Is Your Defensiveness Trying to Tell You Something?

I read a lot of different financial message boards.

I’m always amused when someone in a thread gets incredibly defensive over something that was posted. The latest example was a thread about luxury handbags. The original poster inquired about the quality of a certain brand of handbag and wanted to know if it was worth the price. Several posters chimed in praising the brand. Two posters in particular were so vociferous in their support I wondered if they worked for the brand. Other posters came on the thread and reported negative experiences with the brand. After a while, the consensus was that the brand was not worth the money, quality-wise.

It was a pretty civil thread up to that point. Then one of the original defendants of the brand got defensive that someone had dared to mention anything negative about the brand. The argument got heated, with both sides defending their position. As it wore on, it became obvious that the poster was less interested in defending the brand, and more interested in defending their choice to spend that much money on the brand when they had other financial problems. (That’s the fun thing about message boards. If you’re a frequent poster, all of your earlier problems are out there so when you post a thread about how you can’t make the mortgage and then you chime in on a thread and talk about how much you spent on a handbag, other posters are going to have you for lunch.)

I see this a lot. A thread where someone simply asks for information about money matters devolves into hostility and defensiveness as choices are called into question and people become more insistent on defending their financial choices. It happens in real life, too. You get into a simple conversation and then you find yourself facing someone who is incredibly defensive about their money choices. While I don’t deny anyone the right to argue for their way of life, I do sometimes wonder if these people ever consider the root of their defensiveness.

Sometimes I think people get so defensive about money matters because the discussion hits a little too close to home. When someone sees a thread about someone spending money on a handbag of inferior quality and they own that bag, they have to defend their rationale for spending that money. When someone gets into a discussion about mortgages gone wrong and they have a risky mortgage, they have to defend their choice to take on that risk. When someone posts about wanting to take a vacation while otherwise struggling, other people who’ve made that same decision must chime in with the, “You only live once” defense.

People feel a need to defend their choices, even if they are bad ones. They don’t want to admit that they share the same problem/mistakes as the other person in the conversation, so they go out of their way to defend the choice for both of them. Perhaps the better alternative is to stop and ask, “Why am I getting so defensive about this?” You might discover that you’re getting so upset because you’ve made the same mistakes. Maybe you’ve done something boneheaded with money, too, and you can learn from the conversation instead of blindly defending bad choices.

There’s nothing wrong with spending your money as you want to, as long as you’re prepared to live with the consequences of your decisions. There’s nothing wrong with defending your decisions, either, if you genuinely feel that you’re in the right. But if you’re defending your choices simply because you don’t want to admit that they were bad choices, it’s time to step back and ask, “What can I do differently next time,” or, “What can the other people in this conversation tell me that might be helpful.” Pay attention to the times when you feel defensive about money. You might gain some insight about things you can change.

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2 Responses to Is Your Defensiveness Trying to Tell You Something?

  1. Nika says:

    It depends on so many factors and personal circumstances.

    A 10K trip on a yacht in Galapagos Islands is definitely worth it if you have all your financial obligations met, have good EF, fund retirement, and you always wanted to go… and is not worth it if you won’t be current on your bills if you miss one paycheck.

    The quality of the item did not change, just the prospective.

    And parties on both sides would be guilty — some who can’t afford it or just don’t share the same interests will say how ridiculous it is to spend this kind of money on something like that.
    There is not only the “you only live once” party.

    I understand that to each its own. For example, I would not spend a dime on baseball tickets or sports memorabilia, but I understand that some people enjoy that, and so it is not a foolish choice (if you can afford it).

    Life would be so boring if we all had the same criteria for what is a worthy item/experience.

  2. pen says:

    that post was fun to read… very true.

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