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When You Should Be Defensive During Feedback (Don’t Miss The Pie Chart!)

When You Should Be Defensive During Feedback (Don’t Miss The Pie Chart!)

By Dr. Chris White

9 years ago




If you would prefer to read this content instead of watching the video, the transcript is available below. If you don’t want to miss the pie chart, watch the video!

I’m Chris White, New York Times bestselling author and a Ph.D. statistician. Today, we’re talking about when it’s okay to be defensive.

More and more research has found that practice, even deep practice, is really the key to success at anything. So I guess if I’m talking about defensiveness today, I’ve had my share of practice? Well, actually, you’re right!

If I really think about the number of minutes…hours that I’ve spent either with someone saying something to me that I quickly tried to discount or explain away. Or even times when after a conversation I kept reinforcing my current position, I have probably spent not just dozens, maybe hundreds – I don’t know, maybe a thousand hours of my life in various forms of defensiveness.

So, the answer to the question, “When is it okay to be defensive?” you can see in your pie chart. The answer is…never!

And then the other piece is, of course, also never! It really isn’t okay to be defensive. Now, to defend yourself? Absolutely! If someone says something that’s not true, and you defend your position? Well, sure! Maybe even…clarify. Maybe, but quite often, clarification can sound defensive.

So, is it ok to disagree? Sure! Absolutely – disagree! I disagree with feedback all the time and you should, too.

Most people aren’t great at giving feedback that’s perfectly accurate, but “defensive” is when we just quickly dismiss it away, push against it, kind of dissect the messenger or the message, and that’s when we shut down the pipeline. So when is it okay to be defensive? Never!

Okay, our takeaways today:

Number 1: Think of a time when you were defensive. Think of a time where you just took it personally. You couldn’t handle it! You fought back a little bit. And maybe, go back and apologize. I know with my wife, even recently there was a time where I just didn’t want to apologize. An apology doesn’t mean, “I own everything! I’m a total failure!” It could simply be acknowledging that I was defensive.

Number 2: Think about, “Why?” Why were you defensive? For some people, it’s because they’re too self-critical. They take it too personally. For others, it’s because they’re too stubborn. They’re too strong-willed. Whether you’re too sensitive or maybe too insensitive, think about why. If you can identify the pattern, it can help you with our third takeaway.

Number 3: Prepare for next time. Think about that pattern. Think about, “Why?” and better prepare yourself for the next time. Maybe you have someone in your life – maybe at work, maybe at home – who it’s very easy to get defensive with. Okay, if that’s the case, then better prepare for that. Don’t be so caught off guard. Don’t have that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ response. You should see it coming, right? The pattern’s happened so many times already.

Let’s prepare for that next time, and let’s be the type of person who’s never defensive to feedback.


Dr. Chris White

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