Defensiveness can creep up in all kinds of ways at work. A colleague may do something that hits a nerve, and you may react hastily. Or, you may focus only on choice words rather than hearing the full extent of what the other person is saying. Whatever the circumstances, it’s never comfortable getting defensive —or being on the receiving end of the defensiveness.

While defense mechanisms are part of being human, they can also be damaging to your relationships with your clients, prospects, colleagues and bosses, according to Lolly Daskal. In her work as an executive leadership coach, Daskal has found that defense mechanisms work differently for everybody. And however they show up for you, it’s important to learn how to use them in a way that benefits you rather than hinders you.

We share Daskal’s tips for overcoming defensiveness in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Improve your self-awareness. Get to know yourself better. Pay attention to what bothers you. What situations tend to set you off and how do you usually respond? If you feel like you’re always exasperated, it’s a good time for some self-reflection. Daskal recommends considering how your behavior may damage your relationships with those around you and brainstorming other ways to respond.

Take a time out. If someone does or says something at work that annoys you, take a step back. You may want to interrupt the other person, but it’s best to avoid doing this. Work to build the discipline to not immediately jump into defense mode. Spend a few moments giving space to what you’re thinking and feeling, Daskal says. Then, identify those thoughts and feelings and work to accept them without judgment.

Keep yourself accountable. People will inevitably do things that irritate you. That’s life. While you can’t control what others do, you can control how you respond. Daskal suggests spending time every day reflecting on your own actions and thinking about whether they aligned with your values and goals. Hold yourself accountable, whether that means working with a mentor or a reaching out to a leadership coach.

Break the code. Daskal says that as humans, we’re inclined to follow certain coded patterns of behavior — and defense mechanisms are among those patterns. However, when a behavior or attitude isn’t working for you, you can break the code by working on new, more helpful patterns and habits.

Sometimes getting defensive is a knee-jerk reaction, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Whether you want to work on managing your own defensiveness or you want to help your team members overcome their defensive tendencies, start with the guidance above and you’ll be on your way to a more calm, cool and collected work environment.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Lolly Daskal is founder of Lead from Within, a global leadership, executive coaching and consulting firm. Huffington Post honored Daskal with the title of “The Most Inspiring Woman in the World.”