Did I Just Say That Out Loud?
Last week I asked you to make a list of the areas or times in your life where you become defensive. There were a few questions to ponder.
- Honestly assess these areas and what defect or weakness in you they point to.
- Attempt to own that the defect or weakness exists, and is a part of you.
- Keep a log of the emotions you experience related to owning these things.
I got a call from a friend just hours after the article posted last Saturday. “You are beating a dead horse buddy!” He laughed, sort of. It was kind of forced laugh. “You keep pushing this crap about accepting how bad I am. I’m not, and I won’t!”
I get that quite a bit. I don’t argue with people anymore. We all have core beliefs that we try to hide and mask, and we all have a tendency to become reactive when they are triggered. Until, that is, we learn to respond. I talk about the difference in Relax It’s Just Life:
Before I go on, I feel I should define some of the terms I use more clearly. When I say reactive, I am referring to what one feels in the gut when an internal button gets pushed. The reaction is purely emotional and it involves either fight or flight. A response is different. A response follows recognition of a trigger or button. Once the trigger is recognized, the threat can be identified and one is able to look at what they want or need at that given time. If I have a sense of what my long-term objective is, and I can forgo the immediate gratification of reacting I can make a choice at that time that will get me what I want. It may not get me what I want immediately, but I will most likely get it in the long haul. If I react rather than respond, my action does not ensure that I will get what I want. In fact, it will probably make it much less likely that I will get what I want, because a reaction is based on the actions of another, not on my own goals.
Think about it. Which would you rather do when you are triggered? Take a split second, own and accept the truth and respond or spend time and effort proving to someone else or you that it is not true and in the end not even feeling confident in that? That is what we are going for. Confidence and security in who you are. If you think about people who appear confident to you, they are most likely not individuals who never show weakness. They just do it in a matter of fact way that does not seem weak.
Here is an example that just popped in my head. I had a friend who stopped by unexpectedly. He was a stereo-typical gay man. I would describe him as primped. His hair was primped. His clothes were primped. His house was primped. And guess what? I am not a primped guy! He often commented on my clothes or appearance, and it never was an issue because I really didn’t care, but that day he stopped by the house was less than clean. And mind you, my home is always filled with people. With two teenagers and two dogs, not to mention friends and neighbors, seldom is my house quiet.
We were sitting in my living room and he was scanning the room. He looked at me and in what I interpreted as a cold and judgmental tone he said, “You know, people might feel more comfortable and want to hang out here if it wasn’t such a cluttered mess.”
The reaction came. I knew it because in my head I wanted to tell him off. But I quickly and easily put my emotions aside because I had already accepted that my home would never be pristine and that in relation to my house-keeping skills, I was certainly inadequate. For my home to be “acceptable” to my friend I would need to ban or control the things that made it a home to me. Kids, friends and pets. Everyone drawn to it because it is warm and inviting and they know it is a place where there is love and acceptance. The kitchen may be full of dirty pots and pans, but that is because someone requested that I cook them their favorite meal.
I choose to own the truth and respond because I do an inventory, and I am able to determine what has more value to me. What will give me what I want and make me happy? And if two things are competing, I determine which is more important and accept that I can’t have it all.
Continue with the challenge and look at the instances where you take a defensive stance. Trust me when I say it will be the beginning of a more confident and calmer you!
How do you respond when you’re feeling defensive? What techniques do you use to control your negative responses?