Am I defensive?
The very thought of behaving defensively makes me clutch my invisible pearls in mild embarrassment.
Am I really walking around with a pinned mental note that states: “Tendency to need to be heard and over explain.” Or, “Needs to justify her decisions, statements, or actions so that others can understand her better.”
When random people share their experiences about matters that are unrelated to me, or their experiences differ from mine, do I sometimes feel compelled to offer & defend my alternate point of view? Do I feel uneasy over not agreeing with them, or for not sharing their beliefs?
At times, yes.
I confess that I have acted defensively at times. Sometimes I’ve even tried to fix situations that aren’t my responsibility to address.
As I get super introspective, I can see that there have been times that I’ve conflated what I do with who I am. This is often evidenced when someone makes a critical statement about my work, or a project that I’m involved with. There have been situations in which I “heard” something completely different than what was actually said. For example, someone comments about a presentation I worked on. They may have offered suggestions on how the presentation could have been “better”, or suggest items to add in the future. Admittedly in some of those instances, the constructive feedback was muted, and the examples of my inadequacy were amplified. In this scenario, what I “heard” was the person detailing all the ways that I could be better (as a person), versus how the thing (the presentation) could have been better. The criticism was about me.
Light-bulb moment: There is a core difference between what we do and who we are. So when someone adds their two cents, it’s important for me to understand it’s just that. Sometimes we have to be okay with everybody not being okay with every detail, or in agreement with our decisions.
In my opinion, this mindset is rooted in a setting called survival-mode also known as people pleasing. As children, we needed to please the adults in our experience. Just watch the interactions of any child between the ages of 4-8 years old. Observe how these brilliant little humans are innately masterful in defending themselves.
“Stephanie took my scissors!”
Without missing a beat comes…
“No I didn’t! I don’t have Matthew’s scissors! He’s telling a STORY!”
Children learn right away that they must protect themselves from reprisals and punishment…early. Sadly, many of us never grow out of the habit. Some actually perfect it by going out of their way to ensure that everyone around them, especially those who matter and occasionally those who don’t, are pleased. And when they are not, some of us become defensive to avoid being disliked. Sometimes we are hypersensitive about preventing being in the line of fire of false accusations.
The point isn’t to let others get away with lies or let unacceptable behavior go unchecked. That’s not defense, it’s called common sense.
What I’m referring to is taking on other people’s stuff; excessively personalizing insignificant situations, opinions, and even feedback. People really are entitled to their opinions. And when they decide to share these views, we can choose-I can choose what to do with them. Implement, respond, or simply ignore.
Sometimes…actually most of the time, there is nothing to defend or protect.