We are guilty of being defensive in some aspect of our lives. In happens in our personal relationships and our work. Being defensive typically involves us justifying our actions or words or trying to protect ourselves from either looking bad or being wrong. We certainly don’t want to admit responsibility.
So why would we want to stop being defensive? It’s not constructive, and usually eats away at the relationship. It can make you look insecure, overly emotional, and close minded.
How do you know if you are being defensive:
1) Do you respond to criticism by criticizing the person saying it to you?
2) You stop listening in the middle of someone talking to you?
3) Do you justify your behavior or actions when someone doesn’t like it?
There are many ways we are defensive. But how do we stop it?
1) Admit you act defensive – always the first step is acknowledgement. It’s the hardest but once you can get past this, it’s much easier.
2) Notice the feelings coming on – do you feel a different way physically? I notice my heart starts to pump harder, my voice may raise a little louder
3) Pause and breathe – This is so important. Our guy reaction is often fast and aggressive. Pausing and breathing forces us to take a step back. After you feel those triggers, take a second and pause. Whether someone is attacking you verbally or criticizing you. Take a breathe so that you are recognizing what is going on.
4) Acknowledge the person’s perspective – You don’t need to agree with it but you can be empathetic or validate someone’s feelings. Listen to them and say something like “I can see this is really hard for you”. or “I can see you got really upset at that. ” you are not agreeing with them, only acknowledging their side.
5) Look for the truth in the criticism – It may only be a small part, but is there any truth to what they are saying. There certainly could be. We usually don’t want to look inside as it is very hard to often do. Taking responsibility for our own actions is not easy either.
6) If appropriate, apologize – If you don’t agree you can apologize with “I’m sorry that what I did effected you that way”. That’s not a real apology for many but can be better than nothing. If you really did do wrong or they are correct, then apologize for it.
7) Tell them how the information could have been conveyed – If they are criticizing you and you care about the relationship, you can tell them how you would have liked them to say it. “Instead of saying the dinner I cooked was horrible” maybe you could have said “Thank you so much for cooking. It’s really appreciated but maybe we could consider something different next time?
We are all guilty of being defensive at some point. It can be hard not to be when you insecurities come out or you feel someone is pointing out something negative about you or something you did. Try to remember these tips so you can come out on top.