Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why You Should Never Defend, Explain or Justify

by Russell Bishop
Why do some people seem to be forever defending, explaining or justifying themselves? Do you enjoy being around this person? Are you one yourself?

Quite the opposite from the critics who have been the subject of recent articles on complaints and criticism, this person becomes tiresome not because of a string of complaints, but more because of the somewhat toxic nature of self-defense.

Years ago, as the personal transformation wave was cresting via large group seminars, several of us started using a made-up word to highlight the toxic nature of self-defense and explanation: dexify. The word even seems to connote something toxic all by itself.

Certainly, someone who engages in dexification (there's another use that may suggest something kind of dark) seems to be sliding down a spiraling path of negativity. What's so negative about defending yourself, you might ask?

On the one hand, nothing really, especially if there's something there to defend. However, I am not referring to the kind of self-defense you might need when wrongly accused of something, especially something heinous or criminal. However, there's a difference between that kind of self-defense and the more common defend-explain-justify behavior that many of us seem to engage in almost daily.

To be fair, I know I have certainly done my fair share of dexification. The main problem in day-to-day life is that when you choose to dexify, you almost always sound guilty-as-charged. I know that when I find myself in justification mode, there's almost always some part of me that feels insecure about the area, perhaps even wondering-fearing-believing that it must be true.

There may well be several moving parts here, but allow me to underscore a critical aspect that may be operative and why dexification is usually not all that helpful. The worst possible scenario might be that the criticism is accurate and I'm simply digging myself a deeper hole by dexifying.

Some time ago, I wrote an article on this subject, citing a lesson learned from Bucky Fuller about how we can benefit from our perceived enemies. The gist of the story: after a wonderful lecture on the value of seeking to understand and be understood, Bucky took questions from the audience. One gentleman took the microphone and proceeded to tell Bucky that he was full of beans, didn't know what he was talking about, and had no basis for his point of view. Bucky considered the comment, and replied, "Thank you." Read More