To be defensive means to protect that which already is, to resist a new view, to resist the possibility of change, and to resist the truth about myself. Defensiveness is a limitation to my growth in that I’m arguing for my old self rather than taking a new look and embracing a new possibility. I’m defending the rut in which my old belief, my old behavioral pattern is stuck. I become defensive because at some level I know that what is being said is at least partly true. And I’m afraid to listen to the truth, because I’ll have to act on it, which means I’ll have to change my stance, something I’m afraid to do. I thus feel obliged to defend my old groove. After all, it’s like home. It’s a comfortable, known entity.
Defensiveness is a coping mechanism that comes rapidly to the fore when we feel unsafe, when we’re losing control of a circumstance. It not only robs an individual of dignity but also isolates the individual from peers and fellow workers. Defensiveness creates a sense of distrust that can spread like an epidemic throughout an organization.
Series on Resistance to Change:
Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.
This article is excerpted from my 1994 book, Sustainable Forestry: Philosophy, Science, and Economics. St. Lucie Press, Boca Raton, FL. 373 pp. It is updated in my 2012 book, Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment: A Systemic Approach. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book, want to purchase it, or want to contact me—visit my website.