My friend Paula made this comment on the “Blame” post:
“This is a great one! Would you please do a blind spot post on defensiveness? While reading this (post on Blame), I imagined addressing the blame issue with someone, but they might get very defensive, and bringing a blind spot to someone's attention might go awry. And maybe my own, trauma-driven, response to having to always defend myself, ha-ha. If someone brought to my attention a blind spot, I might have a knee-jerk reaction of defensiveness.”
Yes, Paula! This is a very worthwhile quandary.
How do you get someone to see their blind spots?
Remember, blind spots are the things that are said or done that cause others to feel pushed away from us.
To make someone aware that they are causing us to experience something harsh or unpleasant is a delicate task.
Defensiveness comes when you want to point out a blind spot and the other feels attacked and denies the accusation, they try to defend themselves from feeling angry, hurt, or ashamed when they perceive the other as critical.
They have difficulty with “constructive criticism” and may mistakenly take it as a perceived threat.
Anyone can be provoked by a personal issue that causes them to have a defensive reaction.
Most of us want to hear good things about ourselves and when we hear negative things, it puts us into a recoil state.
Defensive behavior triggers people’s fight, flight, or freeze response, which is generated by the reptilian brain.
Receiving criticism can be very challenging, especially if there is any possibility of low confidence or shame.
It is hard to hear what I call “negative feedback” as loving and caring.
It does not draw you closer, and it's mostly heard as nagging, complaining, demeaning, or belittling.
Just remember in any relationship, one size does not fit all. What works for one person may not work for another.
It is imperative that you stay agile as you work to get your point across.
Listening and remaining calm are valuable resources in a defensive situation.
But don’t relent, if you relent, it is much more difficult to go back and restart the process and if you submit to it, it will continue to haunt both of you.
To help someone overcome a blind spot means that you want to help them create an opportunity to connect and be close as opposed to creating distance.
It creates an opening where both people benefit and win.
The magic question is, “How do I get this idea across without creating a threat?”
The objective is to be able to develop an offering that would reduce fear and start a line of communication.
Let’s look at a situation where someone has just been told they are controlling.
What they may hear is that they are being blamed for being controlling “all the time.”
But when they reflect on their past, they realize how frequently they have given in without receiving recognition for it. At this moment, anxiety overrides intellect making it challenging to absorb this remark.
“You” statements come across negatively, putting others more on the defense.
Often in my practice, I hear these statements.
“You are controlling.”
“You never listen.”
“You are getting loud.”
“You are being mean.”
These are “igniting” statements and when you are trying to create an environment where there are no defensive knee-jerk reactions, these are best avoided.
Making statements that are directed toward "you" helps diffuse tension and makes the other less defensive.
“I am feeling pushed away.”
“I want something better for us.”
“I want to feel safe in your presence.”
“I want to feel special again.”
Making the statement, “I'm in a double bind here, I’m danged if I do and danged if I don’t. I am afraid it will upset you if I tell you I am offended. If I don't tell you I'm offended, I'm afraid you'll continue to offend me, and it will cause more and more problems down the road.”
You are “asking” them to join you in this dilemma and collectively work through this issue.
Being inviting is the key.
In healthy relationships, one partner does not want the other to be in a bind and will do whatever is necessary to relieve the pressure.
In a defensive situation, emotional maturity—being able to recognize and control your own emotions and have the capacity to identify the others’ emotional state and respond effectively—is highly valuable.
If I make a suggestion and they do not respond amicably, I must keep out of any argument and try to rephrase the statement or request in a way that will diffuse the situation.
If this process takes too long, perhaps professional assistance is required.
The ideal situation is not to allow blind spots to exist, because if they continue it will be the downfall of the relationship.
Being able to offer empathy and respect to those around you will also go a long way to avoiding the trap of defensiveness.
Great question Paula, I pray this was helpful.
Keep looking for the blind spots and building a better you.
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Blind Spots in Relationships
What I don't know I don't know about myself
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