How to stop being defensive (2023)

What do a medieval fortress, a curled up porcupine, and a linebacker have in common? They are all pros at being defensive. And when we humans face criticism, we also prepare the drawbridge, throw a bundle of spikes or prepare for a duel. Being defensive helps us protect our character and sense of competence.

There are many ways to do this: we distance ourselves from our mistakes, blame external forces for failures, and judge others in order to continue to see ourselves in a positive light. We drink or self-medicate to deal with threats against ourselves.self imagemiSelf-esteem.

The only problem? Being defensive with your friends, your boss, your partner, and yourself often backfires. It puts people off, makes us look immature, and sends a message that we can't regulate our emotions. At the moment, it may seem like being on the defensive is the only way to deal with a threat. But in the long run, it hurts us and our relationships. When we attack, we dig deeper.

So today, let's look at five ways to regulate your mood and stop being defensive.

1. Remember your deepest values.

When we remember our deepest beliefs and passions, we can feel less defensive. The best part is that you can also do this without directly engaging with the critics in question.

For example, if you feel defensive after a not-so-great meeting at work, forget about frantically reminiscing about all your past work triumphs. Instead, focus on areas in which you feel confident, whether it's your commitment to a healthy lifestyle, your religious beliefs, your willingness to help others, your passion for the arts, or other values ​​that are important to you. . By focusing on your values, you can increase your self-esteem and reduce the need to be defensive.

2. Take criticism as a sign that others believe in your abilities.

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Think back to seventh grade, when you were still discovering your identity and self-esteem. At that age, feedback from teachers, coaches, and friends had a huge impact.

For example, many children of color begin to draw conclusions at this age about whether they can trust conventional institutions like schools or whether they are being stereotyped. Both praise and critical comments can be confusing for people of color: how can they be sure that criticism is justified or merely motivated?inclination? Or, on the other hand, how do you know if you are being mistreated by adults who are trying to prove that they are not racist? So how do they know when it's fair to be defensive and when it's a misconception?

a study ofJournal of Experimental Psychologystuck in this problem. The researchers followed white and African-American seventh-graders who received critical feedback on a draft of an essay from their white teachers.

For half of the children, white and black, the teachers began the feedback with the following statement: “I am making these comments because I have very high expectations and I know they can be achieved”, while the other half of the children, white and black , they simply received constructive feedback on their essays, without preamble.

Approval made it more likely that all students would submit a review and increased the quality of the final draft.

But the effects were particularly strong among African-American students whosedistrustschool had already started. In fact, these kids were already feeling defensive in an environment that can feel like a slashing humiliation.

For black children who received only constructive criticism, the slow loss of trust in school continued over time, but in the group told by teachers that they could achieve high standards, this loss of trust stopped.

How does this apply to you? Even if you don't hear the words "I believe in you" or "I know you can do it," if you know in your heart that your mom, boss, or partner only gives you feedback so you can achieve great things, remember their trust in you and the criticism will come. more easily.

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3. Grow agrowth thinking.

We usually think of defensiveness as becoming verbally defensive. But we actually defend ourselves against holes in our self-esteem in a number of ways: We can berate haters, compare ourselves to people who are worse off, or go out of our way to "reward" ourselves with the sale.therapyto comfort our wounded souls.

These methods may make us feel better, but they direct our energy into being defensive instead of moving forward.

So how can we direct our energies toward self-improvement instead of self-advocacy? According to a study by Dr. Carol Dweck, grand dame of the mindset movement, cultivating a growth mindset can help us take the plunge.

In the study, college students prepared by reading one of two specific passages written in newspaper article style: One said yesintelligenceit was inherited and fixed from an early age, while the other said that intelligence could be greatly increased throughout life. Then all the participants had just four minutes to read a long and confusing passage.freudit's classicthe interpretation ofdreams, which, with its late-19th-century language and esoteric ideas, was about as easy to navigate as standing in line at the DMV at lunchtime.

After reading, they answered some questions that were supposed to test their understanding. But regardless of their actual score, the contestants were told that they scored in the 37th percentile. Not good by any means, but not bad enough that they actually freak out.

The researchers found that those who were led to believe that intelligence was fixed felt better when comparing their performance to those who did less, a defensive response: "Well, at least I did better than those idiots."

But the participants, primed to believe that intelligence could be malleable, treated the strategies of the best with curiosity. Instead of being defensive, they adopted a growth mindset and sought to learn how to improve their own performance.

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Of course, it's unrealistic to always expect to respond to all types of criticism in this way. When you receive cruel or abusive criticism, no one expects you to grow from it; use your time and energy to repair those wounds.

But if the feedback is meant to help you, or is neutral and objective, such as a 37th percentile score, instead of spending your energy trying to calm down, you'll do better spending your energy trying to improve. Take a step back, adopt a growth mindset, and accept critical feedback as an opportunity to keep improving.

4. Save time in the moment.

Well, let's just say that all is well: I can affirm my deepest values, interpret feedback as others believing in me and trusting that I can grow. But what now? How can I deal with that split second when it's so tempting to follow my instincts and fight back?

The answer: overcome that moment by waiting to react. Let the adrenaline rush through you and collect your thoughts. You can do this in two ways.

The first way is to use filler words and let the other person continue. You could say, "Go on..." or "Oh? Tell me more about that." Then use your air time to breathe slowly and think about how you want to respond.

Alternatively, don't be afraid to remain silent for a moment. A slightly awkward pause buys time and takes you out of the game as a bonus. Also, to break the silence, they usually start talking again, which buys you even more time.

And after recovering, it's time for the final step.

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5. Use classic "I" statements.

This is a classic for a reason. "I" statements are the key to breaking down defensiveness. Because? You can express your feelings without making accusations, which is an easy way to escalate the conflict. Also, no one can argue with your opinion or feelings.

First person statements focus the conversation on you and your feelings and help you get your point across without getting defensive.

However, make sure that the "I" statement is not a "you" statement in sheep's clothing, such as "I'm sorry you didn't get that" or "I wish you would just grow up!"

Better: "I'm not comfortable with that." “I have a hard time listening when you raise your voice.” “I get frustrated when you keep reminding me. He makes me feel like you don't trust me. Sometimes a simple “I understand what you are saying” is enough to release the tension and start a real conversation.

Finally, leave the big defense to the likes of this curled up porcupine. We may feel better now leading with our peaks, but in the end we will get much further by leading with our best selves.

Facebook image: Nueva África/Shutterstock


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