Recently a fellow business owner asked me about how I handle a specific piece of administration in my business. I told him what I do and he looked at me incredulously. “You do it THAT way?” he said. “I do this THIS way” and then he told me about what he does.
I stammered and defended my choice, backing up the reasons that I had for completing that administrative task the way I do it.
Later, I regretted the conversation because I remembered something that I need to try and remember more regularly: You do not need to defend yourself to anyone.
In the situation I mentioned above, there was no need for me to stammer out an explanation about why I perform that piece of administration in my business the way I did.
Of course this isn’t the only time that I’ve done this. It happens all the time (and not just to me). In fact, as I write this, I can easily think of a half dozen scenarios where I’ve felt on the defensive for some reason.
- I know someone who continually disrespects the city I choose to live in. I don’t even talk to them anymore because we can’t go a single conversation without them finding something to say about my choices and then I end up defending my choices.
- I met someone at a conference who should have been my peer but they asked one specific question in a condescending way that put me on the defensive and redefined our relationship. Now, they grate on my nerves because of how that first interaction made me feel.
Gosh it happens a lot.
And it doesn’t need to happen. Whether it’s what you wear or eat or drive, where you live; your fitness choices, your shopping choices, your life choices…
None of it is anyone else’s damn business but your own. Period.
You build your own life with the best information and choices you have at the moment. Of course you can learn and grow and change if you discover a better way but you should never have to defend your choices to someone else.
This has made me reflect in two different ways:
First, it’s made me consider all the times that I’ve defended myself and why I felt it was necessary. I think it happened because I considered the other person’s choices to be superior to mine in some way — either that’s how I felt about them or, often, it’s how they positioned themselves at the time in the conversation. I need to adopt a new mindset when I’m in these conversations. I need to remind myself: “My way is valid. I don’t need to defend myself to you.”
Second, it’s made me very careful about what I say to others. I don’t want other people to feel that they have to defend their choices to me. I can solve this, I think, by increasing the amount of curiosity in my life and decreasing the amount of judgment in my life. I need to check myself in every conversation and ask: am I being welcoming and supportive and nonjudgmental?
Everything we do in life is a decision made in the moment with the best information and resources we have at our disposal. There is no need to feel defensive about those choices. Be confident in the choices you’ve made, be willing to learn, but be confident that you are doing the best you can.