Jack Gibb studied the relationship between communication and interpersonal climates.  He identified communication that promotes defensive climates and those that foster supportive climates. As you can see, the left column included behaviors/comments that usually increase defensiveness in others. We need to work toward improving our communication by using the right column!

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Communication Climates in Conflict Situations


Defensive Climate Supportive Climate

Judging another’s actions as good or bad

You have no discipline

Your sleeping too much

You shouldn’t have done that

You did the right thing

You shouldn’t feel that way

This is the worst report I have ever read


Describing another’s behavior or actions

I wish you hadn’t have done that

You seem more sleepy lately

Your running late

You seem pleased with your decision

You seem to be experiencing some difficulty with this report


Certain that only one opinion can be correct: mine


This is the only idea that makes sense

Only a fool would vote for that person

There’s no point in discussing it any further


Shuns absolutes and is open to possibilities

One way to look at it is….

It is possible that…

The way I tend do see the situation is…

I feel strongly on this subject, but I would like to hear what you have to say.


Control Orientation

This is a situation I will control


Well, I like the Honda more than the Ford you want, and it’s my money that’s going to pay for it.

Problem Orientation

This is a problem we can solve together

It seems that we have really different ideas about how to spend the extra money in our department.  Let’s talk through what each of us wants and see whether there’s a way for both of us to get what we need.


Appearing withdrawn or detached:  Whatever

Like what I think really matters

Move on

I don’t care

It doesn’t matter to me


Identifying with another’s emotions

It sound like you really feel uncomfortable with your job

I don’t blame you for being worried about the situation


My opinion is better than yours

I know a lot more about this than you do.

You just don’t have my experience…

Is this the best you could do?

As long as you work for me…


We both have opinions lets hear each other out

I want to hear what you have to say about this


Let’s tackle this problem together


Manipulative, fake, having hidden agendas


Would you do something for me if I told you it really matters?


Remember when I helped you with your presentation last month?


If you were my friend, you will…



Straightforwardness-directness and honesty


I really need your help with this computer glitch.


Would you help me with my presentation, I’m struggling for a topic


Approach an important person in your life and request some help in learning more about yourself. Begin by explaining all twelve of the Gibb behaviors to your significant other, a coworker, relative, friend, etc. Be sure to give enough examples so that each category is clearly understood. When your explanation is complete and you’ve answered all of your partner’s questions, ask him or her to tell you which of the Gibb categories you use. Seek specific examples so that you are certain to understand the feedback fully. (Because you are requesting an evaluation, be prepared for a little defensiveness on your own part at this point.) Inform your partner that you are interested in discovering both the defense-arousing and the supportive behaviors you use and that you are sincerely interested in receiving a candid answer.

Write a one page summary of what you learned: examples given by your partner, areas for improvement, areas you do well, how you felt as your partner was describing you, whether you agree with the evaluation, and what effect your use of the Gibb categories has on your personal and professional relationships, etc.

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