I think it’s within our nature to be defensive in our reasoning. We are taught from a young age about a ‘right way’ to do something or solve something, this I believe is one of the main sources of the defensive attitude that many people have especially professionals. This defensive approach of reasoning I believe is heavily linked to how we are taught from a young age is because, the way we are taught to deal with problems from a young age reflects a very single loop form of learning strategy. Single Loop learning Chris Argyris (1991) argues is like a “a thermostat that automatically turns on the heat whenever the temperature in a room drops below 68 degrees” ,this approach does not question any possibly better options but rather solves it in a pre-programmed manner, but it rather serves as a breeding ground for defensive reasoning. Argyris (1991) argues that “whenever their single-loop learning strategies go wrong, they become defensive, screen out criticism, and put the ‘‘blame’’ on anyone and everyone but themselves”.
As I stated earlier, I do believe that it is within our nature to revert to defensive reasoning, and my experiences are no different. Recently I applied for a journalism internship abroad, an internship that had many applicants from all around the world. I recently received a confirmation that I was not selected, as my first form of defence I reasoned my failure to get the job by blaming ‘them’ ,as I initially convinced myself that my writing was too “politically radical”, and that the magazine was too mainstream to accept my type of journalism. All of these things crossed my mind when I first got the email of rejection. This was exactly what Argyris (1991) highlights as Defensive reasoning “So whenever their single-loop learning strategies go wrong, they become defensive, screen out criticism, and put the ‘‘blame’’ on anyone and everyone but themselves”. Although this never lasted long, as I realised that my writing just needed improvement, or rather that a better candidate had got the internship. Defensive reasoning can be very dangerous and detrimental to progress, as Argyris (1991) highlights, “In short, their ability to learn shuts down precisely at the moment they need it the most”.
When looking at our group I find comfort in having found out that all members in the group are autonomous in their thinking, but we are never designated to our section in decision making. By this I mean that when we make decisions, we do so as a team, which means that if one section of the company does not make the right decision, the blame does not fall on one person, but rather of us all, this process in many ways does help us avoid single loop problem solving and defensive reasoning.
Argyris, C. (1991) Teaching smart people how to learn. Harvard Business Review, 4(2), 5-15