We hear a lot about what we are aiming for in the new year, but do we consider what NOT to be? I think we need to focus not only on what we want to do or become in the new year, but more, replace something we don’t want anymore with good!

Last week we talked about my word for the year. which is LISTEN, and why I find it important to my life and my family. If you read that post, you will recall I mentioned that this year I have a

 “Not word”

 What is that? So glad you asked!

One of the Facebook private groups I am a part of is for wives who have experienced infidelity, and it is full of some of my favorite people. Jodi Utter, who started the group and runs it beautifully, challenged us to have a Not Word as well as an inspiring word for this year. A Not Word is to remind us of something we need to stop (a bad habit etc.) or something we refuse to keep doing or being this year. My Not Word is the balance to my Inspiring Word. I refuse to be DEFENSIVE this year.
I have a major tendency to automatically go on the defensive when I am confronted with a criticism or correction. I know where this comes from, but at this point it no longer matters because I can and will choose to change it. I refuse to allow my past to control my future. I am choosing to change my thinking, and therefore my behavior this year. Being defensive has never served me well, though I have never before made such a conscious effort to weed it out. If, however, my inspiring word is to  LISTEN, then I must cut out being DEFENSIVE.

If to listen means being open to the one you are communicating with, then being defensive is in antithesis to what you are trying to do. As soon as that wall of defense comes up, you are no longer open. You cannot listen well if you are constantly looking for where you need to defend yourself. That feeling of  “I must prove I’m right here” or “I must stand up for my rights” is strong, but will not serve you well if you let it take over. Listening requires humility, and defensiveness is rooted in pride, they are the opposite of each other. You must rid yourself of that feeling and way of thinking if you are to create healthy connections and ways of communication with others.
Being the wife of an inmate brings with it so many unique issues. While my husband is home now, I still remember well the difficulties of communication and being able to understand the other one’s situation. When we were trying to talk about important things over the phone (in those annoying 15 minute or less, computer voice interrupted calls) we both struggled a lot with getting defensive. It never helped us solve anything, especially in those circumstances.
We did learn, eventually, how to use the time between phone calls better. It taught us that taking time away from a heated discussion was okay. We were forced into taking breaks, but we started to use those breaks well. Instead of thinking up more ways to prove our point or defend ourselves, we used it to actually calm down. We took time to think through what the other person said and reflect on where they were right. Starting the next conversation with “You were right about… and I will work on…” really helped us to understand each other better.

We are still trying to remember to incorporate that into our lives now, outside of the prison system. Its a little harder because we don’t have that enforced time limit now. I tend to go back to feeling like I need to solve every issue right now and make sure I get understood. This causes my defenses to raise up their ugly head and cause disconnection. He tends to want to walk away, stuff it down and wait for it to “go away”.  This doesn’t help us understand each other either, there must be a balance, a coming together of minds in some way. Even if it means agreeing to talk again when heads are cooler or with a mediating party, like a councilor or pastor – it could even be a very trusted friend.

Disconnection is definitely something I am trying to avoid, we have had too much of that in our lives for various reasons, whether our own doing or inflicted upon us by misinformation or judgy, scared people. The very best way I have found to prevent this is making sure to listen well.

 Listening well means I must put aside my pride and stop being so defensive. My family and friends are not my enemy, I need to stop acting as if they are. I also have noticed that the more often I am able to be truly open without putting up my defenses, the more often others are able to do the same in return. My “soft answers” really do “turn away wrath”. While I know I still can’t control anyone else or their feelings, I also know that controlling myself creates room for better circumstances and responses.

Let’s work together, keep each other accountable and practice listening without being defensive! Join my community to find like minded women who are looking for accountability partners. We are focusing on healthy habits of all kinds! Whatever your word or goal is for this year, let’s reach it together!


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