Defense Is Offence
March 23, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink

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It is easy to get caught up in defending ourselves when it comes to communicating, especially when you feel attacked.  This piece from Straight Talk On Relationships describes the importance of taking yourself off the defense, gaining an attitude of humility and working through conflict together.

THE ART OF GOOD LISTENING: HUMILITY VERSUS DEFENSIVENESS

By Lisa Merlo Booth
Defensiveness can be the death of a relationship.  There are few things more frustrating than having a partner who gets defensive the moment you dare to speak about anything that might be upsetting to you.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  It sounds something like this:

Jody:  Honey, can we talk about the other night?

John:  What?  What’s wrong now?  Jeez—are you EVER happy?

Jody:  I haven’t even said anything yet.  Why are you getting so upset?

John:  Because I already know it’s going to be something about what you don’t like.  I haven’t even done anything.  Forget this–I’m going to the gym.

Ugh, I’m getting frustrated just writing about it!  For anyone who has been on the receiving end of defensiveness, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The other person is either defending what they did, explaining to you that they didn’t really do what you said they did, accusing you of being too sensitive or turning the entire story around so that you look like the one who was in the wrong.  Sound familiar?  By the end of the conversation you’re either wishing you had never said anything or wondering if perhaps you were the one in the wrong.

Let me help relieve your sense of sanity for a minute.  If your partner becomes defensive about feedback you’re giving them—they are off.  Defensiveness stifles growth and shuts down relationships, period.  Do not begin to question yourself just because your partner gets what I call BIG.  When someone becomes defensive, in essence they are puffing themselves up and going on the attack, thinking the best defense is a great offense.  People use this technique because…it works.  It gets people off their back and they don’t have to look at their own behaviors.  Unfortunately, it only works in the short run.  In the long run, the damage is very costly.

If you struggle with defensiveness, you need to learn the art of humility.  Who are you to think you would never make a mistake?  We all make mistakes—that’s what makes us human.  When your partner has the courage to tell you that they’re upset with you, step up and have the courage to listen.  Listen with humility.  Listen for truth in what your partner is saying and have the strength and integrity to cop to it and repair it.

Making mistakes does not ruin relationships.  Refusing to be accountable for the mistakes we make absolutely does ruin relationships.  The reality is that defensiveness gets people off your back temporarily.  Your loved ones will eventually begin to stop sharing their upsets with you.  They will no longer tell you when they are hurt by your actions.  They eventually will truly get off your back – and then you will need to worry.

The cost of listening with humility and owning your imperfections is far less than the cost of defensiveness.  Defensiveness will erode your relationship.  Apologizing for your mistakes and doing things differently will save it.

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