Don’t Be Defensive
August 12, 2020
“Pramod, drive carefully,” my wife said to me. “What do you mean drive carefully? I am driving carefully”, I retorted indignantly. I was defensive because I was indeed a little rash in my driving.
Defensiveness- This is a bane for a lot of us. Almost all of us suffer from this problem. We tend to become defensive because we feel offended about something. Someone has said something or done something that we take offense to and feel the need to defend ourselves.
There are three big reasons why we get all defensive.
We Don’t Like What Someone Thinks About Us
Somebody has judged or criticized us, and we don’t like the view that they have about us or what we have done. We don’t like the opinion someone carries about us, and we somehow want to push back and forcibly change the person’s viewpoint about us. So, we get all riled up, aggressive, and defend ourselves. Like I did with my wife. At the core, we get worked up because we can’t stand the fact that someone has an opinion that we don’t like.
Everyone is allowed to have their opinion. What is there to defend? Why do you need someone to see you in a certain way? Does it matter? Why should other’s opinions spoil your peace?
If you need to change someone’s opinion or viewpoint, having a conversation is better. You can explain yourself or talk it through. Getting defensive is useless. Be self-assured.
We Want Show We Are Right
“How naive CAN YOU BE- I don’t know why you can’t see it- Donald Trump is why the US is in the doldrums.”
I witnessed a recent conversation where a couple of friends were sniping at each other, trying to show who is more right about what is happening in the United States.
The second big reason why we become defensive is that we want to be right. If someone shares an opinion, a perspective we don’t agree with, we get defensive. We not only want to show the other person that we are RIGHT. We also want to prove to the other person that he or she is WRONG.
Our ego is so attached to the idea of being right that we are willing to get into a long drawn argument or confrontation just to prove that our viewpoint is correct.
Does it matter if someone has a different idea from us about anything- world events, politics, economics, religion? Why is it so difficult to let someone else have their own opinion. What’s wrong in allowing the other person to have his opinion even if you may completely disagree?
We Seek Approval
“Dad, do you like this shirt I bought for myself with the pocket money you gave me?”
“It’s your pocket money. You are free to buy whatever it is you want. IF you like it, I am happy”
“No, tell me your opinion. Do you like it?”
“Actually, I don’t like it that much; it’s a dull color.”
“Come on. How can you say its a dull color? It’s such a fresh color. You have no taste.”
Another reason we become defensive is that we want others to be on the same page with us. We have a choice or an idea about something vital, and we want others to be in agreement with us.
We want to feel understood. Unfortunately, if the other person is not aligned with our thinking, we desperately try and defend our choice, our point of view, and seek the other person’s approval or permission.
Do you need other people’s permission or approval to do or feel whatever you want to do or feel? Your ideas, your perspectives, your choices are yours. Others don’t need to agree with you or support you. Yes, it feels better if they accept or encourage you. But if they don’t, should you lose your peace and become defensive?
What Can We Do To Not Be Defensive?
Here’s what I do. Whenever I feel the urge to defend myself against what I perceive as an attack, a slight- whatever it is I want to say in retaliation, I try not to say it. I take a deep breath, and I keep quiet. Its that simple. I just let the moment pass.
I often say the world around us is a mirror. It responds to us the way we deal with it. When we get defensive, it triggers the same defensive response from the other person. Being defensive creates confrontation, not cooperation or collaboration.
When you grow beyond your defensiveness, you fast track your growth.