7 Responses that Defeat Defensiveness
People don’t make you feel defensive. Defensiveness is your response.
Defensiveness is feeling attacked when others are trying to help.
My natural response to criticism or corrective feedback is self-protection. After all, only sick people intentionally do stupid things.
My reasons are the right ones.
Noticing precedes improvement. Learn to notice defensive language in yourself and others.
Defensive people feel:
- Unfairly attacked.
- Unjustly Criticized.
- Denial: Refusing to accept responsibility. “It’s not my fault.”
- Blame-shifting: Redirecting criticism onto others. “They made me do it.”
- Rationalization: Providing justifications or explanations. “You don’t understand.”
- Attacking: Hostility that diverts attention to others. “It’s other people’s fault.”
- Minimization: Downplaying the impact of your actions. “It’s not a big deal.”
- Justification: Presenting self-affirming evidence. “If you knew the pressure I’m under.”
- Shutting down: Withdrawing to avoid further confrontation. “I can’t deal with this right now.”
Roots of defensiveness:
People pleasing drives defensiveness. I’d brag about not getting defensive, but I worry what you’ll think.
Tying identity to performance makes criticism personal. I feel good about myself when the boss thinks I did good. It feels personal when someone suggests I didn’t do good.
The need to be right motivates self-justification. Confirmation bias is my favorite.
7 responses that defeat defensiveness:
Develop a hip-pocket response. When you start feeling attacked or criticized pull out a preplanned reply. Planned responses lower stress and portray confidence. Kneejerk reactions add heat to interactions.
- Openness. “This surprises me. Tell me more.”
- Curiosity. “What brought this to mind for you?”
- Development. “What suggestions do you have for me?”
- Gratitude. “Thanks for bringing this up. It’s important to me too.”
- Pause and breathe.
- Provide time for yourself. “Thanks for bringing this up. Let’s explore this after my next meeting.”
- Humility. Tell yourself they could be right.
What causes us to attack or explain when criticized?
What are some healthy responses to natural feelings of self-protection?