4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Get Defensive at Work

business people have argument

Getting defensive when people give you feedback is never a good sign.  Managing your behaviour is vital to success . Here is why it is self-limiting !

How often do you get defensive at work if at all? How easily do you accept your colleagues’ feedback? Are you one of those people whose immediate response to criticism is to argue, blame, apologize or blurt out excuses? When working with other people, it’s only natural to exchange feedback and advice, but if someone gets hurt it's more than likely to be the person who gets the most defensive.

Research shows that being defensive is a barrier to effective communication – not to mention a relationship killer. When you are defensive, your reactions are to fight, including yelling, arguing or flight – running away from the situation either physically or emotionally, freezing or fainting. But, as you would expect these behaviours are a real threat to a work environment that promotes openness and trust.

Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t put your defenses up at work.

1. You aren’t standing for what you believe in

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So you have made a mistake at work. Do you hide it or admit your error? Do you say that it’s not your fault and blame others or plead guilty and prepare to face the consequences of your actions? Getting defensive when someone accuses you doesn’t help you prove your point the right way.

Even if you have made a mistake, sometimes you need to stand your ground and explain why and what you think went wrong. I am not saying that you should be silent and keep your head down, instead stand up for what you believe and present your arguments so that your boss and colleagues understand your point of view.

2. You let stress take control

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Too much stress is never good, and you shouldn’t let it take over under any circumstances. When you are feeling anxious, you can’t see clearly and as such can’t operate effectively. When this happens, all you are thinking about is the negative feedback you have just received over and over again. That’s when your heart starts to race fast and you try to come up with the right things – or someone might call ‘excuses,' to say to explain what can’t be explained. The bad thing about getting defensive is that you end up making the situation worse.

3. You show a lack of confidence

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Your reaction to any criticism mirrors the opinion you have of yourself. In others words, it determines your self-worth. Liane Davey gives some valuable advice in Psychology Today while talking about defensiveness and how it works. As she puts it, “defensiveness sends terrible signals. When you indulge in it, you’re likely to be seen as insecure, close-minded and overly emotional. None of these labels is going to help you be successful or build stronger relationships.” Since you don’t want to look uncertain about yourself or too emotional, it’s best that you let your defenses go for a walk when getting feedback.

4. You are hiding something

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Getting defensive might also signal that you are trying to cover up your mistakes, even though this is not the case. Or even worse, it might give out the intention that you don’t care about the other person you are interacting with and as such you don’t value your relationship with them.

Defensiveness is a natural response to men who either get frustrated or angry about getting yelled at by their higher ups, whereas women are usually more willing to work it out with someone without causing too much trouble.

Whatever the case, you need to try and manage your defensiveness at work. Before you rush to conclusions and accept defeat, listen carefully to what the other person is saying, understand the motivation behind the criticism and don’t take negative feedback too personally.

Have you ever caught yourself getting defensive at work? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments section below…