Thoughtfulness Beats Offense or Defense

A woman blocked my way and when I simply asked her to move she turned to me and declared “Wow, what anger!” It was a completely inappropriate response; it was pure offense, when thoughtfulness was the right response.

This made me think about the role of offense and defense in our businesses. And that in between these two ends of the response spectrum is thoughtfulness.

How many times in your conversations with others have you made one of these statements:

  • “That won’t work for us.”
  • “My partner/advisory board/executive coach will never go for it.”
  • “That’s way too risky for us.”

These are examples of offense: actively aggressive or attacking. Right out of the box, you’re telling them why their idea won’t work.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may offer these responses:

  • “No one in our industry does that.”
  • “We’re too busy right now.”
  • “It’s not in our budget.”

These are common examples of defense: protective, maintaining the status quo. Again, right out of the box, you’re saying their idea won’t work.

If Defense is a 1 and Offense is a 10, where on the spectrum do your responses typically land?

Many 1s, 2s and 3s? You’re always thinking “Let’s protect and defend what we’ve got right now. Pull the blinds, close the door, don’t let anything new in.”

Or maybe 9’s and 10’s? You’re still in protect mode, from an offensive posture. “Let’s kill any new idea that might penetrate our perimeter and blame the other person while we’re at it.”


There’s a middle way, a posture that falls between 4 and 8 on the spectrum between defense and offense. I call it Thoughtfulness.

Thoughtfulness means you listen to new and unfamiliar ideas and take the time to explore them.
You ask questions:

  • “How could this work for us?”
  • “What would we have to do to make this work?”
  • “What difference would this make to our topline?”
  • “What difference would this make to our bottom line (profit)?”
  • “What resources would be needed to make it work?”
  • “Do we have, or can we allocate, these resources?”
  • “After we answer all these questions, let’s make a list of the pros and cons and see what comes up.”

The thoughtful owner, executive, principal or partner says “We will find the time, money and people to do this once we determine that it is in our best interests.”

Strengthen Your Thoughtfulness

If your default is always offense or defense, you never get to the point of determining if an idea is in your best interests or not. You shut down inquiry and analysis before it ever starts. You strengthen your rigidity rather than strengthening your resiliency and responsiveness.

When was the last time you chose thoughtfulness over defense or offense when introduced to a new idea or prospective project? What might have been gained had you taken the time to be thoughtful? You’ll never know because those options have been shut down. But if you commit to being thoughtful going forward, you will open your company to many new ideas, some of which will create dramatic business growth. Who wouldn’t want that?

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