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ommunication
 
Defensive Communication

© Jack Gibb

TABLE 1

Categories of Behavior Characteristic of Supportive
and Defensive Climates in Small Groups

Defensive Climates

Supportive Climates

1. Evaluation

1. Description

2. Control

2. Problem Orientation

3. Strategy

3. Spontaneity

4. Neutrality

4. Empathy

5. Superiority

5. Equality

6. Certainty

6. Provisionalism

J.R. Gibb, "Sociopsyhcological Processes of Group Interaction" in N.B. Henry, (ed.), The Dynamics of Instruction Groups (59th Yearbook of th National Society for the Study of Education, Part II, 1960, pp. 115-135.

Because our attitudes toward other persons are frequently, and often necessarily, evaluative, expressions which the defensive person will regard as nonjudgmental are hard to frame. Even the simplest question usually conveys the answer that the sender wishes or implies the response that would fit into his or her value system. A mother, for example, immediately following an earth tremor that shook the house, sought for her small son with the question, "Bobby, where are you?" The timid and plaintive "Mommy, I didn't do it" indicated how Bobby's chronic mild defensiveness predisposed him to react with a projection of his own guilt and in the context of his chronic assumption that questions are full of accusation.

Anyone who has attempted to train professionals to use information-seeking speech with neutral affect appreciates how difficult it is to teach a person to say even the simple "who did that?" without being seen as accusing. Speech is so frequently judgmental that there is a reality base for the defensive interpretations which are so common.

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