What does it mean to be defensive?
When we are defensive, effective communication stops. Let’s consider what it means to be defensive. When someone is defensive they:
Make up excuses
Criticism or attack
Blame: “It’s not my fault, if you hadn’t ___”
Complain instead of taking responsibility for their part
How To Stop Being Defensive:
Paying attention to what you are feeling physically can help you to recognize defensiveness. Our body has a physical reaction to a perceived attack. Most likely your body feels tense and you start thinking about what you can say back as a defense.
Take a deep breath and remember that you are not in a battle!
Just listen without thinking about what you are going to say next.
When your partner has finished speaking, repeat what you heard and ask if you understood correctly. "If I heard you correctly, you are saying ..."
If your partner becomes defensive, ask yourself if there was / is a better way to send your message.
When we are not defensive:
We assume responsibility for our part
We sincerely recognize our mistakes and apologize
We seek solutions to problems together
We agree to make changes and then do it
We recognize the feelings of our partner.
Remember "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." (Steven R Covey). No one is perfect at managing their defensive responses but consciously working on it helps us have better relationships. The more you work at being non-defensive, the better you'll get at it!
Here's a great and entertaining 3 minute video that illustrates this topic: