Defensiveness. It has many different faces. It can look angry. Sad. Frustrated. The use of a lot of words. The justification of a position and/or behaviour.
It comes up a lot as an issue between people. Frustration when we meet defensiveness in another. Awareness when we see it in ourselves.
What motivates us to be defensive? What is our intention when we defend our actions or thoughts? Is it wanting to be heard and essentially understood? Is it about needing acceptance from another? Is it our need to be right or ‘on top’ or ‘in the know’? Is it really about avoiding responsibility for our behaviour? Are we just making an excuse? Or is it all about control – trying hard to avoid feeling vulnerable which is the real feeling underneath all the words?
It is our own inner work – according to what we choose and want for ourselves- as to how much we reflect upon our intentions and resulting behaviour. What I do know is that defensiveness can lead to relationship breakdown and away from a harmonious, flowing communication.
And it’s a habit. In those moments when we are triggered, it is so easy to go down that defensive path, especially with those whom we are most comfortable. So easy.
What works in choosing another way? Firstly, compassion is essential. In that particular moment when we are defensive, we are doing our best. Our defensiveness is usually grounded in hurt. Noticing our behaviour is important. Waiting before we impulsively speak by taking a time out is key. During this quiet time, being with our body sensations and our feelings along with challenging our assumptions and judgments and made-up stories help. Setting an intention to create peace is another element to releasing an old habit. Really getting at a deep level that defensiveness when all is said and done doesn’t work.
I accept myself. I am safe. It’s okay to listen for the truth in what was just told to me. I am open. I am grateful for others who are honest with me instead of silently judging me and then withdrawing. I trust myself to say, “I’m sorry. What do you need from me now so we can move forward?”