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05 Feb '14

The difference between defensiveness and defending your position

Posted by T.J. Addington in defensiveness, self definition
I am a big fan of good EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and one of the hallmarks of good EQ is the ability to be non-defensive when challenged. A non-defensive posture is one where we can listen to the push back of others without our emotions getting in the way (anger, anxiety), listen with respect and have a productive dialogue.

But non-defensiveness does not mean that we do not defend our position on a matter. In fact, people with good EQ are self-defined. They know what they think and are able to state their position clearly, even with those who might disagree.

This raises an interesting issue. I often hear people say about others, "They would not listen to me," or "they were defensive." What they are usually saying is "They did not agree with me." Those are not the same thing. I can non-defensively listen to another position while still holding my own and defending it. If I listen to you carefully and don't get hijacked by my emotions, I can do it non-defensively and still defend my particular position. Because I did not agree with the other party does not mean that I did not listen or became defensive. It simply means that I hold a different view and did not change my mind to agree with them.

In fact, a sign of poor EQ is the expectation that because I believe something that others need to agree with me. Often that will not be the case and it is why collaborative decision making is both characterized by robust dialogue and better decisions. Each of us can bring the best to the table.

Don't be afraid to defend your position while being open to modifying it if there is good reason to. And don't assume that people didn't listen to others or were defensive just because they did not agree.