When you’re asked questions, or assume possible conflict, do you become defensive? Why?
Defensive positions are habits and based on fear of the unknown, fear of conflict itself, or both. A defensive position will always limit your growth and mute opportunities to expand your understanding. Conflict can exist with an idea and/or person, and it’s always filtered by your perception.
You’ve got response habits… and you have filters… but you can begin to open them both up to new ideas and expanded understanding. By training yourself to be open to a new idea, thought, way of doing something, fact, or change, you’re training your brain to learn again. This openness to learning will reduce defensive positioning because your brain won’t feel that its current position is the only way to think. It will embrace the new and incorporate it into your reflection and actions.
Nothing cures defensiveness, and regardless of how emotionally resilient you are you will experience moments of it. But practicing an open mind (while working on emotional stability) will reduce the automatic response and give you far more control over how you perceive the information and respond.
- Never assume you’re right. Whether you’re assuming how someone feels, what they’re thinking, what they want, what the “facts” are, etc. Assuming leads you to interpret based on your filters, which means you’re limiting yourself to what you already think and perceive. Instead, ask questions, ask “why”. I encourage asking “why” five times. Not “how”, but “why”. Understanding someone’s intent is a far better indicator of what they’re thinking and visualizing. Even they may not be able to articulate what they’re feeling or wanting, but asking “why” will guide you towards that understanding.
- Listen. To their words… watch their face and body language. Pay attention to the actual words they choose and the tone they have. Communication is as much the language as it is the entire body expressing itself. Absorb without response. When you’re using written communication be aware that you’re limited in how human’s communicate. You’re relying solely on written language filtered through the individual’s cultural and lifestyle, and possibly the application or device. Texts and emails are prone to misunderstanding. If you find yourself assuming a conflict, or defensive, you need to avoid a response via written communication. Reach out and call, or set up some face-time with the other party. If this isn’t possible then begin your response with the intent of goodwill and empathy. Commit to “hear” them.
- Conflict requires resolution. Correct resolution solves a problem in a way that both parties feel contentment. A resolution is not found if only one party feels resolved, or if no solution is created. You’re simply creating an indefinite conflict. At some point it will HAVE to be resolved. If you avoid conflict in a personal/romantic relationship you will encounter it again in the same relationship, or within the next relationship. If you avoid conflict within a professional relationship you will deteriorate the respect and commitment to success that you share. If you avoid conflict within a personal or professional event (like goals) you will never achieve success. You may still see movement, but you won’t be moving forward, moving towards growth and progress.
- Conflict takes commitment to communicate and take action. This can be tough, especially if your initial response is to be defensive or apathetic. It’s easy to tell yourself a particular position doesn’t matter to you and that it’s not worth your energy. But as stated above, all conflict requires resolution, so a defensive or apathetic response will retard your own personal growth. Commit to resolving the conflict and to the action that will be required. Remember that you own your response. You own your results. You own your life. You own your success. If you don’t commit, if you don’t take action, you cannot play victim.
- It’s not (usually) all about you. Strength comes from within. If you take risks, and commit to growing and learning, you will experience failure. You’ll fail often. That’s okay… only with failure comes with learning. The more you fail the more you learn, the easier it becomes to succeed. Like driving a car… you’ll get so good at success you’ll be able to succeed and drink coffee at the same time. However, if you never learn to succeed (by trying, failing, trying) you’ll never get better. Don’t be fragile, be fearless.
When you find yourself thinking a defensive thought, or avoiding conflict, look to your intent. Remind yourself this has to be resolved and used as an opportunity to learn/grow. Then begin the communication. Let go of defensive postures, pre-determined responses, or preconceived outcomes. Open your mind to something unexpected and wonderful.