Be Curious

You may have heard the words, “Quit being so defensive!” Hearing this statement can feel challenging because you may not even see an error in the way you responded. You may also have been responding in this way most of your life. Defensiveness is not a character flaw; rather, it ought to be looked at as a trauma response. When someone is quick to be on guard or act in reactive, rather than responsive ways, they may be aiming to protect themselves. Defensiveness may also stem from growing up in an enmeshed or codependent family environment. When you base your sense of identity and worth on the words, feelings, and behaviors of others, you may be inclined to react defensively.

While the emotions behind defensiveness are always valid and make sense to your experience, the reactions that accompany it are often damaging and limiting. When you operate from a defensive stance, you may become quick to judge and limit your own inherent curiosity. Defensiveness may even lead to interpersonal conflict or control-seeking behaviors.

Here’s how you can become less defensive so that you may be the healthiest and most curious version of yourself.

  1. Become more self-aware and recognize what makes you respond in a defensive way.
  2. Be curious and non-judgmental about your own internal experiences and processing.
  3. Adopt a curious posture to others’ responses and reactions.
  4. Validate your feelings–not necessarily your reactions.
  5. Determine the origin of your defenses and extend self-compassion while doing so (example: trauma, stress, anxiety).
  6. Practice assertiveness and stronger communication skills. Feeling defensive? Ask a question instead of making an assuming statement. You may consider asking. “What do you mean by that?”
  7. Take accountability while acknowledging your underlining feelings of shame or guilt. Shame and guilt block growth.
  8. Consider society’s focus on immediacy and efficiency. How might these systems elicit urgency and reactivity within you? Is it okay to pause?

If you need support and would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics such as the one featured in this blog, and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.

Written by Liz R, Staff Psychotherapist

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