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How to Get Through to Someone Who Is Being Defensive in 3 Simple Steps

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

A leader worth following fights for the good of those they lead and serve. They fight for clarity, even in challenging conversations. As the leader you are responsible for owning the quest for clarity and resolution. Here’s how you can do this with someone who gets defensive in a challenging conversation.

This will make resolving conflict way easier for you. The challenge for most people is wasting time engaging in a conversation and arguing inside their context versus our own.

Think of a context as the invisible rules that govern a conversation.

So if you want to get through to somebody who's being defensive follows these three steps:

  1. The “Hit the Nail on the Head Technique

  2. Reframe the conversation

  3. Re-contextualize the conversation

This will literally reset the conversation so you can have a productive conversation.

Here’s your script:

When someone is being defensive, you “Hit the Nail on the Head” and say:

“You’re being defensive right now.”

Say this without judgement or harshness in your tone. Position your posture, attitude and tone to be for them. If the relationship is healthy, they should pause and acknowledge their behavior and shift.

This is when you reframe or clarify the boundaries for the conversation:

“It’s pretty clear that this conversation isn’t productive for you or me. I sense you don’t feel like you’re being heard and I know I don’t feel that way. Let’s take a break for 10 minutes and come back to try again.”

This “pause” is really important as it allows both of you to reset, calm down, relax and avoid the “fight or flight” response mechanism.

When you come back, re-contextualize or reset the conversation with:

“The most important thing to me is that you feel heard and we create a mutual and clear understanding. What is it you want me to hear?”

Listen! (Without interrupting and without getting defensive yourself.)

When they finish, let them know what you heard and ask,

“Is this how you feel?”

This establishes an expectation of reciprocity and mutual respect and concern for gaining clarity on both sides of the conversation and to get on the same page. More than anything, this positions you as a leader who wants the best for your team members, not just from them.

** One effective strategy in this area is to know your own communication tendencies. Do you know your "Voice Order" as it relates to the 5 Leadership Voices? Take the FREE assessment HERE.

Source: @ryanclarkmindset on TikTok

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