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How to answer to “Don’t Be So Defensive“

The career oriented portion of Power University is awesome.
Even those portions that don't really pertain to me are fascinating.

What to do when someone says “Don’t Be So Defensive“ is mentioned briefly in one of the later career modules, the second or third to last I believe.  I think there's more to say about this.  I've never been clear what the exact difference is between standing up for yourself in a sane and healthy manner and "being defensive."

I have definitely been in situations where I have asserted my right to be treated with respect and taken seriously and had the other person say I was "being defensive" with a tone that suggests that that is some kind of sin, when in actuality it seems like a highly manipulative and transparent attempt to shift the focus from the substance of the matter at hand to the allegation of "being defensive."

While of course I would ideally never ever have anyone say I'm "defensive" deep down I'm not sure I get why it's so very bad to be "defensive."  If "defensive" means making excuses, blaming others, "playing the victim card," or justifying one's sub-par performance by trying to say that "it's really not so bad becasuse . . ." then of course I completely get 100% why being defensive is bad.

But what do you do if when you are asserting your rights in a calm, cool, collected, factually driven manner, and the other person STILL says “Don’t Be So Defensive“?

 

What would you do, Ed?

Try to come up with some good answers yourself first, it will be far more helpful for you to understand power dynamics and to internalize a few good ways to maneuver against that power move.

 

Social_Strategist#1 has reacted to this post.
Social_Strategist#1
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I will try to answer your questions to myself. I think being defensive is considered to be bad for us because it means that you are emotionally too much involved in the situation or the other people's judgment. On the otherhand, when I imagine when I want to say people "don't be so defensive" is "it's okay, it's not your fault, I'm not blaming you, but it's the situation". However, sometimes I say what I want to say in a blaming way (it's a mistake on my part) and people may start to be defensive and try to convince me. When someone tries to convince me, it bothers me (I don't know exactly why)

On the other otherhand :), I think some people tries to manipulate, one-up someone by saying "you are being defensive". It is like destroying someone's all "assertiveness". Framing assertiveness as a childish reaction... I wasted my years to be not being defensive and I could not assert myself either. I resented those people and couldn't express myself or my feelings.

Honestly, I don't have a real answer. But when I imagine...

And hearing that "you are being defensive" sentence make me want to defense myself.

First I should emotionally disinvolved in those words too.

Then, I would answer to "you are being defensive" like that:

"No, I'm not being defensive. What you are doing now is a false accusation and while I'm explaining why it is false from my perspective, you are making another one and it's not helping our communication. Can you just stop blaming and let's try to fix this problem like two grown individual"

It's easier to write than to confront and say 🙂 I'm waiting for both of your answers :))

Sorry for language mistakes.

Thanks to Luicio and "lazzz" for responding to my post about being called defensive.  Here's my answer:

It depends on whether you're being defensive for the right or wrong reasons.

Making excuses, blaming others, or explaining why one's subpar results "really aren't that bad under the circumstances  . . ." are all being defensive for the wrong reasons.  No one should ever do this.  IF you are guilty of this behavior AND someone is calling you out for being defensive, they are right and you are wrong.

If you are standing up for yourself when the facts and/or logic on your side and someone is being manipulative and calling you defensive because they have nothing else to oppose you with because facts and logic is on your side, then you are right and your accuser is wrong.  You can say something like: "The facts and logic are on my side.  You are calling me defensive in a manipulative attempt to distract me from the real matter at hand.  It isn't going to work with me.  So let's get back on track and discuss the real issue . . ."

What do you guys think.  What grade do I get from Power University for this answer???

I totally agree with lazzzz's thoughts and EdnBr's answer that it is a power move and that you can still take something from the criticism if there's something useful to get from it.

It's hard to stay the middle ground of being assertive instead of too aggressive or too deferential. I think it helps to stay cool to assess if there's really something useful there, and also to be able to learn from it without giving all power away for making one mistake. It can also help to stay cool so that the other person doesn't feel attacked if they made a mistake in calling you out, helps save face for them too, but maybe they don't deserve it. I often make the mistake of getting too defensive, and then it comes back to bite me because I can have a hard time explaining my side, so it seems like this is a fight that no one wants to get into. I especially think the redirecting it back to the issue to bring it back to the problem the team is trying to solve, which shows leadership to continue forward.

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Social_Strategist#1

Yeah, I think you guys all have a point.

"Don't be so defensive" can be a fair comment...

Sometimes "don't be so defensive" is a fair comment, for sure.

If you are giving feedback to someone and they take it too personally then telling him something like "man, I perceive some defensiveness here... " (far better than saying "you're being defensive", or you push them even harder on the defensive).

... But can also be a power move

But it can also be a power move, depending on the circumstances.

If you are working on developing an antifragile ego and a growth mindset, you will feel it when you are being defensive because of your ego, or because someone is too pushy and you can't trust them.

The power move puts you in a double bind.
Keep acting like you did, and you confirm their accusation.
Try to change your behavior, and you might become too trustworthy and compliant to someone who might not deserve trust and compliance.
Furthermore, if you don't react well, you concede them the frame, you lose some power, and they might think of you as an easier target.

How to Answer It

I like the answers so far, they all do a good job of showing that you are not going to roll over and be played around.

A few more options:

  • A one across and reframing

You: The question is not whether I am defensive or not, the question is... (this is a "one across", it refuses to escalate and seeks to move away from game playing and back to value-adding negotiation)

  • Reject and one-up back

You: No man, I'm not being defensive, it's who is being pushy

This is an easy one.
Whenever you're not sure what to say and someone unfairly accuses you of something, just deny and then accuse them back.
Whenever someone accuses of something

  • Accept, then go for collaborative frames

You: it's true, I am being defensive (surprise him). And I think that's the best and most rational thing to do right now.
So let's make a deal: I stop being defensive, and you stop pushing for unreasonable prices.
If we can do that, I will be very happy to find a deal that makes us both happy. That's my goal, to reach win-win.
Are you also happy with win-win?

Needless to say, I like this one because it goes back to collaboration, and does so with good leadership.

 

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DrerachelMatthew WhitewoodSocial_Strategist#1
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on June 25, 2020, 5:52 pm
  • Accept, then go for collaborative frames

You: it's true, I am being defensive (surprise him). And I think that's the best and most rational thing to do right now.
So let's make a deal: I stop being defensive, and you stop pushing for unreasonable prices.
If we can do that, I will be very happy to find a deal that makes us both happy. That's my goal, to reach win-win.
Are you also happy with win-win?

Needless to say, I like this one because it goes back to collaboration, and does so with good leadership.

This is brazilian jiu-jitsu genius move.

Lucio Buffalmano, Matthew Whitewood and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMatthew WhitewoodStefnaathh12@gmail.com

I've seen this at high level meetings.  And one response often used is:

I think a collaborative approach is going to get us the best outcomes.  Sort of one upping and going higher.

Now you can go a couple of ways from there:

Assertive statements if you want to wrestle control back.   "So the plan for that is...."

Or offer the hand and leave the arena:  I've got a couple of ideas on that I'd love to work with you on.  I'll set something up

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