Avoiding Defensive Behaviour in Yourself
In a previous article we talked about dealing with defensive behaviour in others; dealing with people who avoid taking ownership for their actions, or non actions, and placing fault with anyone but themselves.
In this newsletter, as promised, we will discuss how to avoid defensive behaviour in ourselves.
Everyone gets defensive on some occasions, feeling threatened or blamed for something that has happened. Often this is because the person raising the issue is using an aggressive tone and/or body language. Our first instinct is to emotionally defend ourselves, denying things or blaming others. Often this makes us appear guilty and encourages the other person to attack us further.
The key to dealing with our own feelings of defensiveness, is to engage a rational, rather than an emotional, state of mind, by taking truthful ownership of our actions or inactions. The very act of assessing what we need to own will ensure we remain rational.
Avoiding defensiveness involves two simple steps, as set out in the example below:
1. Take your position of ownership
When called to account for a given situation, determine in your mind what part of what the person says is true and what is untrue. Then calmly and factually, in a neutral tone of voice, own what is true and refute what isn't.
Let's assume your manager has had an angry complaint from a customer, that he hasn't received a cheque that he said you promised to send him by the previous day. Your manager is critical that you didn't follow through with Accounts that the cheque had been sent. Having assessed what you feel is true and untrue, you calmly respond:
"Yes, you are right in saying that I didn't follow through with Accounts, however I did not promise Mr White the cheque by yesterday."
2. Control the dialogue to avoid another attack
Having taken ownership, it is critical to immediately take control of the dialogue, to ensure you are not attacked again. The simplest way is usually to detail how you plan to deal with the issue. So immediately following on from your previous statement you might say:
"I will go to Accounts after this meeting to see if the cheque has been sent. If it has, I will contact Mr White to see if he has received it. If it hasn't been sent, or he hasn't received it, I will cancel the cheque and arrange an electronic credit to his account immediately.
In future I will ensure Accounts know when cheques have to be sent, and will follow up whether they have gone? Will this deal with your concerns about Mr White."
Taking ownership, calmly enunciating what is not correct and then offering a solution usually takes the momentum away from the other person's attack, as well as keeping your own emotions in check. It leaves you looking in control.