By: Anja Uitdehaag
Women are more likely to be sensitive to the people issues at work.
Especially when it involves our selves, the sensitivity heightens. Issues can be interpreted as personal (one may think that she is being shamed, disrespected or embarrassed even when that it not the intention of the other person) and that leads to an increased likelihood of becoming defensive.
Defensiveness makes it hard to be honest with your self. It makes it harder to absorb honest feedback from others. Defensiveness means you easily and quickly feel “attacked” or misunderstood.
I have learned to (more) effectively navigate through this feeling of being attacked or challenged through a long period of trial and error. Though I’m far from being fully detached, I’ve come a long way compared to where I once was. There’s nothing like growing up in a large competitive family and a global career in a male dominated environment to teach you how to not take things personally and getting defensive.
I also learned that when you take things (too) personally you give others more power over you than they ever should be allowed to have. You are allowing someone to question what you feel, believe and who you are.
Of course, everyone gets defensive from time to time. It’s human nature!
However, when defensiveness reaches the boiling point in frequency and intensity, you’re likely to be seen as insecure, close-minded and overly emotional. None of these labels is going to help you be successful in business or build stronger relationships.
In the list below you will find some of the most common defense mechanisms. See if any of these common defense tactics apply to you.
- Endless explaining
- Withdrawing into silence
- All-or-nothing thinking
If you can’t identify with any of them, “denial” may be your personal number-one!
When we are defensive, we usually stop listening and spend more energy defending and perhaps even retaliating. We all know it, justifying yourself is a waste of time, as is trying to blame someone else.
Defensiveness is one of the leading causes of relationship destruction. Recognize the signs and find the courage to be accountable, NOT defensive.
Learning how to be non-defensive during conversations is a great life skill.
These suggestions will help you be less defensive in your daily life:
- Pay attention to things that offend you– When you find yourself feeling offended or threatened by something, ask yourself, “What about this really bothers me?” The answer may help you see that you are over-reacting.
- Avoid exaggerating thinking– Often times when people seem too sensitive, it’s because they are taking part in some type of exaggerated thinking. They are taking a small situation and turning into something much bigger than it is in the grand scheme of things.
- Practice silence– You don’t have to respond to everything people say or do. Silence is one of the main actions of those with “thick skin.” They just let other people’s words and actions pass by them and don’t give them a second thought.
- Try to find the truth in the statement that triggered your defensiveness.There will always be some basis of reality, even if small.
- Invite more criticism– Actively invite more criticism into your life. Ask people, “What did you think?” Learn to not take what they say personally. The more criticism you receive, the more feedback you get, but also the more desensitized you become to it overall. It becomes a normal part of growth.
- Learn to defend yourself without being defensive.Lowering your defenses does not mean letting yourself be attacked. You can describe your reality and honor yourself: “No that wasn’t my intention,” or “That is not how I experienced it.” Rather than countering, you are simply sharing your point of view.
- Trust yourself– Don’t seek people’s approval all of the time. Remember that the only thing that really matters is your own approval. Trust yourself more to do the right things and make the right decisions in your life.
The more self-acceptance we have, the easier it is to hear feedback, because we can relax into ourselves and receive it as information rather than confirmation that there is something wrong with us.
Are you defensive? Do you struggle with correction? If so, what’s worked for you in overcoming this behavior? Let us know.
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