DefensivenessEmotional intelligence includes self-awareness, realizing why we do or don't do certain things. It is natural to be somewhat defensive but being able to limit the worst aspects of defensive is a key part of being emotionally intelligent. How defensive are you when criticized or when things go wrong? Do you find it easy to admit your mistakes or are you quick to blame others or circumstances? Do you learn from your mistakes or do you tend to discount them?

Signs of Defensiveness

Do you...

  • repackage your blunders so you won't look so bad?
  • blame circumstances, luck or others when things don't work out?
  • position the "facts" to create a positive impression?
  • create excuses for not having done something?
  • argue back forcefully?
  • feel hurt and withdraw?
  • get angry and vow to get even?

Being Less Defensive

The above moves, and many more less obvious ones, are all defensive. A little defensiveness is healthy your immune system. Excessive defensiveness will prevent you from learning from your mistakes. After all, why do anything different, if all your mistakes are someone else's fault? 

Feeling angry because of changes imposed from above? Do you attack the stupidity of your bosses and feel better? But this move can be self-defeating if it stops you from understanding their rationale and coming to terms with your own resistance to change.

If you have healthy self esteem, you should be able to admit your mistakes. If you have low self esteem you will either be too hard on yourself for even small mistakes OR you will go to the other extreme and defensively never admit them!

When you anticipate failure of a project do you start telling people why it will fail? You're setting up defences in advance so you won't have to create them after the fact. Advance defensiveness can increase the likelihood of failure.

Some people will even sabotage their own projects, when they start to think they will fail, if they can do so in a way that ensures their getting off the hook. Recognizing and avoiding your own excessive defensiveness is not easy if you have developed a pattern of protecting a fragile self esteem in this way.

But you will not keep up with the demand in today's organizations to learn faster if you don't confront this issue for yourself.