Why You Feel Defensive

Have you ever wanted to pick a fight with someone?  You know what I mean, like walk up to them, shove them and say, “Let’s get this on!”  Yeah, me neither, I don’t think there are a lot of people who do; however, there are times where I find myself in the middle of some escalating tension with someone and I’m thinking, “How did we get here?”
As youth ministers (especially if you are young), we can easily find ourselves feeling defensive whenever we receive a comment, question or critique.  Why do we get defensive?
It might be because we are passionate about what we do or it might be because we’re not prepared to handle these high stress situations.  No matter what the situation we need to have a strategy when it comes to tense communication.
Here’s mine:

  • Listen – Something I hate doing is creating a tense situation because I didn’t take time to listen to the person’s whole question.  There are many times we see someone or start to hear something and just to a conclusion.  All this does is create an unnecessary situation.  Before you react, listen and pause before you answer.
  • Slow To Respond – It’s been a learning process, but I use to think that I had to answer everyone or have an explanation for every single critique.  When we rush to answer we risk giving misinformation.  It’s better to say, “I’ll get back to you.” or “Let me think about it.” because it means you are taking their conversation seriously.
  • Be Humble – There have been times when a parent has asked me a question that set me off.  But it wasn’t because of what they asked, it’s because of how they asked it.  After doing this for several years I’ve realized that we don’t always know where parents (or others) are coming from when delivering a critique or asking a question.  When we make their tone/body language about us we close our eyes to the real issue.
  • Gain Insight – If you feel as if the conversation you just had was on the side of hostile, gain insight from an outside (yet trusted) perspective.  Be truthful with them and ask them how they think you handled the situation.  Unfortunately, we can blow things out of proportion in our minds and if that’s the case we need to follow up with an apology (if necessary).

Over all if you want to be able to handle the tense situations you need to maintain your energy, get enough rest and take your time to evaluate the entire scenario.  If we come off defensive, we’ll push people away and then no one will ever give us insight and truth.

How do you avoid escalating tension?