Do You Get Defensive?

Posted by Todd Smith

What is your emotional state when you get defensive? Does your stress level rise?  Does your body tense up a little?  Do you tend to go into a combative mode?

When you get defensive, do you feel more open to the views of others, or do you close up like a clam?  Are you more likely to say things you regret, or do you have a respectful conversation?  Is your mind more or less creative?

It’s very difficult to be objective and see the other person’s point of view when we are in a defensive state.  Our emotions cause us to become less effective in our interactions and decision-making and more at risk of offending and alienating people.

Why do we get defensive?

Our natural tendency is to be defensive.  All of us crave to be appreciated and noticed. When people agree with our thinking, it lifts our spirits. It adds fuel to our motivational fire, enhances our self-worth, and increases our sense of fulfillment. It’s only normal then that when people don’t openly accept our view on a given subject, we feel a little defensive.

The magical solution

For most of my career, I’ve considered being defensive a weakness of mine. Unfortunately, simply being aware of this fault did not prevent it from happening.  Despite being conscious of my words and body language and attempting to think before I responded, deep down I often felt defensive in certain situations.

A conversation with my brother Barry a few months back enlightened me. Barry is an expert on personality types. He is not only a certified Myers Brigg consultant and trainer, but he is just generally intrigued by the differences in people and how those differences are communicated.

Barry explained that not only are people’s views and beliefs formed by their life experiences, but also by their genetic personality types. My own family is a perfect example. Two of my children born and raised in the same home see things completely differently based on their personality type.

Barry described the interrelationship between personality type and group or team dynamics. To be an effective team, the individual members must not only understand their own personality type, but also the personality types of the others on the team.  When people begin to understand and respect each other’s differences, productivity increases and job satisfaction improves.

Barry’s conversation was very helpful to me.  Now, when people disagree with my point of view, I immediately go into an “inquisitive mode,” instead of a “defensive mode,” with an authentic desire to see things through their eyes.

Seeing and understanding these differences has increased my level of respect for people, and I realize that when people debate my point of view, it’s not an attack but rather it’s an opportunity to learn and expand my thinking. I’ve actually enjoyed learning more about people and processing how they think differently.

The next time you start to feel defensive, use your self-control to take control of your thinking.  Reflect on this lesson and challenge yourself to open your mind and try as hard as you can to look at the situation through their eyes.

Being curious about another’s point of view is eye-opening. You will be less judgmental. New ideas will suddenly appear. You’ll have a better attitude and you’ll feel less of a need to be right. The admiration and respect from others will naturally follow. Perhaps most importantly, you will learn to be grateful for our differences.

Just as everyone looks different, they are different.  When you look at people as God’s individual creations and value your differences, you will experience greater joy in your life.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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