At some point we all get a little defensive, but how we do it is different. Some people are in your face with it, others simply stay quiet and annoying – passive versus active. Either way, most of time, is a ninja with skill levels far over 9000.
It’s a beast but kicking defensiveness’ ass isn’t so hard. Its key weakness is that it’s only really effective when you don’t know it’s there. Luckily, it’s also kind of stupid, illogical, repetitive and leaves footprints everywhere.
There are essentially 8 kinds of defensiveness:
Explain: “See, what had happened was…”
Agree: “You’re right, I’m such a dumbass.”
Agree and resent: “I didn’t want to say anything to him but he’s such a control freak.
Deny/avoid: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re overreacting.”
Passive aggressive: “Yeah, I’ll do that for you. (Under their breath) Asshole.”
Martyr: “I can’t believe you would do this to me. Stop attacking me!”
Attack: “Oh, I don’t clean up? Well, fuck you!”
Blame: “It’s not my fault, the guy wouldn’t let me through cause I left my pass at home because my alarm never went off.”
While all these types of defensiveness look different, they are all easy to detect with a single question: Is the problem being addressed? Is what’s happening actually fixing the original problem or is it simply creating new ones?
When people are being defensive, they’re creating barriers between them and the problem. They’re avoiding responsibility, easing their guilt or simply diverting attention to their needs and away from yours. Either way, the original problem is not being dealt with.
If that’s the case, you can know for certain that defensiveness is there trying to fuck shit up, but it’s not the only way. Look for these warning signs in your conversation and behavior, too:
- Do you feel like you’re responsible for their emotions?
- Have they actually apologized or admitted fault for the thing they did?
- Have they asked for clarification or just responded to your statements?
- Does it feel like you’ve been fighting longer than you’ve been talking?
- Is the conversation going in circles?
- Are you sitting farther away from each other than normal?
- Is the conversation on topic?
- Is one person dominating the conversation while the other sits quietly?
- Is there less eye contact than normal?
This isn’t a definitive list but it covers a lot of how people display defensiveness through words and actions. This is useful information, but the best way to look at it is from within.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if you’re being defensive:
Is my heart racing?
- Am I thinking of responses before the person is finished talking?
- Am I angry, sad, mad, hungry, tired, drunk, etc.?
- Do I really care about the problem or am I just complaining?
- Do you know what you want to get from the conversation?
- Would someone else look at this argument and think it’s stupid?
- Are you doing a lot of blaming without saying how you feel about the problem?
If you answered yes to any of these, you’re probably being defensive and getting in your own way. Sadly, when you’re in the moment, it can be hard to be honest with yourself about your behavior.
It’s common for people to underestimate their behaviors or explain them. It’s harder for them to deny the words coming out of your mouth. Especially when we often use the same words repeatedly as our brains cycle on a single thought.
Here’s a few words and phrases you should look out for: Always, never, just, only, overreacting, paranoid, psycho, controlling, everything, yes, no and but.
All of these words and phrases usually are used to magnify or simply. Either way, the point or subject is being distorted to distract from the point.
If you can figure out what the defensiveness looks like, you can kick its ass — if you know how.
How does your defensiveness show up? Let me know in the comments below!
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