In her book, Taking the War Out of Our Words: The Art of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication, Sharon Ellison estimates that we use 95% of our communications energy being defensive. As soon as we feel any threat, either of not getting what we want or of being put down in some way, we are ready to protect ourselves by being defensive.
Imagine how much more productive our communications could be if we learned how to respond nondefensively and to avoid provoking defensiveness in others! Take this quiz to see how defensive you tend to be.
- When a client, boss, coworker or colleague points out a flaw in my work, I am quick to show him or her how it wasn’t my fault.
- If I am at fault for something, it’s because of some factor outside of myself over which I had no control.
- When people are upset with me, I let them know with explanations and excuses why they are wrong.
- I’m always looking for the hidden critical message beneath another’s words.
- If I don’t defend myself, I’ll get run over.
- I can rarely admit that I am wrong.
- If I think someone will have something critical to say, I avoid talking to that person.
If you responded true more often than false to the above questions, consider some of the following alternatives to defensiveness.
- I’m always looking to improve my work, service or product, so I welcome feedback from clients, my boss or customers on how well I am doing (or not).
- I realize that when I’m feeling defensive, I don’t feel safe, competent or confident.
- When someone criticizes me, I sit with it to see if there’s a kernel of truth in the criticism. If there is, I acknowledge it and work to improve in that area.
- By my willingness to admit and correct any errors, I engender trust and confidence from employees, bosses, clients and customers.
- When someone is leveling a complaint, I ignore the words “always” and “never” and instead focus on the rest of the message.
- I take responsibility for what I can change.
- I listen for the usually hidden need expressed in a person’s complaint or anger, acknowledge the need, and then see whether there is something I can do to meet it.
Please don’t hesitate to call if you’d like to explore this issue further.