Why We Defend at Work and Why We Shouldn’t


Many of our interactions at work are fraught with tension, resistance, and defensiveness. We can tell because of the tightness or numbness we feel in our guts, chest, neck etc. before and during these interactions. This defensiveness, so often unacknowledged, saps our happiness and throttles our organizations’ results.

Defense at work looks like being nice but guarded, holding our tongues, holding back our talents and caring, questioning-, delaying-, talking-, or demanding too much, wishing others would just do what we want and stop complaining, keeping our heads down or pushing hard for change, politics, gossip and other unkindness, distance, losing it, and checking out.

We defend ourselves because, somehow, we believe we are threatened, that we are subject to attack and loss at the hands of another or others. (This includes loss of position, power, money, well-being, acceptance, resources, etc.) And so we divert power to our shields and work hard to try to prevent attacks and losses.

It is draining, isn’t it? It is also risky for our organizations and damaging to our bigger goals.

And we need not defend.

By choosing not to defend, navigating via curiosity, and approaching with an open heart, we become invulnerable. With a defended heart, we are vulnerable. Why? Because we see what we expect to see and the world has a freaky way of supporting that expectation. The threats are only as real as we think they are. Because when we stop defending, the others quietly get that they don’t have to either. And because, quite frankly, we are are much more powerful and capable than any of us can imagine.

The strongest approach is to lower our shields. We can handle it. All will be well.


In your corner,


PS: Some of us may not be ready to lower shields today. That’s cool. Safety first. No heroics or drama required. We can get to this powerful state (quicker than we think) with baby steps. ‘K?

PPS: Next time you feel tension during or in anticipation of an interaction with another, try foregoing the usual worrying and plotting (“I’ll say this, they’ll say that, then I’ll do this.”) Try, instead, writing or saying out loud to yourself something you appreciate about yourself, about your organization, and about the people or person you are dealing with. It can work wonders.

Today’s photo credit: Mickki via photopin cc

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