"I don't make demands," Lillian protested quickly.
"Actually, you do," he countered. "I heard you say to her that she needs to get you the inventory list in the next half hour. You also said, 'Check your emails for my last update on the client' instead of speaking to her directly. For goodness' sake, she works right across the hall from you."
"Well, the only reason I said it like that is because Janice acts like she doesn't understand the urgency in what we're doing. She's dragging her feet."
"But that doesn't give you the right to be condescending and rude," said Gill. "She doesn't report to you. You two are coworkers. I'm the manager."
"I'm not being rude," Lillian countered. "If she got offended, then she took it the wrong way. She needs to get thicker skin. I'm not going to baby her. She's a grown woman, and I don't have time to coddle delicate feelings."
If you've ever been in this kind of verbal tug-of-war, you know how frustrating it can be to try to show someone when they've behaved badly. Regardless of how clearly you point out their infraction, they will defend, deflect, and justify their actions. It sounds like: "No I didn't" or "The reason why I did it was because she or he..." or "What's wrong with me doing that?" Then when you're ready to yank your hair out one strand at a time and practically scream "Stop being defensive", they will defend themselves by saying "I'm not being defensive".
If you happen to be one of those people who doesn't recognize when you sound defensive, then pay attention to these four clues. And don't say that you don't do these because that would mean you're being what? Defensive!
Clue #1--You deny whatever you're being accused of without consideration. When you don't stop to think that you could possibly have done what you're being told, then that means you've moved quickly on the defensive. Defensive people are often reactive. They don't readily consider their behavior. They hear correction and immediately reject it. They don't want to be told they're wrong or accused so the first response is denial.
Clue #2--You blame others. You will often shift blame to someone or something else rather than hold yourself accountable for your actions. You close your mind to any other reasoning than your own, even if someone else can show you how you're dead wrong and culpable.
Clue #3--You justify your behavior as if it's okay to do something wrong as long as you can explain it. You're saying that your bad behavior was necessary. Whoever or whatever got hurt in the process deserved whatever they got, and you can prove it.
Clue #4--You deflect. Rather than dealing with the issue, you blow it off and turn the tables on the person who's making the accusation. It sounds like, "What about you? You do the same thing." And then you begin to bring up the faults of the other person rather than deal with your own.
If you've ever done any of these, then you sound defensive. Your language is an instant "It's not my fault" and "That's not my responsibility". Don't overlook the fact that what you did or didn't do was unacceptable. Regardless of how much explanation you put on it to try to convince others to see your side, that doesn't automatically make you right. You shouldn't think it's okay to behave badly and that a simple denial or excuse will let you off the hook. Change your language to reflect contrition, accountability, and most importantly, respect for others' feelings.