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How to Curb Your Defiance

In my other April 2o14 column, I described two types of defiers, the actively aggressive and the passive-aggressive. If you recognized yourself in either of these types, good for you! You’re on the road to making changes in your life that will enhance your relationships and empower your life.

Here are a few strategies to help you become less defiant:

team1. Work with your team, not against it.

Though teams are often thought of in terms of sports, many other teams exist. A family is a team. Indeed, when a family is called ‘dysfunctional’, it’s because they’re not acting the way a team should – pulling together for a common purpose. Work groups are teams as are community groups.

As independent as you imagine you are, you’re still dependent upon others for many things. This doesn’t make you a weak person; it’s just a dose of reality. Things tend to get accomplished faster and easier when you function as a team player, not as a rebel bucking the system.

2. Choose your battles carefully, weighing what’s really worth fighting for.

Reserve your acts of rebellion for important issues. Maybe there is a situation in which you truly are being taken advantage of. Or a rule that is clearly discriminatory. Or an environmental issue that’s offensive to your morality. For these types of situations, be a rebel! But don’t be a rebel without a cause. Though you may think of yourself as a trailblazer, make sure you’re not fooling yourself. Many a narcissist masquerades as a rebel – their dissent based on nothing deeper than: I don’t want to do what I don’t want to do.

3. Limit your whining and complaining

A little whining may actually improve your outlook on obligations. After all, life can be difficult. When things don’t go your way, you need to find some way to let off steam. You complain, you grumble, you tell your story to one or two empathetic friends, presto, you feel better. But whining that goes on day after day; well, that’s a whine of another color. Hence, if your goal is to be a winner, limit your whining. When you’ve reached your limit, you may be stymied as to what else you could do if you’re still feeling frustrated. Here are a few suggestions:

  • When problems arise, look for solutions.
  • When disappointments occur, accept them as  setbacks, not defeats.
  • When others annoy you, shrug it off.
  • When a situation needs to be addressed, speak up.

4. Mean what you say and say what you mean.

This advice is especially relevant for passive-aggressive defiers. Think before you speak. Avoid saying what others want to hear just to appease them. Don’t commit to doing a task if you don’t intend to do it. If you do commit, then later change your mind, take responsibility for that change by telling the person involved.

5.  Do what needs to be done.

Be in charge of yourself. Don’t wait until you fall behind, creating a need for a parental figure to berate you, punish you or nag you about your obligations. If you need a reminder about your obligations (and who doesn’t) use technology. Gadgets can beep you, buzz you, and gently remind you what you need to do. If you’re the non-tech type, Post-it notes, calendar reminders, even scribbled notes on your desk can work. Which would you prefer to do? Figure out a way to remind yourself what you need to do or wait until an authority figure berates you, which then triggers your righteous indignation.

6.  Apologize if you haven’t done something you said you would.

A lot of defiers hate making apologies. They equate it with a loss of power or defeat. An apology is nothing so repugnant. It’s simply a courtesy, a way to indicate that you recognize that what you did or didn’t do, negatively affected the other person. It may also be a prelude toward renegotiating what didn’t work out, as in “I apologize for not returning your call sooner; is now a good time to talk?”

Letting go of your defiance is empowering. Why? Because defiance is a reaction to what someone else wants.  When you act (not react), you choose your response, not rebelliously, but based on your reflections about how you wish to deal with the situation.

© 2014

“I will not be as those who spend the day in complaining of headache
and the night in drinking the wine that gives it.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach in private practice specializing in helping people overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. You can reach her at

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