I Don’t Want Your Advice! – Overriding Our Defensiveness

 In Communication, Relationships

Darn!  I just missed the turn to take my daughter to camp and now we were going to be late. 

Darn! Darn! Darn!  Being late makes me feel stressed!

My daughter started teasing me about being forgetful so I explained I was feeling anxious (and distracted) because I had so many things I needed to get done that day.  After lamenting my long list, she asked which of those I HAD to get done today.  She lectured me on setting priorities and not creating unneeded stress.  She’s 10.  It was hard to say, “You’re right.”  I wanted to say, “What do you know!” or, “I don’t need this right now….”  Yet, if I want her to be receptive to my “input,”  I knew I needed to stay open to hers.  So I took a long breath and paused.  How do I want to respond in this situation?  Fighting my defensive instincts, I smiled and said, “Thank you. You have a good point.”

I think a common truth is that it’s much easier to advise than to receive advice.  How can we stay open and realize that these people are sharing their thoughts out of good will and not to make us defensive?  Whether or not you like their advice, here’s something to try.  

Tips to override defensiveness

1.  Realize it’s instinctive and normal to get defensive when someone is correcting or advising us.

2.  Notice it happening and notice how it makes you feel.

3.  Pause and remind yourself that you can override your instinctive reaction.

4.  Think of how you would respond to a small child or grandparent (We tend to have more patience with them).

5.  Open your mouth and speak with intention.

6.  Practice this approach on the easy situations and realize it takes time to get good at it.  

Think of a past situation where you became impatient with the other person’s attempt to offer their “help.”  What could you have done or said differently based on the steps above?


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Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association.

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