See if you have experienced any of these situations…
Someone is criticizing you so you criticize them back.
Or here’s another… Someone is talking to you and in the middle of them talking you stop listening to them or even cross your arms.
Or… Someone tells you they don’t like something you did or said but you justify your behavior or explain why you said what you did.
If any of these sound familiar, you are acting defensive. We all do it, we just have different levels of how much or how often we do it. But it’s not helping us. In this video we are reviewing why we get defensive and how we can stop it.
We are all guilty of being defensive in some aspect of our lives. It can happen in our personal relationships with our family and friends as well as our relationships at work. Being defensive typically involves us justifying our actions or words. We try to protect ourselves from either looking bad or being wrong. The problem is that it’s not constructive at all and usually eats away at the relationship….and while you are trying to make yourself look better in the situation, it actually makes you look insecure, overly emotional, and close minded.
I’m not sure about you, but I would prefer not to look like that. So those are a few good reasons why we would want to stop being defensive. But how do we stop it? Let’s look at some ways on how to stop being defensive:
#1 – First….Admit it – acknowledgement is always the first step. It’s the hardest but once you can admit it, you are on the road to stop being defensive.
#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. So I can physically feel my defenses going up. It’s important to be in tune with how your body is reacting.
#3 – Pause and breathe – This is so important. Our gut reaction is to respond quickly and even aggressively. 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 the work you did, the pause and breath will allow you to think before you act. You will be better able to recognize what is going on.
#4 – Acknowledge the person’s perspective – Listen, you don’t need to agree with someone who is telling you something you don’t want to hear but you can be empathetic or acknowledge what they are saying. Listen to what they are saying and you may say something like “I can see this is really hard for you.” or “I notice you got really upset at that.” If it is something with work, maybe you say, “I understand the report is not what you wanted.” Again, you are not agreeing with them, only acknowledging what they are saying. This one can be really hard to do if the situation is an argument but when you get really good at this, you begin to better control conversations. It’s actually a power move for you, not a weakness.
#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? Could you maybe have said what you said a little nicer? Could you have done something differently at work that would have turned out better? We usually don’t want to look inside ourselves as it can be really hard to do. Taking responsibility for our own actions is not easy, but your relationships can drastically improve when you do this. So many divorces could be avoided if people were only willing to look at their part in the situation rather than blaming the other person.
#6 – If appropriate, apologize – An apology can go along way when you mean it. If you aren’t going to apologize you can say “I’m sorry that what I did effected you that way.“ That’s not a real apology for most people but can be better than nothing. If you really did do something wrong or they are correct, then apologize for it.
#7 – Tell them how the information could have been better 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. For example, Instead of saying “You always leave a mess in the kitchen.” I would have appreciated you saying “Hey, I would really appreciate if you could clean up after you use the counter to make your lunch.” We are all guilty of being defensive. It’s hard not to be when your 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.