When someone is sued or accused of a crime, he hires a defense attorney to stand up for him, to defend him against the accusation. But why do many of us spring into defense attorney mode for no reason at all?
To wit, a client makes an offhand comment about a project you’re doing for him and you interpret it to mean he’s dissatisfied with your progress, so you start disputing him to justify your actions. He, indeed, might be hinting that he’d like you to alter your approach a bit, but why didn’t you just calmly ask him what he meant in the first place?
There’s an old joke about a Jewish mother who buys her son a blue sweater and a brown sweater. The next time she sees him he’s wearing the blue sweater and she blurts out: “What, you don’t like the brown sweater?”
Defensive used to be my middle name, but, thankfully, I realized it’s an enervating trait. (One exception: I would still ask my son: “What, you don’t like the brown sweater!”)