The Myth of Explaining and Defending

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The Myth of Explaining and Defending
Do you believe that explaining & defending will convince the other person to see things your way?

"How could you do that?"
"Explain yourself, young lady/young man."
"Why are you dressed like that?"
"Why are you late again?"
"What did you do to your hair!"

How often did you hear some variation of this when you were growing up? I heard it all the time. And what I learned to do was to desperately defend and explain in fruitless attempts to get my mom or dad to stop judging me and SEE me. Or I would apologize and become the "good girl," so they would approve of me.

Of course, defending and explaining didn't work. But that didn't stop me from trying because I just didn't know what else to do — other than completely give myself up, which is what I eventually learned to do.

When I got married, I continued in the same pattern — first trying to explain and defend and then giving myself up. The result was, of course, no better than it was with my parents. Again, I had no idea what else to do.

What Else To Do

It took many years, but I finally accepted that defending and explaining only leads to more and more conflict, since the other person feels controlled and goes into resistance. For a long time I didn't want to see that defending and explaining were forms of control. After all, I just wanted them to see my point of view. What's controlling about that? I convinced myself that if only they understood me, then they would change.

Now I know that using defending and explaining as viable forms of control is a complete myth. Not only does it not work to convince anyone to see things my way, but it always exacerbates the conflict.

So what I do now when someone gets angry and judgmental is I stop the conversation. I lovingly disengage. I say something like, "We are not going to get anywhere this way. Let's talk later." Or I say, "I don't like being judged. Let's try to talk about this later." I say this with kindness, not anger or blame. I do all I can to keep my heart open so that when the other person is also open, we can have a good open learning conversation.

An interesting thing happens when I disengage rather than argue, explain or defend. The other person has nothing to push against, nothing to resist, since I've let go of trying to control how they see things, or how they see me. By dropping my end of the rope, there is no tug of war, no power struggle. Often the other person will say, "Oh, sorry, I didn't realize I was judging," with an open energy, and then we can continue the conversation.

This article was originally published at Inner Bonding . Reprinted with permission.
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Dr. Margaret Paul

Author

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books, relationship expert, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® process - featured on Oprah, and recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette. Are you are ready to heal your pain and discover your joy? Take our FREE Inner Bonding course, and click here for a FREE CD/DVD relationship offer. Visit our website at innerbonding.com for more articles and help, as well as our Facebook Page. Phone and Skype sessions available. Join the thousands we have already helped and visit us now!

Location: Pacific Palisades, CA
Credentials: PhD
Specialties: Anxiety Issues, Couples/Marital Issues, Depression
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