When we get defensive we make it harder for our conversational counterparts to hear what we’re saying, and we usually trigger the other person’s defensiveness, too. After someone has said something that causes you to want to become defensive, these three steps can lead you toward cooperation — and away from explosion:
• Take a deep breath. Think of the first thing you want to say or do and don’t do that. Your first instinct may be to defend yourself against what you perceive as an attack, slight, or offense.
• Take another breath. The second thing you want to say or do may be to retaliate, but that will only escalate matters. Don’t do that, either.
• Focus on a solution. Think of the third thing you want to say or do and then do that. Once you get past defending yourself and retaliating, you have a better chance of collaborating on a solution.
Adapted from “Don’t Get Defensive: Communication Tips for the Vigilant” by Mark Goulston.