Defensiveness and Love

Today I was reminded about the cost of defensiveness. I was driving with my wife and she was sorting through the mail. She asked about a letter I received. I wasn’t certain what was inside, so I asked her not to open it. Certainly not a great move in creating trust.

It did give me an opportunity to look at how defensiveness is automatically activated. I was so committed to preserving my identity with her (aware of everything that’s going on around me), that I risked her trust. This wasn’t a product of any extensive cost/ benefit analysis. It was done at the speed of light.

My good fortune is that I work with people every day helping them live in their greatness. Just after my conversation with my wife, I was sitting with a client. My own story unfolded as I listened. I could see myself in them and observe why I felt defensive. After the client left, I shared with my wife what I learned and apologized for pushing her away.

This type of situation isn’t personal. We all face it at times. We have an image we want to protect. An image we aren’t completely aware of, but one that we will pull out all the stops to uphold. In personal relationships. this type of behavior can be devastating. Often, we don’t see what’s happening and conceal our actions (at least we think we do). We separate ourselves from someone who is important to us. The root of this action is not that we don’ t love the other person, it’s that we don’t love ourselves. We have not accepted ourselves as we are and want the illusion of who we are to be defended at all costs.

Think about the impact of this tendency in business. When there is a problem with a business contract, for instance, the first response, for many of us, is to see how we’ve done what we promised and how the other person hasn’t. Not much trust is going to be built with that kind of activity is it?

Whatever identity we want others to have of us becomes territory for the defensive mechanism. We fear if we admit we made an error, others won’t think we’re smart or trustworthy, not realizing that our defensiveness creates a breach of trust. This happens even when the other person doesn’t know details of our deception. They sense something doesn’t feel right. This unease lowers trust.

The lesson is that defensiveness is always active when I don’t love myself. Loving ourselves is valuable not only for the reasons we already know, but because relationships in all areas of our life will be filled with ever increasing trust.

Author: Thomas White

Over the past thirty-five years, Thomas White has created and led private and public organizations that initiated breakthroughs in areas as diverse as computer software, publishing, printing, market research, leadership development and organizational change. The common ingredients in his success are simple. He looked beyond the limitations that others believed and found real solutions to needs that business leaders have. He attracted the best talent to translate these innovative solutions into practical products and services that were of high value to customers. He created cultures where people love what they do, work at their best and produce extraordinary results. In addition to his role as a business leader, Thomas has been a pioneer and inventor of technologies in the computer-networking field. He is a patent holder for innovations in business process and workflow technology. As part of his passion for educating others about the interface of human and computer systems, he was the co-author of “New Tools for New Times, The Workflow Paradigm”. He has also written articles for numerous publications. In 2001, he turned his attention from leading companies to supporting leadership teams in creating organizations of excellence. After many years of being a part of the machine of change, Thomas recognized that business is the most powerful force in the world. It has a major impact on public policy and governments everywhere. It is a key influence on how we use our resources and sets an example of the values that shape communities from local to global. He formed the consulting firm of Profoundly Simple to be a guide for exemplary leaders - leaders who wisely uses the power they are entrusted with to serve their constituencies first and themselves second; leaders who know that it is good business to treat people with respect, honor the environment and act with impeccable integrity – leaders who inspire greatness in those around them and by doing so create great organizations that are notable examples of success. Feeling the itch to get back into the game again, Thomas joined with two long time friends, to start the C-Suite Network. This network of business leaders offers an online network, events, services, and insights to its 500,000 member community. In addition, the C-Suite Network produces and distributes television and radio content to an audience of over 5M per month

2 thoughts on “Defensiveness and Love”

  1. Once again, you have gotten me to look at myself!I can see how I can easily get defensive about the most trivial things. And, yes, it is always about self-loathing.

    What is the identity I want to project? That of a confident guy with all the answers….and, when I don’t have an answer, I can feel the defensiveness rising up. Thank you, Thomas.

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