Being human means being defensive.


Being human means being defensive.

When we've been challenged or criticized at work, it's fair to say that almost all of us — except maybe for the Dalai Lama and other equanimous souls — have been annoyed, kept silence, or said something offensive in answer. And because getting defensive is so natural we prefer to write it off as no big deal. Nevertheless, there are aspects to work on.

Glenn Harvey: Defensiveness.

While getting defensive during stressful moments is nearly impossible to completely eliminate, you can become aware of your own reactions and have a plan of action in place when you notice them. Whenever you are defensive you become less effective. When you are defensive, your thinking gets rigid and you are acting bizarre.

Why is defensiveness such a barrier to working together?

When we become defensive we put more emphasis on self-preservation than we do on problem-solving. We're trying to prove we're right and not searching for innovative ideas. When this occurs in a place of work, it can be a recipe for confusion and failure. These tendencies are especially prejudicial to supervisors, administrators and others in control. Your action is affecting more than just the defensiveness. We invite everyone else who is there to become defensive as we become defensive, too.

Let's say you are worried about a review of the results, for example. You may be offering excuses or becoming angry or brusque when your manager gives you some constructive critiques. These actions hide the real issue, which might be your fear of not receiving the raise or promotion you thought deserved or even your fear of being sacked. The defensiveness allows us to conceal the fears from ourselves and it serves to reassure you erroneously that the fears you have are not real.

Now when we understand the dangers of defensiveness, surely we can also do something about it to help ourselves.

You can commence by learning to spot the defensive warning signs in yourself. If you feel like you are feeling them, be careful and take action. Below you will find ten most common warning signs that you may become defensive: a spurt of energy in your body; sudden confusion; flooding your audience with information to prove a point; withdrawing into silence; magnifying or minimizing everything; developing "all or nothing" thinking; feeling like you are a victim or you are misunderstood; blaming or shaming others; thinking obsessively; and wanting the last word.

Look back from your life at any charged conversations, disagreements, or conflicts — minor and major — and find the behavior patterns you engage in when you become defensive.

Developing your own defensiveness warning system requires a few simple steps: understanding, taking action and letting go.

Whenever you hear one of your own warning signs — for example, obsessive thought or confusion — recognize that by doing something like "It feels like I'm being defensive," you're being defensive to yourself.

One way is to create to yourself — and others — a mentally safe environment when you show your weakness. This can be done by sharing something like "I feel like I'm being aggressive here, so let me rethink the situation." Or, if your defensiveness sign is attacking your teammates with details to prove your point, you can intentionally pause for 15 seconds and let others finish talking first.

Once you have taken your step in action, you will find that it is easier for you to release your defensiveness and examine the situation — and your colleagues — with fresher, more calm eyes. Most definitely, your physical and emotional self will be in a different place than when you first began being defensive.

Be patient: It takes time to note and control your defensiveness.

Choose moments — maybe with your family or friends — where you can rehearse the steps in practice and you'll be ready when you need them most. Remember, if you can stay non-defensive, you can be ever more powerful.

Defensiveness was one of the weaknesses future designer Victoria Beckham was to fight every day in her high school times as she was often bullied for being different from her fellow pupils. Fairly wealthy family background kids often face this problem, although Victoria learned how to control her defensiveness and became the famous fashion designer, loving mother and beloved wife of the most successful English soccer player.

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