Have you ever been defensive? Oh boy, I have. It’s my least favorite Karen. The aftermath of my reactiveness depletes me and I get very disappointed with myself. My listening skills are non-existent and I forget to remain curious. When I listen well and I ask questions, it’s guaranteed I won’t be defensive in the least. I don’t like me when I react. I don’t like me when my emotions are stirred up because of a conversation that isn’t going the way I had hoped.
Why do we choose to react defensively rather than respond positively? (Especially when we sincerely want to respond positively!)
Being defensive is a form of anxiety. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines anxiety as a “feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about something with an uncertain outcome.”
Let’s look at a few proposed behaviors that are associated with defensiveness.
You know you’re defensive if:
- You forcefully argue and debate an opinion.
- You need to prove your perspective is right.
- You’re dismissing the other person’s views.
- You “shush” or raise your finger/hand to enforce the person to stop talking.
- You think you have greater knowledge on the matter.
- You feel the need to stick up for yourself.
- You use heightened energy levels to drive your point.
- You’re projecting strong negative emotions.
- You justify your stance with “yeah, but”.
If you can identify with any of these responses, you’re experiencing anxiety. Being defensive weakens our self-confidence.
What is the single most important ingredient that will keep you from being defensive? Confidence in who you are. When we engage in conversations with confidence, our guard comes down and we don’t need to prove ourselves. We appreciate stimulating conversations, because we know they will either make us stronger or change us.
Being defensive is another way of saying “I won’t let you hurt me.” How would we respond if we entered every conversation with the mindset of, “You cannot hurt me. You can only contribute to my growth and by disagreeing with me you are helping expand my intellect.”
– Karen Thrall