“All defensiveness and emotional tumult is a fear response because of your need for acceptance and ruthless control of the territory of your safe fantasy world.” ― Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life
Matt is a guy I worked with who couldn’t take anything that resembled criticism. His M.O. was to criticize the way I was doing things and prove his rightness. Actually he may not even realize it. Which is probably the most annoying thing.
We all know people we can’t talk to because everything is a battle. Any comment is met with ruthless defense, when you weren’t even on the attack.
These people are maddening to say the least. This is beyond simply standing up for yourself. These people are extreme. It’s almost as if they are anticipating an attack and are reciting some script they have been working on for a long time. The thing is, they probably have. They are most likely coming from a situation where they were judged or criticized excessively.
It’s a primal response straight from our reptilian brains. We are reptiles when we’re being defensive. It is motivated by fear and not reason. We are not thinking when we are in this state, which is why rehearsed lines are more prominent, as are fiery arrows of blame.
“Yeah, but you…”
“Well, why did you…”
So how do we deal with this? Hard as it may be, don’t fall into the trap of defensiveness. Rise above. “Don’t go lizard, go turtle,” Martha Beck suggests. Focus on something positive about the situation or think of something to engage your thinking brain. She suggests thinking of a bright color, or solving an analytical problem.
The reptilian brain operates out of scarcity. Something is lacking; something is wrong. They zero in on the wrong things. Not only is the good not on their radar, they have no hope. These people need assurance that everything will be ok. Not so much in words, but in actions. It can be tough when they are on their manic whirlwind of dis-ease.
That is why it is so important that, we, their counterparts in this case, are operating from an attitude of “enough” or even abundance. Another way to go about that is, instead of looking for things that are wrong, look for things that are right. It will accomplish the same thing, but it will completely change your mindset. This will help arm you from their defensive jabs.
“Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.” Maria Popova