December 05, 2008
“This woman (or man) that I work with is impossible to talk to because she gets defensive about everything!”
I refer to “woman” here because it is a trait we women are more likely to have (ouch). This approach is reflected in my book under entry #14 “Don’t ever get defensive at work.” It may feel like a natural reaction, but it is a major discussion-blocker and reflects poorly on your professionalism.
See link below for more situations like this in my new book for Women in Leadership.
TRY THIS: (Two steps)
Simple reflection of what you are seeing such as “my comment seemed to throw you off.”
- Blow by Her
Really. Our natural reaction is often to throw up our hands in surrender. We would rather turn blame to her unreasonable reaction and state, “See, I can’t get through!” Instead, push through it as if it is not happening. Keep going despite her reaction. Your objective is to end with an action to take.
EXAMPLE: You state something that results in a defensive reaction from “Lisa”, who is responsible for an important project. She takes it as a comment about her leadership.
You: “Lisa, this project looks as if it is slowly moving off target and the team members are wasting their time.”
Lisa, the Project Leader: (looking flushed and becoming defensive) “We spend time each meeting covering the details. And this is what Bob said was what the customer wanted, besides, each one of us knows…”
You: (acknowledging statement … you may have to interrupt) “This seems to be something you feel strongly about. My comment was not about your capability.” (then pushing forward despite her emotional stance) “I need to see data supporting the work done so far and we should revisit the scope of the project. Let’s plan on a time to meet to review this.”
Nice to remember: Although the reaction is often misguided, people get this way because they care. That’s a good thing.