D-Fence Blog ImageA lot of emphasis is placed on defensive activities in the sporting world from a positive standpoint. Commentators proclaim excitedly, “He played a great defensive game; the defense won that game for the team; what a great defensive play.” However, defensive stances don’t play that well in the workplace. In fact, defensive attitudes impede learning, contradict collaboration, create destructive conflict, stifle professional and personal growth, and in general negatively impact working relationships. We most often think the other person is getting defensive needlessly, but I would challenge you to evaluate your role in the scenarios. Do you find yourself asking, “wow, what got into her…all I did was ask a question.” If this is the case, take a look at your approach. What about your encounter did you contribute to creating a defensive stance in the other person? Rather than always seeking to blame others for situations, your first question should be to yourself – “what role did I play in creating a defensive posture?” “Was my tone accusatory?” “Did I make inaccurate assumptions about the other person?” Did I use antagonistic word choices?”
Now for the other side of the coin. Take a hard look at yourself. Do you have a tendency to get defensive when others are only attempting to offer observations or suggestions? If so, how do you change your stance? There are several things you can do. Maintain an open posture, i.e., be approachable. Closed body language portrays defensiveness before any words are even spoken. If you feel the heat rise in your neck and are poised to defend yourself from a perceived attack, practice stress management techniques that work for you…things such as deep breaths, self-talk, counting, etc. Ask questions to clarify what is meant; this gives you time to calm down, think, and provides an opportunity for more open communication.

Author Ellen Decker

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