How to confidently respond when your work is being scrutinized

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If you had the option to reach a goal all by yourself or with the help of an entire team, which would you choose and why?

Most people would choose the team because more people equals more ideas, more help, and more skills that can help you get there faster.

So why is it that when it comes to people giving feedback or asking questions about your projects, you tend to get defensive? 

I was watching Shark Tank the other night and the person presenting and asking for money was so defensive I had to turn it off. It was painful watching him repel investors and seeing him refuse to listen validated their concerns.

When someone starts digging into your analysis or asking questions around why you chose a certain path forward, how are you responding?

You know the “right” way to respond and try to respectfully listen and respond to questions. The problem is, deep down, you are probably also defensive about why you are right.

You know how to respectfully disagree or justify your work, but when it’s coming from a place of defensiveness, it always shows through.  Even in small and subtle ways.

Getting defense about feedback can sounds like:

  • Yes, but…
  • But you have to keep in mind that….
  • I don’t think you understand…
  • Then why did we…

Brene Brown says defense is the first act of war.

I think defense is a sign of immaturity. If you are  truly confident you don’t believe you are always right or know the best way. You would encourage and seek out feedback.

A mature leader does not get defensive when people ask questions, they get curious. They try to genuinely understand where the other person is coming from and truly listen and consider what they are saying. They also don’t make it mean anything about themselves. They honestly try to find why the other person might be right.

Learning how to do this requires skill and practice. Humans are amazing at reading each other so while you know the right way to respond, we are also picking up on your defensive vibe.

The next time you feel yourself getting defense, just acknowledge it and instead of trying to prove yourself right, let your brain go to work trying to prove the other person right. Ask questions to better understand their point of view.

You might actually be right in the end, but a confident and mature leader is always willing to be wrong. 

If you find yourself constantly defending yourself and want to start responding in a more confident and helpful way, I can help. Let’s jump on the phone and talk more about it. Grab time on my calendar.

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

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