petty, or too materialistic, or you only care about yourself, and so on and so forth. A new insecurity, or several develop. You are mad at the “attacker” for being so nasty to you. You are a total victim. Then you hold a grudge for a while and run different scenarios of how you should have “defended” yourself better. It’s a mess. The relationship is probably ruined, or needs some serious repair.


Well, as I discovered recently, I am a definite “defender.” I absolutely hate conflict! If it’s in person, I would get all blotchy red and just want the argument to stop. It’s worse if I feel that the opponent is stronger than me. I have had two specific incidents when two people, who I thought were close to me, “attacked” me on two different occasions. Well, as soon as I responded with an attack, that’s when all the hell broke loose! It got so much worse than if I just used my usual defense strategy. At least, usually I would be able to smooth it over, but these two times the “attackers” were taken aback and attacked me back with double, if not triple power.


What I realized is that you have to be yourself and not try to pretend to be like the other person. Attacking the “attacker” is pointless. You will never win. It will never lead to a reasonable conversation and problem-solving. I believe that the best thing one can do is to apologize for any misunderstanding and the attack back. Also, if any of the accusations are true, admit to them and try to understand why it made them so upset in the first place. From then on, depending on who the opponent is, it’s best to stay away from him/her as much as possible, and never ever talk about them, or open up to them in the future, because sooner than later, the attack will come again!


Do you identify yourself with “attacker” or “defender?” Or maybe you are both or neither? How do you handle conflict? What are your best strategies to solve an issue quickly and effectively, without anyone’s feelings hurt afterwards?


Author of Rocky Road to Recovery self-help memoir. Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.


  1. I used to be and still am the defender type. I will only bdefend but so much now because I’ve been down that road SO many times and as you said, it only ends up being worse and I feel depleted afterwards. I have more wisdom now and can better recognize toxic behaviors and unproductive conversations much sooner. Im not perfect but ive learned how to love and respect myself enough to not continue falling into defending mode. I’d rather exit stage left and keep my peace.

  2. I’ve always figured myself passive until a nerve too many is struck. Then, oh my god, I am an attacker. I always end up feeling regretful, embarrassed, and apologetic when it’s over. This tactic of not being like the person fighting you, is what we all need to do better to remember.

    1. And it’s easier said than done, isn’t it? In the heat of the moment most of us lose it. We just have to make sure we follow up with an apology or take some time off to cool off and then try to clarify things

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