Curious Versus Defensive

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Recently, one of my clients got a call from one of her clients. She was sure the call was going to be a complaint and she would possibly be losing this person’s business. My client was angry and defensive, saying, “I’ve done everything for them. I’m a hard worker. I answer all of their calls.” etc. She was understandably scared and upset, yet she didn’t even know what the client was going to say.

How often do we all do this? We get a call from a client or friend and we interpret the tone of their voice or the timing of their call to be problematic. Then we get defensive and call that person back with a bad attitude and ready for a fight. Does this ever go well for anyone? Does it work with our partners? Does it work with our children or our business partners? I’ve never seen it end well when we are defensive and interpreting the behaviors of others without checking out the accuracy of our beliefs.

So I asked my client how it might feel to drop the defensiveness and to become curious. At first she struggled with it, yet eventually she said, “You mean maybe I’ve jumped to a conclusion here?” We laughed about it, and she promised to update me on her client call the next day. We practiced some curious, open-ended questions that she could use to avoid getting defensive and she was ready to go.

She was elated when she called the next day. She asked the client her curious, open-ended questions without defensiveness or a nasty tone and sure enough, the client wasn’t unhappy with her. In fact, she had called to talk about adding more work to their contract. We talked about how differently things would have turned out had she gone into that call from a defensive, versus a curious point of view.

Increasing our Curious Quotient

So how do you get curious? First, you need to calm down. Buy yourself a minute or two to get out of your defensive space. Then, you want to ask the other person some curious questions such as, “What might be going on?” “How can I be of service?” “Say more.” “What else can you tell me about this situation or your feelings about the situation?” Then sit back and listen carefully to how they respond.

Get #curious instead of #defensive & see how different your #relationships become. #communicationskills Click To Tweet

Getting defensive has never solved anything. Interpreting the behaviors of others without verifying their accuracy doesn’t go too well either. Try to get curious and see how different your relationships become. You will be more productive, happier, and have better relationships if you make the simple change from defensive to curious. Let me know how you do.

So how about a New Year’s resolution for 2017 where we practice getting curious versus defensive? Try it and let me know how you do. Happy New Year to all of you.


Lisa Kaplin Psy. D. CPC

Lisa Kaplin Psy. D. PCC

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About Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D, PCC

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I’m the proud owner of Smart Women Inspired Lives, where I help overwhelmed and exhausted women move from the feeling of being “stuck” into a life filled with calm, confidence, and joy. In addition to the posts and articles I write, I offer individual and group life coaching sessions, classes and speaking engagement opportunities.


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Comments to “Curious Versus Defensive”

  1. I love this blog! It’s a lot of work to change your mindset from jumping to defensive instead of going into a conversation with a clear mind. Thank you for sharing this!

    Client Advocate – Contemporary VA