Tag Archives: Defensive

Bringing Down the Barriers – Dealing With Someone Who is Defensive

“Have you thought about getting a part time job?” I asked
“What are you trying to say?” Was barked back at me. |
“Errrm, literally just that. Have you thought about getting a part time job?” “Oh for God-sake!”

This was a recent encounter with a relative who, unbeknownst to me at that time, had, having recently retired, been asked the same question by many of our other relatives.

I hadn’t anticipated that such a simple and innocent question could prompt such a defensive response. If I had, I would have avoided asking it.

But sometimes we need to ask questions or make suggestions that we know are going to be provocative, either because of who we are dealing with or what the subject matter is going to be.

It seems unreasonable that you should have to formulate strategies to avoid upsetting the apple cart and so assisting the other person in changing their behaviour may be a more desirable alternative.

At The Hypnotherapy and NLP Clinic in Hertfordshire, we subscribe to a set of NLP presuppositions. One of these is “You cannot change others. When you change yourself others change also.” So when I make the suggestion of changing the other persons defensive behaviour, this is a change that will occur as a result of your new way of managing them.

Firstly, you’ve got to start thinking about life from their perspective. What are these unjust that they are protecting themselves from? What are the ways that their perceive their value to be challenges or violated? When you have identified these consider their other motivators too. What do they like, what gets their interest?

If you can begin to communicate with them in a way that has them feel as if their needs are being met, as if you too have their best interests at heart they will not have the need to defend themselves as they felt they did before.

You need to create the sense that you are on their side or, that at the very least you understand there side, if you want to remove from them the feeling that they need to defend themselves from you.

In the example above, my relative was complaining about not getting enough pension. This told me that they were concerned about the finances. The rest of us were concerned about how much money she was spending due to boredom. But having recently gained the freedom of retirement, she was in no hurry to put herself in a position of employment as the above outburst had demonstrated.

I waited a while and had to pick the right moment to casually say “Wow, that’s a decent amount of money.” As I flicked through the newspaper.
“What? What’s that?” She asked.
“Huh? Oh nothing. It’s an advert for part time Christmas work at the post office. I didn’t realise they paid such a good hourly rate.”

The ‘planting of the seed’ proved to be a useful way to covertly work around what would have otherwise been a suggestion that was disregarded due to stubbornness and defensiveness.

When you begin to see the world as they do, you can change how you communicate to fit with them. As the trust between you develops the barriers of defensiveness will soften meaning that when you need to cut-to-the-chase with them, they will already regard what you say as being reasonable.

By Gemma Bailey