You are Being Defensive, No I’m Not!

Life hacker recently republished a great Harvard Business Review piece by Mark Goulston, a noted business psychiatrist and the author of Just Listen. Goulston speaks about the often knee-jerk reaction defensive behavior whenever someone criticizes us or takes an antagonistic position. There are two problems with becoming defensive. First, we make it harder to hear what the other side is saying. Second, we make it harder for others to hear what we are saying. This isn’t completely dissimilar to what happens when we throw tantrums.. Suffice to say, when people don’t hear you and you don’t hear them, not much communication is going on. 20131119-074810.jpg

Goulston has a three step approach to dealing with our own defensiveness. He calls it: “three strikes and you’re in.” After you feel yourself becoming defensive:

Strike 1: Strike the first thing that you want to say/do from your mind. Take a deep breath instead. The first thing you want to say or do is to defend yourself.

Strike 2: Strike the second thing that you want to say/do from your mind. The second thing you want to say or do is usually to retaliate. That won’t help matters and will usually exacerbate them.

Strike 3: This one isn’t really a strike but, think of the third thing you want to do and do it! After moving beyond defense and retaliation, you will likely try to do something constructive.

Goulston offers some relevant advice about how to steer yourself to think better and more constructively in the Strike 3 stage. One such piece of advice is to become a “plusser”; someone who listens to what the other person says and builds on it. You do this by validating their point and then adding something of your own.

Using the Three Strikes You’re In method will transform you from being a verbal Judo black belt into a prize winning “doer”.

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