“Responding to someone’s upset by defending, explaining, or minimizing is a bad move every time. Change your moves.” ~LMB
Defending your actions seems to have become the new “in” thing to do in relationships these days. The problem, however, is that defensiveness absolutely kills relationships. One of the most common struggles individuals have is defensiveness. If your first response to someone’s upset with you is to somehow brush it off, chances are you struggle with defensiveness. Defensiveness leaves the other person feeling unheard, dismissed, and often frustrated. Common forms of defensiveness include:
- Explaining why you did what you did. (E.g. “I was in a meeting and didn’t notice the time.”).
- Getting angry or reactive when someone calls you out on your actions. (E.g. “Stop! I don’t want to hear it! Jeeze, you’re a real pill you know that!”)
- Going on the offensive and spinning the blame to the other person. (E.g. “There you go again. You’re crazy. No one could live with you!”)
- Minimizing what you did and accusing the other person of making a bid deal out of nothing. (E.g. “OMGosh, it was just a joke. Don’t be so sensitive.”)
- Defending what you did (E.g. “I was going to be late so I didn’t have a choice.”)
There are few things more frustrating than being with someone who refuses to be accountable. If you’re constantly defending yourself, then you’re not at all listening to the upset of the other person. Refusing to acknowledge how your actions impact others means you will likely repeat those actions. It also means that you’re more concerned about covering your back than you are with being relational. Your inability to be accountable and repair means there are very few problems that can be resolved with you. Regardless of whether we’re talking about work, marriage, friendship, or (fill in the blank) defensiveness blocks solutions, and undermines relationships.
There is nothing strong about being unaccountable. No courage is involved in never admitting your mistakes. And there is nothing loving about refusing to repair the hurt your actions have caused others. The strongest, healthiest and most courageous human beings are those who own their mistakes and do whatever is necessary to relationally fix the hurt or fallout that resulted. All human beings are imperfect. Every single person in the world makes mistakes—it is part of what makes us human. Pretending you don’t make mistakes never fools people into believing you don’t; it only teaches people that you’re not strong enough to own up to them.
Challenge: Find the courage to be accountable for your mistakes. If someone tells you that something you did was upsetting, lead with fixing the situation not spinning it and defending against it. Own your actions and repair any damage that was caused.