Chapter 27. Defensive and Supportive Communication: A Paired Role Play

Gary W. Combs


  • To examine the dynamics of defensive and supportive communication in supervisor/subordinate relationships.

  • To develop skills in listening to and understanding a contrasting point of view.

  • To explore the concept of synergy in paired communication.

  • To examine the expectations that defensive communication creates for a continuing relationship.

Group Size

Any number of pairs, preferably with an equal balance between the sexes.

Time Required

Approximately one and one-half hours.


  • A copy of the appropriate Defensive and Supportive Communication Background and Role-Description Sheet for each participant.

  • Two copies of the Defensive and Supportive Communication Discussion Guide for each participant.

  • A pencil for each participant.

Physical Setting

A room large enough to allow pairs to interact without disturbing one another.


  1. The facilitator introduces the experience by presenting a lecturette on defensive and supportive communication, covering the following points:

    • Communication becomes defensive when the sender's goal is to persuade the receiver to agree with his or her opinions, ideas, facts, or information.[10]

    • Defensive communication is characterized by evaluation, control, strategy, superiority, and certainty.[11]

    • Communication becomes supportive when the goal is to actively hear and understand the other's opinions, thoughts, or feelings.

    • Supportive communication is characterized by empathy and spontaneity; ...

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