I draw my sword, then I remember defensiveness doesn’t build connection – it stokes fear. Tracy Rekart
I’m in a meeting with a leader. The conversation has become muddy. I feel myself lean forward in response to my confusion and the accumulating pressure in my chest. I think, “They don’t understand my point of view. ” My mouth opens as I move to speak, clarify, and defend. In this moment, I draw my sword – the sword of my words, point, and righteousness.
Then, I remember the sword causes pain. I feel empathy. I sheath my sword and come back into my body feeling the pain from previous wounds – theirs and mine. I sit back, pause, and say with a curiosity that comes from experience, “Let me see if I understand you.”
Humans are psychobiological organisms. If we are met with confusion, defensiveness, or challenge, our physiology responds. Our body takes action to protect us. This is a hard wired survival mechanism. It is difficult to bypass. Once you know what to look for, it is easy to notice. But, it is hard to stop unless you practice.
With this leader, I noticed my survival response because I pay attention to what happens when I draw my sword and feel the hit of the counter strike.
Like the time I went above my sponsor to her boss and burned that bridge forever. Another time I sent my recommendations to a client for a leadership development program that met my criteria but fell short of their need. And again, when I taught a workshop for many that only a few could grasp.
The wound is powerful and something your body/brain remembers.
Yet, the pressure in my chest is compelling. This sensation means … I defend.
The mind lives in the dark hole of our skull and only knows what happens in the world through sensation. It gathers sensate data and then pulls from historical experience. It responds with action by drawing its sword: this sensation means I do this.
If I didn’t know the prescient sensations in my body before I defend, I would not be able to stop. The moment to pause would pass by too quickly.
If you linger, your mind takes action – so practice what to do differently.
Pause. Pull your intuition, questions, and concerns back inside, settle and reflect, and then ask a question or play their words back to them, “Let me see if I understand.”
Through reflection and practice, you gain the power to interrupt the automatic survival loop and redirect your mind. “Let me see if I understand.”
You remain accountable to your skills.
So simple. Yet so difficult and nearly impossible at times.
If I didn’t pause in that meeting, I would have drawn my sword, defended my position or idea with my client in a very cordial and informed way. They would respond more emphatically. I would parry their move. Riposte – meet the blade. Parry – defend. Until the meeting was over and our time to understand each other had passed.
I know that to challenge, defend, and protect without first seeking to understand does not build community or connection. When I find myself acting out of my survival instinct, I pause, feel and apologize – I fall on my sword because I know better.
I walk my talk. I am accountable for my words and actions. Through practice, I built the resilience to survive the discomfort that arises from a new choice – to sheath my sword and build connection or apologize to maintain connection.
Be accountable to yourself. Value your skills as if they were gifts. Because they are. Practice regularly. Learn to pause, reflect, and be curious – “Let me see if I understand.” Build strength and resilience for your leadership journey.
If I can take away the pain of feeling the counter strike for one person, in one moment, this article has benefit.