I was in the kitchen preparing dinner when Morty walked in and said “There are no bananas?” I screamed “Bananas! I had sessions all day, then the kids came home, I had to answer calls, make dinner and you want bananas? He was shocked. He was simply disappointed that there were no bananas in the house and I heard “You’re a terrible wife.”
Defensiveness is harmful to our relationships because it keeps us from getting to the source of issues. Instead, we’re focusing on who was right and who was wrong. It keeps us from being responsible for what’s happening to us. We become victims of others because we’ve given them our power.
We get defensive because of the meaning we give to the things people say about us. We feel attacked even when someone says something that seems harmless to others. We take things personally and then fight back. For example, when I blew up at Morty for simply saying “There are no bananas?” I decided it meant something about how good a wife I was.
My daughter and I were having a conversion when she suddenly informed me that I did something in her childhood that resulted in her having guilt today. “I never did that” I replied ”I always validated your feelings, I would never do that.” Next thing I knew we were arguing. Being a good mother was the most important thing in the world to me so naturally I gave what she said the meaning “I was not a good mother.” To me good mother’s don’t give their children guilt.
Now the truth is, it is irrelevant whether I said things that had her feel guilty. What we do has less to do with what is true than peoples’ perception of what happened. Denying others’ experiences just has them get more defensive. What I should have said was “I am so sorry that I did anything that didn’t work for you,” but I couldn’t because of the meaning I gave what she said. Had I said that she probably would have said “That’s OK mom. I’m working through it.” And that would have been that.
We give meaning so quickly that we don’t even realize it. So when you find yourself getting defensive here’s a tool to help you dissolve the meaning allowing you to deal with what’s happening in a loving and effective way.
- What just happened?
- What meaning did I give what just happened?
- What else could it mean?
- Can I see that the meaning is in my mind and not in the events?
For example, imagine you have plans with someone and they’re very late and don’t call. You get angry. You apply the four questions.
What just happened?
What meaning did I give what just happened?
They don’t care about me to be on time
What else could it mean?
They’re not good at managing time.
Can I see that the meaning is in my mind and not in the events?
Yes, the meanings are in my mind, not in the world.
While dissolving meaning is a powerful tool to rid yourself of defensiveness, it doesn’t mean that you have to put up with behaviors that you don’t like. We can choose to avoid spending time with people who don’t treat us well.
But if staying away is not an option you’re considering, keep in mind that defensiveness makes any problem we had with another person worse. It is far easier to find ways to communicate our needs and desires more effectively when we’ve dissolved meanings first. This allows us to see what has happened more objectively and to respond more calmly.
So the next time you’re criticized or judged and the urge to defend yourself rears its head, take a moment to notice the meanings you’ve given to what happened and dissolve them. You’ll find yourself having more peace in your relationships as well as more peace of mind in life as a whole.
How to eliminate 19 beliefs that limit confidence
Why are people afraid to do new things? Why do they sometimes feel like impostors? Why aren’t they able to just assume they will figure out how to make things work?
The answer is limiting beliefs. Specifically, self-beliefs.
When you have a limiting belief about yourself, it’s hard to escape. You are with your “self” all day long. But when you change a self-belief what happens? The invisible barrier in your way seems to vanish.
Announcing Natural Confidence: A way to eliminate self-doubt
The Natural Confidence program isn’t a rah, rah cheerleader saying “you can do it.” We know that kind of message doesn’t lead to lasting change. Instead, it helps you unlearn the beliefs that keep you from knowing that you’ll find a way to reach your goals and overcome problems. When that happens, you experience the freedom to act. You can get Natural Confidence here and see the many success stories from people who tried the program. Go to www.NaturalConfidenceProgram.com.