Staying in Control: Managing Criticism, Blame and Defensiveness
Jack was at a Board Meeting. He was presenting a proposal for buying some new property. His nemesis, Will, questioned his proposal — as expected.
In counseling, Jack had learned the difference between control to prevent disaster and trust in his judgement. He caught himself about to react to Will’s antagonistic sarcasm. In the past, Jack took the bait and wound up wasting energy in a half hour of accomplishing nothing of value.
Since Jack now had the power of choice, he chose instead to control himself. He could use his own adult judgment to solve the problem.
One of Will’s problems was his desire for superiority at all costs. He wasn’t considering the interests of the corporation, he was trying to relieve the pain of his own inadequacy in ways that were not rational or appropriate. Jack did not pull back on Will’s tug of war rope for a power struggle. In a firm, direct tone, Jack said “I hear what you’re saying Will and I’ll certainly give it all the consideration it deserves.” And the meeting went on.
Jack felt a change in himself. He felt relief from the tension, pressure and stress, he felt like he was living his life in the present as he should, and he felt a sense of accomplishment and success.
Jack realized he was not in a court of law and did not have to defend himself against Will’s accusation.
We can be like Jack and choose to do something else instead, such as:
* We can agree with it, e.g., “I never thought of it that way.” Or We can say, “I hear what you are saying.” We are not agreeing with the facts of the matter, we are agreeing that he/she feels the way he/she feels. Feelings, perceptions and opinions are not facts.
* We can say “It must make you angry when that happens. I’d be angry too if that happened to me.” This is an appropriate validation of the other person’s anger and of their worth as a person. When we validate the other person’s anger, we are validating him/her as a worthwhile human being in spite of his/her unpleasantness. Moreover, we are validating ourselves as a worthwhile human being at the same time. That is making a choice in reality. That is control.
These are not defenses. They are not counterattacks. We are in control. We are choosing to make these interventions happen. They can have the effect of setting limits and allow us to not take his/her behavior personally. We are creating an atmosphere in which cooperation is possible, which is the first step towards an appropriate solution to the problem.
Tags: Anger Management, Archive