What do you do when you have done something wrong, made a mistake, or been caught out or just don’t want to take responsibility for your actions? We ask this because how you deal with these situations can be a real block to moving forward. We love our work which helps people to learn about themselves and make the changes in their life that they want. However we sometimes notice some specific behaviour that occurs when mistakes are made which prevents learning and growth. This behaviour can get in the way of making the changes we want and cause a great deal of frustration in yourself and others. We call these the 4 D’s of Defence. They are something worth knowing about. Next time you take a step back, and really consider what’s going on, you can make sense of how you are blocking your own growth. The 4 D’s are all interrelated and we’ve all done some of them at some time. Making a change requires a level of honesty about where you are now so have a read through the 4 D’s and see if any of them can apply to you or to someone you know…
1. DENIAL is the most basic form of deception (see below) and often the starting point when in defence mode. It can be a habit to simply deny a mistake when challenged until you know how much the other person knows. It’s different from the Deception we describe below because it’s a straightforward avoidance strategy of “I didn’t do it”. Perhaps a straight denial just feels like the best option?
The problem is that, even if we get away with it, we haven’t learnt anything and we’re likely to make the same mistake again. In fact all we may have learnt is that a quick denial is the best way to get out of trouble. Are you being true to yourself and really facing the circumstances as they truly are? If you have to maintain the lie then will that help or hinder you truly learning and moving on? You might be lost in a fog of denial and choose to focus on other things rather than face the real issue.
When a person senses that a denial isn’t working or convincing anyone then it’s usually time for the next D.
2. DECEPTION – This can involve deceiving someone else, deceiving yourself or both. Are you aware of what you’ve done but, so don’t want to admit it, that deception feels like the better option? Are you so concentrated on coming up with a plausible alibi (for yourself and others) that it’s stopping you facing reality and learning from the mistake? We all deceive ourselves from time to time because, at the time, it can feel like a more comfortable option. We say to ourselves things like “that’s just not the kind of thing I would do” or “what I really meant was X but you’ve clearly missed the point”. But for growth and change to take place we need to be as honest as we can with ourselves.
People use all sorts of ways of side stepping the real issue. They concentrate on one thing that they can excuse as a one-off and refuse to see their patterns of behaviour which are causing problems. They might blame other people rather than take responsibility for the situation or they might simply bury their head in the sand hoping it will all go away or magically transform itself. Some people when cornered try to mislead by being selective about the definition of words, for example Bill Clintons’ rather distorted meaning of ‘sexual relations’ with Monika Lewinsky.
The saying ‘silence speaks louder than words’ can be very true and it often speaks of deception – you don’t want to speak the truth so you say nothing. Perhaps the truth would give rise to an uncomfortable conversation that you are not sure how to deal with. However until the truth is told then you cannot move on and no one else can.
I’m sure we’ve all had examples where we’ve gritted our teeth, been a bit more humble than usual and simply admitted that we did something that was dumb and thoughtless. Invariably this leads to much better results and straightforward honesty can often feel liberating. However in that moment of trying to construct a water-tight deception to avoid what we don’t want to face we forget how much we appreciate honesty ourselves and how a little short-term humbleness is much less painful than long-term hurt.
So you still might be in defence mode. Let’s look at the next D.
3. DIGGING – Are you digging yourself in to a hole that eventually you are going to have to climb out of? Are you focusing so much time and energy on the spade in your hand rather than seeing what you are really doing? Of course the quicker you realise you are digging and come clean and admit it, the less hard it is to get to a place where you can genuinely sort things out and improve your life.
This maybe the point that we get so wrapped up in the story we’ve told that we start to really believe it and simply can’t see the hole that we have dug. However if the reality is that people are still mad at you, the frustration hasn’t gone away and no one seems to be buying your story then it may be the time to take a good step back, take a deep breath and wonder honestly if you’ve dug yourself a nice fresh hole.
On to the last D which is more of a long-term problem rather than a short-term reaction to current events.
4. DELUSION – This is about lying to yourself and really wanting the lie to be true even though the evidence doesn’t support your version of events. Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge does a wonderful spoof on this one and it’s the source of much comedy. We have seen it in the TV program ‘The Apprentice’, laughed at it in “The Office” and watched in horror and sadness with ‘Jamie’s Dream School’*. The delusion that some dictators around the world are displaying also seems particularly visible at this time. In real life we have agonised over friends who are being treated really badly by their partners but have convinced themselves that they love them.
But would you recognise it in yourself? Perhaps you’ve told yourself such a convincing story that you’re actually beginning to believe it? You might start looking for evidence to fit your fantasy and ignore the information that doesn’t fit what you are telling yourself. You’ve maybe even tweaked a few of the facts to make sure the story fits? Are you able to stand back and see the situation objectively? Are you really able to listen to what others are saying to you from their viewpoint? Are you able to truly see yourself and how to grow and improve?
Some final words:
So next time you’re feeling stuck, frustrated or perhaps under attack from some one close to you, take a step back, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Am I doing one of the 4 D’s?”
The first step is noticing what is happening. That’s a big step for a lot of people. For the next step you might find our next blog ‘How People Really Change’ helpful.
*If you haven’t had a chance to see Jamie’s Dream School and your interested in this subject then we highly recommend catching up with the series on Channel 4’s 4oD service. You’ll see many examples of the 4 D’s at play from pupils, parents and teachers. For more about Jamie’s Dream School see http://www.channel4.com/programmes/jamies-dream-school
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