In continuation of the 4 horsemen series, today we will be talking about the third Horseman – Defensiveness
Defensiveness is the typical response to contempt (the third horseman).
Defensiveness is the quality of being anxious to challenge or avoid criticism or it can also be behaviour intended to defend or protect.
Gottman defines it as self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack. He believes that many people become defensive when they are criticized, but the problem is that its perceived effect is to blame. It is usually a counterattack to a complaint, which is not criticism.
We’ve all been defensive, and this horseman is nearly omnipresent when relationships are on the rocks. When we feel unjustly accused, we fish for excuses and play the innocent victim so that the other person will back off.
Some people not only respond defensively, but they reverse blame in an attempt to make it the other person’s fault. Instead, a non-defensive response can express acceptance of responsibility, admission of fault, and understanding of the other person’s perspective:
Although it is perfectly understandable to defend yourself if you’re stressed out and feeling attacked, this approach will not have the desired effect. Defensiveness will only escalate the conflict if the critical person does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is a way of blaming someone, and it won’t allow for healthy conflict management.
The antidote to defensiveness is to accept responsibility for your role in the situation even if only for part of the conflict.
We think that we are never wrong or at least in this instance we are not wrong. First, we need to know that we all make mistakes (mostly unknowingly) and thus don’t realise that we have made it and therefore we can’t acknowledge it. So, the first step is to acknowledge that we have made a mistake. Then we need to take responsibility for it and try to rectify it.
The next step in the resolution of the conflict is to talk. Sit down with the person you are in conflict with, accept your part in it and talk about it. Try to come to a solution both of you are comfortable with. You need to resolve without being defensive. Things might not always work but if both of you are trying to reach an amicable solution then this is the way to go. There is a saying in Hindi that means that you cannot clap with one hand, similarly, it takes two people to have a conflict and its resolution is also possible if both of them want to.
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