Why It's Time to Stop Defending Yourself When People Attack
As an individual in a professional setting, you've no doubt experienced someone attacking your ideas or actions. Maybe it was a colleague who questioned your decision-making abilities, or a client who seemed to be looking for faults in everything you did. Whatever the case, it's natural to want to defend yourself when someone attacks you. But what if I told you that it's actually better to refrain from doing so? In this blog post, we'll explore why it's time to stop defending yourself when people attack - and what you should do instead.
Defense Won't Change Minds
When someone attacks you, they've likely already made up their minds about you and your ideas. They're not attacking you because they want to learn more or see things from your perspective - they're attacking you because they want to tear you down. In these situations, defending yourself can actually make things worse. It gives the attacker more ammunition to use against you, and it can make you seem defensive and insecure. Instead of defending yourself, try to stay calm and focus on listening to the attacker's concerns. Ask questions to better understand their perspective, and try to find common ground. This can help shift the conversation from an attack to a productive dialogue.
Defense Can Make You Vulnerable
When you defend yourself, you're essentially admitting that there's something to defend. You may be unintentionally drawing attention to a weakness or insecurity. For example, if someone accuses you of being unorganized, and you immediately start listing all of the ways you're actually very organized, you may inadvertently be indicating that you're worried about being perceived as disorganized. This can make you appear vulnerable and insecure, which could encourage the attacker to continue attacking.
Defense Can Make You Miss the Point
When you're focused on defending yourself, you may miss the real issue at hand. For example, if a client is angry about a missed deadline, and you spend the entire conversation defending the reasons why the deadline was missed, you may miss the underlying message: that the client is upset because they feel unimportant or ignored. Instead of defending yourself, try to identify the client's true concerns, and work with them to find a solution that meets their needs.
Defense Can Fuel Negativity
When someone attacks you, it's natural to feel angry, frustrated, or hurt. However, by defending yourself, you may be unintentionally fueling those negative emotions. When you become defensive, you can come across as adversarial and confrontational, which can escalate the situation. Instead, try to respond calmly and thoughtfully. Acknowledge the attacker's concerns, and work with them to find a solution that addresses those concerns while still meeting your own needs.
There Are Better Ways to Respond
So if defense isn't the answer, what should you do when someone attacks you? Here are a few alternative strategies:
Ask questions: Instead of immediately jumping into defense mode, try asking the attacker questions to better understand their perspective. This can help shift the conversation from an attack to a dialogue.
Stay calm: It's natural to feel defensive when you're under attack, but try to avoid escalating the situation by responding in kind. Instead, take a deep breath and focus on responding thoughtfully.
Respond with empathy: Even if you don't agree with the attacker's perspective, try to respond with empathy and understanding. This can help defuse the situation and make the attacker feel heard.
As a professional, you'll undoubtedly face attacks on your ideas or actions at some point in your career. However, by refraining from immediate defense and focusing on more productive responses instead, you can help to shift the conversation and create a win-win outcome. Remember, the goal isn't to "win" the argument - it's to find a solution that meets everyone's needs and keeps the conversation moving forward. So the next time someone attacks you, try responding with questions, empathy, and a calm, thoughtful attitude - and see how it can change the dynamic for the better.
For more effective communication training ideas and courses from Dan O'Connor, Wizard of Words, go to danoconnortraining.com and have a look around!