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Using Curiosity to Transform Defensiveness

How understanding our personal biopsychology of defensiveness can help support us in building a culture of curiosity and learning in our workplace.   

“Practice listening to understand instead of listening to respond.” – Nedra Tawwab

Dear clients and partners, this particular topic feels so timely in my personal business relationships today. Perhaps this is also true for you, or perhaps you are just trying to stay afloat and don’t even have time to read this newsletter.  Wherever you are, I thought I humbly would share what I am learning today.

In the past twelve hours alone, I had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of a colleague who shared that I had harmed them with my words and deeds.  Then, just a few hours later, I had to name an issue I was having with another organization, and to do so in a way that I hope will invite further conversation.  For each of these moments, being the receiver of feedback and the giver of feedback, there was a special opportunity for me to look at my own defensiveness. There was also an opportunity to see how that defensiveness shows up in others.

By learning to recognize the signs of how and when defensiveness shows up in my body, I can better identify it, name it and put practices in place to help calm that emotion, before I speak or act.  For me, the signs of defensiveness are a rush of blood flow throughout my body, followed by shortness of breath, a flushed face, and then sometimes, a feeling of shame.

Once I recognize these indicators of defensiveness, I engage the practice of deep breathing to calm my body’s nervous system; the biopsychology of defensiveness.  It takes about 5 minutes of deep breathing to feel myself calm down. Once I have done so, then I can ask myself important questions meant to provoke my own curiosity: “What was it that was said or done to me that is making me feel so defensive?  Why do these words or deeds cause such a reaction in me?”

As I begin answering these questions, there is often a nugget or two of wisdom to be learned that helps me better understand myself, and perhaps the person whose words or deeds sent me down this defensive path in the first place.

In the workplace, we are held accountable for our own responses to perceived conflicts, but this must be paired with the culture in our workplace of supporting methods of conflict resolution, through the organizational values, an intention meeting framework and the ability to get outside support to help facilitate these conversations.

In these times that we are in, there is an opportunity for each of us to dive deeper into understanding ourselves, and what makes us tick, so that we can meaningfully show up for the difficult conversations that may lead to a greater understanding of ourselves, each other and our workplace culture.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about how we can help support your company or team in creating a culture of curiosity.

*NOTE: Our theme for 2021 is “Building Workplace Culture,” and includes our resource, summarized and edited, from dRworks, a group of trainers, educators and organizers working to build strong progressive organizations and institutions. This culture includes: Culture of Appreciation, Realistic Timelines, Curiosity, Quality, Many Right Ways, More Than Two Alternatives, Power Sharing, Openness to Conflict, and Subjectivity.

By | 2021-04-16T16:24:57+00:00 April 16th, 2021|Building workplace culture|0 Comments

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