conflict coach

Is Defensiveness Killing Communication In Your Relationship?

Defensive Routines: Attack – Defend - Withdraw

Conversations get tangled up. Emotions flare. And the conflict cycle spins ever increasingly out of control. In the interactive cycle, one of the most common, ineffective, and destructive responses is being defensive. I’ve studied and reflected on the issue of attempting to talk about something that really matters only to have one person or others respond defensively.

I am a counselor, relationship coach, mediator and anger management specialist in private practice. Chris Argyris is a world-renowned expert in this field. But there isn’t likely anyone who has not encountered leaders who are closed to any real participation, listening to understand and be influenced by the contribution or feedback of those around him/her. This is sadly true in corporate settings and in love relationships. One person writing about feedback said something to the effect that there is no such thing as “constructive criticism”.

But here is the reality. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EXCELLENCE WITHOUT FEEDBACK or GROWING IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO SAY WHAT YOU THINK AND FEEL ABOUT WHAT REALLY MATTERS! Select the area of life: cooking, golf, fishing, baseball, football, sewing. You name it and if you want to improve and become more skilled and competent you must be coached and open to feedback.

I know, listening to someone explain how you could improve and do better is so very tough. It takes humility, an extreme commitment to honesty and openness and patient reflection. But if you and I want to do and be and perform better we must learn from others. Below is a link to read a helpful article on this topic. For your own sake, for the sake of your love relationship study this issue and move toward a real learning relationship.

One of my female clients taught me a lesson I will never forget. Her spouse got up early and made coffee just for her. She told me how much she appreciated his efforts but that the coffee tasted terrible. She asked me what to do. I gave her one of the dumbest answers I’ve ever given a client. I told her, “Why not make it simple? Thank him for his efforts, go on your way and when you get a chance, buy a cup of coffee to your liking.” Wow! That is so very stupid.

Marriage and long-term love relationships are for adults. Adults must be safe to be honest with each other. “True” you might say. But if couples are truly honest with each other someone gets defensive. When your partner says something that puts you on the defensive just say, “Thank you.
I needed to hear that.” And, rather than attach or become critical, why not express the wish you have behind your criticism? “What I really wish is that…” “Would you mind if…”

Hope this is helpful.
Ed Riddick
The Conflict Coach

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