My former boss and a co-worker of hers asked to speak to me about a troubling matter regarding a client. The next afternoon they said the client had complained to them that I had refused to send her into treatment "so you could keep her yourself as a paying client", AND I charged both her and the insurance, thus doubling my moola. Yow! So I explained (we had a release of information) that this was a sad domestic violence issue, as smoking pot for her second time wouldn't qualify her for inpatient treatment. The second accusation kind of pissed me off though. That would qualify as insurance fraud. But, as I prepared to explain the second issue with them, it occurred to me: I was defending myself when I had done nothing wrong! So I decided not to defend myself, but rather informed them of their social worker duty. I told them if they believed this to be true, they were obligated to call the Social Worker Board and report the incident. With that, I stood up and politely informed them the meeting had come to an end.
As irritating as this incident was, I was now aware (and a little hyper sensitive) to being made to defend myself. I screw up enough, and rightly apologize for: being a little late, not returning a call promptly, droppin' a cuss word, getting a bottle of water and forgetting to offer one, etc., etc. So why on earth am I apologizing for stuff I'm innocent of? I just got off the phone with a client who missed her second appointment in a row. In the middle of her apology she added, "I thought y'all called to remind your clients a day early". Although we had left a voice mail, she was not due an explanation from me. Rather than defend myself by responding, "well, we did call you", I nicely told her that we typically will call folks the day before, but keeping the appointment was 100% their responsibility. She was at fault, and I'm not going to defend myself when I haven't made a mistake.
I am not suggesting getting mad at people that are putting you inappropriately on the defensive, but rather to train ourselves to not defending ourselves when there's nothing to defend. Here's the way to do it:
1. start by merely noticing how often you defend yourself
2. keep practicing and try not to get disgusted with how often you do it
3. respond politely but don't defend yourself (see the following examples)
4. Just remember, don't cop an attitude while you are doing it. Plenty of people
become more assertive when they get angry. The personal power comes from doing it when you're calm.
· "You said you were going to spot me ten dollars worth of gas for my car, and you didn't do it".
"Yeah, I decided not to"
· [boyfriend] "Where were you? I tried calling you last night (at 2am) and you didn't
[soon to be former girlfriend] "Yeah, I never take calls that late".
· "Why are you putting your pre-teen picture on Facebook profile picture? It looks lame".
"Well..... I'll keep that in mind."
We make plenty of mistakes and subsequently probably owe someone an explanation. However, when an overly assertive person is doggin' me, I now am pretty relaxed at not defending myself when there's nothing to defend. Remember, every change requires plenty of practice. This particular improvement can be unbelievably empowering.