How to Be Defensive (and ruin your relationships)
Good morning, class, and welcome to “How to be Defensive.” My name is Roy, and I’m pleased that this fine University has not only asked me to teach this class, but more importantly, I’m honored that they’ve recognized me as an expert in this all-important field.
I have devoted many years of my life to mastering defensiveness as a way of being and I hope to give you some very clear and practical advice on how you can be defensive too, for it truly is a great way to ruin your life and your relationships. And who doesn’t want that?
Allow me to begin by telling you about the many benefits of being defensive. This is very important because it takes an enormous amount of emotional and physical energy to be defensive (open-hearted curiosity takes no effort at all), and if you don’t embrace the payoffs, you’ll never stay motivated to pursue defensiveness as way of life.
WHY BE DEFENSIVE
The first benefit of defensiveness is that it keeps you from learning anything new about yourself. Now, what’s cool about this is that when you’re unwilling to be shown your blind spots, when you go through life with your fingers stuck in your ears, you’ll continue to experience the same patterns, problems and pain over and over again.
In other words, defensiveness is the key to experiencing your own version of Groundhog Day. Being defensive keeps you from experiencing any “aha” moments, and when you aren’t open to feedback from people, circumstances or results, nothing about your life will ever really change.
So, the first benefit of being defensive is that you get to attract another disappointing relationship, or find another job that sucks, or have another argument with your kid, or take another trip to the doctor. Patterns will always repeat if you maintain defensiveness and resist the temptation to be curious about how and why you are committed to and responsible for such patterns.
The second benefit of being defensive is that it keeps you separate, isolated, and ultimately, lonely. Defensiveness cuts you off from relationship—with yourself, with truth, with other people and from Life itself. In other words, defensiveness creates distance. It’s like straight-arming your way through life, not allowing anything or anyone to get close to you.
Fortunately, most people don’t know that Life is trying to love them. Life wants to be intimate with you, to help you learn and grow. What you hear from people, conditions and circumstances is Life’s way of trying to get close to you and show you how to live a happy, fulfilled life. But when your posture toward feedback or criticism—from any source, regardless of intent—is one of being defended and committed to being right, then you push Life’s wisdom away.
In essence, being defensive means, “I don’t need to learn and grow, and I don’t need anyone or anything to help me.” And if you resist the impulse to learn and maintain your defensiveness, you’ll get your wish—you’ll be left alone.
Thirdly, defensiveness, at its core, is competitive. When you’re defensive, what you’re defending is your image, one that is superior or “better than” others. This is very subtle, but defensiveness not only says that I don’t need to hear what you have to say, but it also says, “I’m better than you. I don’t have problems, issues or blind spots. You might, you poor bastard, but I don’t.” Therefore, being defensive creates competitive separateness rather than compassionate connection—and who wants any of that?
Ok, now that you’re sufficiently motivated to become defensive (if you’re not already), let’s focus on how to develop or strengthen this wonderful trait in your life—and there are 3 components.
(1) Recognize that feedback is about your identity. When someone shares their experience of you, the first thing you must do is make it mean something about who you are—at the essence level. View all feedback or criticism, whether it’s from people, circumstance or results, as a referendum on your very identity and worth as person.
It’s important to see feedback as a frontal attack and condemnation of your fundamental beingness rather than drawing your attention to some aspect of your ego. Feedback means you’re not good enough, or that you’re unlovable or broken, or that you’re a complete failure and fuck-up. It’s not to be seen as a loving attempt to show you a blind spot in your life.
(2) See feedback as mere projection. While all feedback is projection (if you spot it, you got it), the second component to learning how to be defensive is to overemphasize the projection aspect of feedback and use that to dismiss or deny any truthfulness of what’s being offered.
In other words, deflect what’s being shared and make it be about them. Their feedback or criticism is what they’ve disowned in themselves. It has nothing to do with you; it’s ALL about them. The commitment here is to believe that there is no value in projection whatsoever. It’s all or nothing, black and white. If there’s any projection at all—and all feedback is projection—then whatever is shared is worthless and a waste of time to consider.
Here’s a motto/mantra that I live by: If I don’t want to listen to the voice in my head, why in hell would I listen to yours!
(3) Kill the messenger. The third part of becoming defensive is to discredit the source of the feedback. There are a number of really fun ways to do this. Here are a couple of my favorites:
- Remind yourself that they don’t know you—nor have they made any effort to know you—so how can they have anything of value to say to you? Rationalizing like this is a quick and easy way to strengthen your defensiveness.
- If they do know you, reject their feedback or criticism as being a reflection of their own insecurity and jealousy. The truth is, people that offer feedback are threatened by you, and they’re just trying to take you down a notch so that they don’t have to feel inferior or “less than.”
- Only receive feedback from people who are living impeccably conscious, drama-free lives. If someone’s life is a mess at all, if they’re struggling or stuck in any way, discount or discredit whatever they have to say.
Would you listen to a golf tip from a weekend hacker? Of course not. So why would you respond to feedback with open-hearted curiosity—asking “how is it true?”— if the person offering it doesn’t have their shit completely together?
Now what’s cool about this is that no one has their shit completely together, so this is a one-size-fits-all, carte blanche excuse to be defensive and not listen to anyone.
Well, I think our time is up. I hope what I’ve shared will help you live a truly defended life, thereby ruining your life and your relationships.
ROY BIANCALANA is a certified relationship coach, a spiritual teacher, and the #1 best-selling author of three books, the latest of which is Relationship Bootcamp: Hard-Core Training for Life, Love & the Pursuit of Intimacy. He works with single people in the art of attracting and creating sustainable, conscious intimate relationships.
Roy offers a complimentary 30-minute exploratory coaching call to anyone interested in his individual or group programs and you can learn more about him by visiting, www.coachingwithroy.com or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.