The other day a coaching client told me that she became angry at a man she works with who criticized how she managed a situation. She said he went on to “use himself as a model human being” by claiming he would never do what my client did. For my client, this added “insult to injury” and it offended her more than her co-worker’s criticism.
In our coaching session my client explained that she finds this sort of “righteous” statement sets up a dynamic she wants to change because whenever she encounters this attitude she retaliates with argumentative and defensive reactions. Essentially then, my client’s coaching goal is to better understand her reaction so that she doesn’t lose her temper and responds in more productive ways.
If you have reacted defensively when you feel you are being admonished or criticized and the person says something like “I would never…”, or “If it were me…”, etc., here are some questions to consider:
- What was the specific situation about?
- What did you specifically say or do that resulted in the other person saying “I would never…”, or “if it were me…” (or whatever comparative statement that triggered a reaction in you)?
- If you felt defensive, what were you defending? How would you otherwise describe the impact on you?
- What was the truth in the other person’s admonishment?
- What was actually valid about her or his criticism?
- What was not true, in your opinion, of what she or he criticized you for? What was not resonant for you in her or his “I would never…” etc. remark that upset you most?
- How did you respond to the other person?
- How would you have preferred to respond? What stopped you, do you think?
- What request might the other person have made instead of the criticism/admonishment (and “I would never…” comment) that you would have received better?
- What conflict masterful way might you react when others trigger you, in the future, with statements such as “If it were me I would never…”?
- What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
- What insights do you have?