Stop being defensive, that is my message today.
I encounter a lot of defensiveness. One of the reasons is that because I have a very particular set of values about the way hypnotherapy should be conducted and because my college and I adhere to such an evidence-based approach with our practices. Those who do not adhere to evidence base in the same way, or those who are not aware of it tend to get defensive. I was recently discussed on a podcast whereby the host claims to embrace the diversity of the hypnosis field, yet also clearly has issues with me and my stance and is defensive with me due to my stance. I get attacked a great deal by fellow professionals who struggle to provide anything other than subjective or anecdotal evidence for what they do due to my stance even if I have never mentioned them or referred to them – this is borne out of defensiveness and often feelings of insecurity. However, that is not my direction today. It struck me that this defensiveness I encountered from fellow professionals was very similar to the kinds of defensiveness I encounter from my clients in my consulting rooms – not as a presenting issue, but often as a co-morbid symptom related to their presenting problem. I spend quite a bit of time coaching and helping clients (and others) to be less defensive, so I thought I’d write a little bit about that today, and about how to stop being defensive.
“More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them” — Harold J. Smith.
Behaving defensively is not typically a characteristic that is viewed in a positive way. When interacting with someone you perceive as defensive, it doesn’t feel collaborative or productive. It feels combative. The subconscious dialogue going on in your head includes thoughts like: Why are they being so stubborn? Why can’t they try to see a different point of view? Why can’t they stop being defensive? They are being unreasonable and closed-minded.
Chronic defensiveness can be very irritating and quite possibly can cause a breakdown in relationship harmony. Not many things in life are as destructive to good communication and healthy relationships as defensiveness. Defensiveness blinds us to our long-term goals in the face of perceived criticism. And makes us commit acts of self-sabotage and lashing out when we feel attacked. According to a white paper by Mitchinson and Morris at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Center for Creative Leadership, defending detracts from “learning agility,” or a mindset that helps people develop as leaders and tackle the problems facing their organisations.
For many people, their behavioural patterns stem from emotional, mental, or personality issues/tendencies developed over the course of their life. We all have a tendency to feel defensive from time to time. But it is possible for individuals to manage their own defensiveness with a few simple steps:
Identify the physiological signs related to heightened emotions, such as clammy hands, flushing, narrowed vision, and rapid pulse.
Manage emotions by taking a break to reframe worst-case-scenario thinking.
Say less rather than more—particularly in the heat of the moment.
Use inclusive pronouns: We and us, rather than I, him, or you.
Share credit during the good times so that others will be inclined to help share the responsibility during the bad times.
How to Deal with Your and Other People’s Defensive Behaviour.
Dealing with defensive behaviour can be complex and exhausting because it’s hard to separate a person from their behaviour or the situation. And as mentioned earlier, some people’s defensiveness is so deeply rooted in their automatic behavioural patterns that it may seem like there is little realistic chance they will ever change. However, there are some helpful strategies we can use to deal with our own defensiveness and that of others:
There’s an old adage that when you lose your temper, you lose. In many ways becoming defensive is similar to losing your temper. You’re reacting completely on an emotional basis without the guidance of any tempering rational influence. This does a number of things. It points out the very weakness you’re trying to conceal (making you look weaker in the eyes of some); it makes it very difficult indeed to bring the other person around to your way of thinking or positively influencing the other person; and finally, it keeps you from learning or improving. In particular, defensive makes it look like you lack confidence in yourself and your idea.
Defensiveness is a reaction.
Often, it’s an overreaction that sends us into a fight or flight response, where our minds are only focused on survival, not achieving the best possible outcome. Luckily, there are ways to control this response. Learning to control your defensive reaction is a process that starts internally and works its way outward into practical aspects of life and actions.
To prevent a defensive reaction you have to consider the root. Ask yourself what triggers this reaction. It could be past experiences, insecurities, or perceived weakness. Be honest with yourself about them and accept them. Accept that you’re not perfect and that’s okay, you don’t have to be. Reflect upon your own defensiveness in an objective fashion. If you need to stop being defensive, you need to reflect upon what you do.
Perspective – Retrain the way you view disagreements. Try to see criticism or critiques as opportunities to learn, not as an attack. You might not agree with the criticism, but it will force you to re-evaluate your own idea, improving it and strengthening it in the process. HEre is a great article to help you keep things in perspective:
Stop Catastrophising With The Help Of Self-Hypnosis.
Objectivity – If you’ve spent a lot of time and effort on an idea it’s hard not to become personally attached to your ‘baby’. This clouds your judgment, making your response emotional not rational. Just like parents have to let their children grow up and enter the real world someday, you have to do the same with your idea. Read this article for more specific help with this one:
How to Effectively Deal With Criticism.
Stay on topic – In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to let the conversation get off topic and digress to personal attacks. This is the quickest way to lose credibility with the other person and your team. It also does nothing to resolve the conflict, only escalate it. Stick to the topic to stop being defensive.
Breathe – Deescalate the situations by taking a moment to breathe. Often, we become defensive before we realise what’s happening and the ever-quickening pace escalates the situation like a runaway train. Taking a breath puts the breaks on, allowing you to regain your composer and think more clearly.
Defensiveness is something we all struggle with. In many ways it shows our humanity, but also that we’re passionate about our ideas and work. That passion is a good thing, but defensiveness warps that passion from something positive and persuasive to something negative and unpractical. One key then to becoming a better human is to face what triggers your defensive response and pull it out by the root. This won’t happen overnight, but with time, effort, and accepting yourself – flaws and all – you can control it and retrain yourself. This will make you not only a better human, but will increase your ability to learn and improve in a number of different ways. Here’s a great article on breathing techniques to help you with this one by the way, some will help you stop being defensive:
8 Breathing Exercises to Enhance Well-Being.
“Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.” – Sun Tzu.
Being defensive is a sign that you’re in fight or flight mode, and that’s not a place where you can accomplish anything constructive. Learn to read your own signals so you can nip your defensive reaction in the bud. Suppress it with deep breaths, with listening and curiosity, and with demonstrations of accountability and willingness to learn.
Get comfortable in your own skin – learn to believe in yourself. This will help you to stop being defensive. Do not blindly believe in yourself, but value who and how you are so that you do not take things personally and can feel comfortable discussing matters with people that are not anything to do with you as a person. WHen you believe in yourself, you can stop being defensive, because it is a subject being discussed and not necessarily you. When you truly believe in yourself, you’ll have less need for defensiveness. Read these articles to help with this:
Getting control of your defensiveness will reduce your stress, improve the quality of your life, and ultimately improve your relationship with other people.
Have some of themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Do you need help or support in a particular area of your life? Need to stop being defensive?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others? Are you a hypnotherapist looking for stimulating and career enhancing continued professional development and advanced studies? Want to help others stop being defensive?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist looking to fulfil your ambitions or advance your career?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book. Self-hypnosis can help to stop being defensive too, in a number of ways.