Don’t get so defensive!

In the last blog, I already mentioned ‘red’ and ‘green’, our batteries and our barometer.

‘From red to green’ has really become my ‘thing’ (have you noticed by any chance? ;-D) and I often talk about it. It seems to be something universal. People can relate and … they want to work on it.

Let me share with you one of my ‘sources’, which confirmed what I was already thinking myself.

In one of the trainings I give as a subcontractor in a big international organisation, we mention the TedTalk from Jim Tamm.

He starts with a study about chickens: red zone chickens and green zone chickens.

Green zone chickens are the collaborative chickens: they get along well, they are nice to each other, there are no star performers in the group.

In the red zone group, there are some star performers (laying more eggs), but they are also more aggressive, and they are causing damage: to the environment and to each other.

They wanted to find out if it was possible to breed collaborative instincts into chickens, and if so, what would be the impact of that on their egg production?

The two groups of chickens were followed for a year (=5 generations) and this was the result:

The green zone chickens were healthy and productive. And the production of eggs increased by 260% that year!

The red zone chickens were either dead (more than half of them had been pecked to death by their colleagues…), or in very bad shape…

 Jim Tamm made the link with people and organisations…

He had been a judge for 25 years and he had noticed that people often behaved ‘red’.
Conflicts escalated, people were not collaborating, mostly because they didn’t have the right tools to do so.
He did a lot of research and started to teach, and he realised that ‘nothing will help you become more effective at resolving conflict and building collaboration more than better managing your own defensiveness.

What is his premise?

‘When we get defensive, we are not defending ourselves from another person. We are defending ourselves from fears inside of us that we don’t want to feel.’


And what are these fears?

‘Fears about our own significance, our competence and our likeability.’

This was quite the eye-opener for me.

Just imagine:
You’ve just given a presentation at work, and somebody asks you a question.

When you are calm and confident, you will answer the question and that’s it.

But what if you were already a bit nervous. It might be possible that you are afraid (deep inside, it often happens at a subconscious level and very fast) that they won’t think you are smart enough, or that you are not the right fit for the job. This might trigger you and you will get defensive!

Can you relate?

Defensive is ‘red’ and when we react in a ‘red’ way, we are not at our best behaviour… We are in the action-reaction mode… and our defensive behaviour will also trigger their defensive behaviour…  And before we know it, we have a conflict.

What can we do about this? Jim describes some steps and I add some extra tips:

  • Acknowledge to yourself that you are getting defensive. Personally, I think mindfulness can help to become more aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
  • Do whatever you can to slow down your physiology (=go back to green) – breathing techniques can help, moving around (if possible). We’ve discussed this before, and I’ll definitely come back to this.
  • Pay attention to your self-talk – often it’s our own thoughts that cause all the stress and make things worse. Have you already done the free training ‘Don’t believe everything you think!’. It gives you the tools do deal with this.
  • Create an action step that is directly related to whatever your sign of defensiveness is – if you tend to raise your voice, try and keep it low… – I know, self-management is going to be key here!
  • Start over: you will probably need this again…


What do you think? Interesting?

When I first saw the video, it confirmed a couple of things, and I became even more aware.

I recognize my ‘red behaviour’ more quickly and I try to

  • Go back to green
  • Understand why I’m so triggered (which fear do I not want to feel?) and … can I work on this in order not to be so easily triggered in the future?

I will definitely come back to this. If you have more questions, do let me know. It helps me to create more content.

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May your 2024 be GREEN!

 ‘Wishing you a GREEN and STRESSFREE 2024’

When I say GREEN, I’m not talking about the climate or political parties. I think that other people can do that much better.

My GREEN is about ENERGY MANAGEMENT: physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy… to name a few … and they are all interlinked…

What if we compared our body to a BATTERY.

During the day, while we work, live and play, the energy level of our battery goes down. And there is nothing wrong with that. As long as … we can recharge afterwards.

This recharging happens, amongst others, while we relax and sleep.

Usually everything works well. But sometimes, our lives are too stressful (too red), and our nights are not good (=not GREEN enough) and if this goes on for too long… we stay in red, even while we rest and sleep. The ‘charging mechanism’ breaks down… and the battery doesn’t recharge, even when we think it does. (Don’t worry… it can be fixed again, more about this in 2024).

My first wish to you: not too much red and enough GREEN so you can keep on recharging that battery!

Let’s now move from that battery to a barometer

And imagine that when the arrow points to GREEN, you are calm and zen and when it is in the red zone, you are triggered and stressed… And moving from one side to the other can go very quickly, or … you can get stuck in red (or orange) for longer periods of time or … with certain people ;-D.

Let’s look at an ‘acute’ example:

You are having a conversation, and everything seems to be ‘love, peace and harmony’ and … suddenly the person says or does something that triggers you… It is possible that you will go abruptly from green to red  and … that the tone (and the outcome!) of the discussion changes completely…
Has this ever happened to you?

And how about this ‘chronic’ example:

Suppose you don’t like Peter very much. Maybe he does things differently than you would. Maybe you’ve asked him to do something and he didn’t… Maybe he triggered you in the past (= the ‘acute’ example…).

If you don’t ‘explore’ this and work on it, you will probably be ‘red’ whenever you interact with him, you even might turn ‘red’… just thinking about him…

My second wish to you: realise when you are in red and be able to turn back to GREEN.

The quick ones might already have noticed the connection between the battery and the barometer… If my battery is low, I am more likely to be or move to red.

If my battery is full, I am more likely to be in GREEN (or be able to move back to it).

And… if the arrow on the barometer is too often on red, this will have an impact on my battery…

Is my ‘wishing you a GREEN and stressfree 2024’ making more sense now?

My goal for 2024?

  • Make sure I have a functioning, recharging battery.
  • Notice when I go to red, and do my utmost best to go back to GREEN.

I will be managing my energy!

I will keep on learning about it, experimenting with it, sharing about it and teaching it.

If this is something you also want to get better at, make sure you are signed up for my tips and tricks.

My very best wishes,



5 reasons why knitting a sweater can boost your resilience

Recently I finished knitting my first sweater.

It all started 2 years ago (those of you who have been here for a while, might remember…)
It started with crocheting 150 little red hearts for Christmas.
My second project was a scarf .
My third one was a bag for my mother and then it was time for more ‘serious stuff’…
From crocheting to knitting and … why not go for a sweater?

Luckily, I have ‘PAND ZESTIEN’ right around the corner.
It’s a place where Veerle sells beautiful yarn, and … where she passes on her passion for knitting (and being creative in general?).

When you buy the yarn, you can get started yourself or … you can pay something extra and have personalized help to bring your project to a good end: it means you can stop by as often as you want/need to, with any question you might have…
I went for the ‘something extra’ ;-D

Let’s go back to the combination ‘knitting a sweater’ and ‘boosting your resilience’. What are some of the factors I believe really contribute to boosting your resilience?

You create something beautiful from scratch.
The day after I finished it, I took my sweater out on a walk.
I couldn’t believe how warm and soft it was!
I am really proud of it. Already while I was knitting it, I enjoyed feeling the fabric in my hands.
When people are feeling stressed, they often start to think a bit negatively, sometimes even about themselves.
Creating something beautiful and feeling proud of yourself can help breaking that cycle and … boost your resilience.

Of course, this can also be applied to other things. Cooking a delicious dish, working with wood, finishing a DIY-project… All of these can have the same effect.

I had to deal with my perfectionism.
In a previous article I already talked about our ‘drivers’ (link article). And while ‘be perfect’ is not my strongest driver, I do admit that not having all the same stitches (as opposed to a store-bought sweater) did bother me a bit at the beginning.
But… there are several reasons for the ‘unevenness’: the specific characteristics of the yarn, the fact that I was using 3 strands at the time, … next to my…  lack of experience…
So I quite quickly decided that I would only start over when there was an actual mistake and not for every imperfect stitch… (and trust me, there were some mistakes…)
I even started to call my project ‘rustic’.
At first it was a little bit apologetically, but then it became more lovingly.
I admit that the ‘informal’ model of the current sweater might have made it a bit easier to accept the ‘flaws’. Let’s see if I can keep the same approach when I make something more ‘formal’…

Working on your drivers is key for boosting your resilience. Because they are often the reason why you overdo it…
More resources can be found in this article.

Knitting = repetitive movement
Many of us use repetitive, rhythmic movement like pacing, rocking, tapping… to calm our minds/ourselves when being stressed.
Knitting can have the same function.
More serotonin is released, and it can even reduce the blood levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Less stress = more resilience.

Learning something new
I had learned how to knit in primary school, I don’t remember if we still continued a bit in secondary school but… that was that. Also, now it was a different technique (=different needles).
But with the help of Veerle, I did it.
And sometimes I was knitting at home, something went wrong and … I tried and I tried until I found the solution. And when I did, there was this sense of accomplishment.

Studies show that learning something new helps us develop feelings of competence and self-efficacy. It also helps us to connect to an underlying purpose of growth and development. These psychological resources enable us to build resilience in the face of stressors.

During opening hours, you can go and sit at PAND ZESTIEN to work on your project.
You can even have a lovely coffee or tea, accompanied by a pastry.
There is some nice music in the background, you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to, if you have a question you can ask, … precious me-time!
Once a week, however, there is the ‘Knitting cafe’: from 7 to 10 pm, (mostly) women join to knit together. For a small contribution, a drink is included.
At this moment, Veerle is not the ‘teacher’, everybody helps each other. There are very experienced people who knit/crochet a lot. They sometimes have several projects going on at the same time.
And there is this nice feeling of companionship. Again, no talking is needed, a lot is taking place. There is a lot of laughing but there is also room for serious conversations. People admire each other’s progress, they encourage each other. All of this to the sound of clicking needles.
Sometimes there are 4 of us, other times more than 20. But each time I leave with a smile on my face (and… I made progress on my project).

Having a social network reduces stress and increases resilience…


These are the 5 reasons why I believe knitting a sweater can boost your resilience.
And while I’m convinced it’s just 1 of the tools in the toolbox (also in my own), I’m currently having a lot of fun with it!

Have I inspired you?

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