art work by John Ceprano
CINERGY (tm) - Peacebuilding... one person at a time

Getting Defensive

For this week’s blog I am bringing back one that was popular a couple of years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted May 24, 2016):

So often when we’re in conflict one or both (all) people involved find themselves becoming defensive. This reaction is demonstrated in various ways. We may react with sarcasm or blame; we may justify our own words, actions or attitude; we may dismiss the other person’s comments; we may walk away; or we may verbally attack her or him. These and other ways of reacting depend on the person, the situation or both. How we react also depends on our conflict competence, sensibilities, learned behaviours and other variables.

When we get defensive it is helpful to consider what we are defending at those times. Often it is because we perceive a value, need or aspect of our identity is being undermined or challenged. We feel hurt, offended, betrayed and other emotions. Also, at some level of consciousness we are questioning the other person’s motives and attributing ill will to her or his intent. It is a time our ability to reflect and problem solve is compromised.

If you became defensive in a recent dispute and/or saw the other person doing so in the same or a different conflict, you will have a chance to deconstruct the defensiveness with the following questions of this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog.

  • What was the dispute about?
  • What did the other person say or do that resulted in you becoming defensive?
  • Which of your values were you defending? What else do you think you were defending?
  • What did you need from the other person that she or he was not providing?
  • What aspect(s) of your identity did you perceive were being challenged?
  • How did you react when you became defensive? What would a non-defensive response have been?
  • If you observed a defensive reaction in the other person in this same dispute or a different one, what was that conflict about? To what did the other person react defensively about what you said or did?
  • How do you describe what her or his defensiveness looked like?
  • What value(s), need(s) or aspect(s) of her or his identity did she or he perceive was being undermined? What else might she or he have been defending?
  • What might you have said or done differently so that the other person would not have reacted defensively?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

This entry was posted in Conflict Coaching, Conflict Management Coaching, Defensiveness. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *