When we are defensive, effective communication stops. Let’s consider what it means to be defensive. When someone is defensive they:
- Make up excuses
- Criticism or attack
- Blame: “It’s not my fault, if you hadn’t ___”
- Complain instead of taking responsibility for their part
How To Stop Being Defensive:
- Paying attention to what you are feeling physically can help you to recognize defensiveness. Our body has a physical reaction to a perceived attack. Most likely your body feels tense and you start thinking about what you can say back as a defense.
- Take a deep breath and remember that you are not in a battle!
- Just listen without thinking about what you are going to say next.
- When your partner has finished speaking, repeat what you heard and ask if you understood correctly. "If I heard you correctly, you are saying ..."
- If your partner becomes defensive, ask yourself if there was / is a better way to send your message.
When we are not defensive:
- We assume responsibility for our part
- We sincerely recognize our mistakes and apologize
- We seek solutions to problems together
- We agree to make changes and then do it
- We recognize the feelings of our partner.
Remember "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." (Steven R Covey). No one is perfect at managing their defensive responses but consciously working on it helps us have better relationships. The more you work at being non-defensive, the better you'll get at it!
Here's a great and entertaining 3 minute video that illustrates this topic: