YourSidekick Role Responsibilities



A speaker's job is to connect with the audience. Communicative climate affects the satisfaction we get from encounters.  Dean Berkley illustrates both favorable and unfavorable climates in a familiar, school situation. 

How well I recall my first day of school!  Upon entering that one-room rural school, with fear and trepidation, the teacher said, "We've been waiting for you."  I began to wonder how she knew I was coming!  I am still amazed at the "climate" she created in her person-to-person communication.  Frankly, I must admit that the following year when I entered the schoolroom she stood there to meet me.  But this time, with hands on her hips and no evidence of a smile, she said, "We've been waiting for you."  You see, I had created a "climate"!*

*Dean F. Berkley

Communicative climate can be as variable as atmospheric climate.  However, communicative climate is more controllable.

In our interactions, we establish some sort of rapport or feeling between ourselves and the other participants.  In interpersonal encounters, we are interested in the attitudes all participants in the communication encounter have toward each other.  In public communication situations, we are typically concerned with the attitudes the listeners have toward the speaker or speakers.  We are more likely to be satisfied with exchanges if participants are credible, ethical, confident, attractive, and supportive.


Credibility is the image of a sender of a message that is evoked in a listener or receiver.  Credibility refers to the expertness, trustworthiness, dynamism, and goodwill projected by a person who takes on the role of a transmitter.

Credibility ranges from low to high.  Some sources have low credibility with receivers because they project images of inexpertness, dishonesty, dullness, and indifference.  Receivers lack confidence in these transmitters' competence; receivers lack respect for these transmitters; and receivers perceive these transmitters as not worthy of their attention or concern.  Other transmitters have high credibility with receivers because they are perceived as knowledgeable, sincere, dynamic, and caring.

The first two components of credibility--being knowledgeable and trustworthy--are absolutely imperative for a communicator in a free society.  Democracy flourishes only when we have responsible communicators who bring valid, useful, and reliable information to the marketplace of ideas.

Credibility is fluid:  It changes with different listeners.  Different listeners have different perceptions of speakers.  When a President speaks, the image varies widely among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. 

Credibility changes over time.  Initial credibility is the image of a source at the beginning of an encounter.  Process credibility is the image evoked during an encounter.  Terminal credibility is the image at the end of an encounter.  Group members may have neutral feelings about a discussant at a early planning session.  They may have negative feelings when the discussant misses an important group meeting.  But they may end up with very positive feelings when the discussant secures essential data from a reluctant interviewee.

Credibility can be enhanced through extrinsic cues and intrinsic cues..  Extrinsic cues build the reputation of a source before the communication encounter takes place.  For instance, favorable comments made in the introduction of a public speaker elevates extrinsic credibility.  Intrinsic cues are revealed by a sender as she speaks.  images are built during encounters by what is said and how it is said.  For example, a person who shows enthusiasm as he relates his experience with computer software to an interviewer increases his intrinsic credibility.

You can build your credibility for your encounters.  First, there are things you can do before the encounter takes place.  If someone introduces you, work with that person prior to the encounter.  Often introducers will ask if you want to write portions of the introduction.  For a public speech, give introducers information that demonstrates your expertise on the topic.  Provide materials that express your sincere concern for the topic.  For an interview, a well-developed resume can enhance your credibility prior to the interview.  Second, you can engage in specific behavior that will enhance your expertness, trustworthiness, dynamism, and goodwill.


Expert sources are seen as competent, knowledgeable, educated, intelligent, and qualified.  Engage behaviors that will demonstrate your expertise.

Be on time for your encounter.  Promptness shows your willingness to assume your responsibilities in interviews, discussions, and public speeches.

Be well prepared for your encounter.  Whether it is an interview or a public speech, people know if you did your home work.  People are more likely to have confidence in you if you exhibit the confidence that comes from thorough preparation. 

Let people know about your personal involvement with the topic or issue under examination.  Examples drawn from your own life showing practical experience with the subject matter establishes your personal concern for the topic.  They are more likely to accept you as an authority in your encounter.

Link yourself to credible sources.  Cite the reputable sources who are knowledgeable about your topic or who agree with your position.  If these sources are not known to your listeners, state their qualifications.

Follow the conventions that are appropriate to your encounter.  People have expectations about interviews, group discussions, and public speeches.  Play by the rules.

Support your assertions with solid data.  Use examples and analogies to clarify your points.  Use valid evidence and reasoning to verify your points.

Use the vocabulary associated with your topic.  You demonstrate expertise when you show familiarity with the vocabulary associated with your topic.

Speak fluently.  Avoid misstatements and vocal fillers.

Be well organized.  Avoid a rambling mode of talking.


Trustworthy sources are perceived as honest, sincere, fair, dependable, opinions similar to theirs, and open-minded.  Engage behaviors that will demonstrate your trustworthiness.

Do not misrepresent your purpose for participating in the encounter.  Let your motives become apparent. 

Show how your purpose is compatible with those purposes of other participants.  The more positively people views your intentions, the more credible your words will seem.

Emphasize the sincerity of your interest in the encounter.  Allow both your words and actions to express your sincerity.

Emphasize why the participants need your information.  Emphasize the benefits the participants can gain from your ideas.

Communicate that you are similar to other participants.

Avoid contradicting something you have said in a previous encounter, unless that is your explicit purpose.

Present your view in a fair and balanced way.  Show your fairness by admitting that yours is not the only reasonable view.

Distance yourself from ideas, people, groups, and organizations that others in the encounter do not trust.


Dynamic sources are viewed as animated, energetic, assertive, and involved.  Engage behaviors that will demonstrate your dynamism.

Look and sound enthusiastic.  If you have a positive attitude about the encounter, others are likely to become enthusiastic.


Sources of goodwill project images being concerned with listeners and caring for them.  Engage behaviors that will demonstrate your goodwill.

Do not manipulate or take advantage of other participants.

Show that you have the best interests of others in mind.

Emphasize your interest in the well-being of the participants.  Explain how your message is relevant, important, or beneficial to them.

Show a sense of humor.

Communicate that you care.  Show interest and affection.

Evaluate others thoughtfully when asked to do so in the classroom.



Closely related to trustworthiness and goodwill is the concept of the ethical responsibility of the speaker.  Ethics are the standards of moral conduct that determine our behavior.  Ethical issues according to Richard Johannesen focus "on degrees or rightness and wrongness in human behavior."  As they create and present speeches, speakers must often consider ethics, or the rules for conduct that distinguish right from wrong.  Many believe in achieving personal ends at any cost.  Responsible communicators use their communication talents in the interest of good causes.  Because we are responsible for what we tell others, we should always hold the highest ethical standards.  As speakers, we must communicate to our audience that we are honest, sincere, and of high integrity.

Ethics include both how we act and how we expect others to act.  How we treat those who fail to meet our standards says a great deal about the importance we assign to ethics.  Although ethical codes are personal, our society has a code of ethics that is implicitly understood even if unwritten and that operates on at least a verbal level. 

The speaker has an ethical responsibility to offer listeners choices and good reasons in support of what he or she regards as the best choice.  How a speaker handles ethical issues says a great deal about the speaker as a person and bears directly on credibility.  Ethical speaking helps build respect.

Some ethical standards are codified into laws. 

Yelling Fire...Sexual harassment.  First speakers must refrain form any communication that may be defines as constituting a "clear and present danger."  Yelling fire.  Inciting panic.  Second speakers must refrain from using language that will defame the character of another person.  Defamation is harming another person by  making statements that convey an unjust unfavorable impression.  Although legal responsibilities are written, what is ethical is more likely to be a personal matter.

Means and Ends

Speakers' ethics may be judged in two ways:  according to the ends they seek and according to the means they use.  When it comes to ends, such lofty goals as "world peace,"  "ridding the world of hunger," and "finding a cure for cancer" are bound to be perceived as ethical.  In contrast, goals such as "world domination," "profits at any price," and "ridding the world of inferior people" can be rejected outright as unethical.

The ethics of a speaker's means are not always so clear-cut.  You may believe that a speech is unethical because it is filled with error or deception or because the speaker purposely tries to mislead the audience through propaganda, but the speaker may argue that the goal is so noble that any means are justified to achieve it.

Although a speaker who purposely deceives an audience clearly demonstrates unethical behavior, the problem is more subtle when a speaker uses white lies, lies by omission, or evades the facts.  nonetheless, small lies, leaving out information that doesn't support the message, and refusing to confront relevant issues all mislead the audience and are all unethical.

Considering the end and the means together creates further complications.  If a speaker's goal, for example, is to persuade children to refuse to take car rides with strangers--a good and just goal--does  it matter whether the speaker uses terrifying but true stories to demonstrate what happens to children who accept such rides?  Anything less dramatic may not get the desired result.  On the other hand, scaring children can have consequences far beyond teaching them to refuse to ride with strangers.  Does the end justify the means?  Are the means ethical?


1.  Tell the truth.  Lying is unethical.  Do not falsify information in order to make your point. 

2.  Do not distort or exaggerate information in order to make your point. Grossly exaggerating or distorting facts is unethical.

3.  Resist personal attacks against those who oppose your ideas.  Name calling is unethical.

4.  Disclose the complete picture.  Suppressing key information is unethical.  If you have material to support your views, you should   present it.  If you have a motive that affects your view, you should divulge it.  Audience members have the right to make a choice, but   they must have full information in order to exercise that right.

5.  Cite sources when information is not your own and cite your sources accurately.  Keep in mind that when you use a direct quotation, it is necessary to credit the person who formulated it.  Using any quotation or close paraphrase without crediting its source is plagiarism.

6.  Do not try to trick audience members into accepting your point of view or ridicule them for not agreeing with you.  Show respect for your audience. 

7.  As listeners, we are also responsible for what we accept from others.  Therefore, we should verify the integrity of the information we receive.

8.  Ethical speakers do not use fallacies, mistakes in logical reasoning, to build their case...fallacies such as hasty generalization, questionable cause, appeal to authority, appeals based on statistics,  ad hominem argument.  An ad hominem argument is a fallacy occurring with an attack on the person making the argument rather than the argument itself.

Unethical artifices and stratagems

1  Irrelevant evidence

2  Half-truths and lies

3  NON SEQUITUR conclusion

4  Irrelevant conclusions

5  Obfuscation

6  Unscrupulous speakers use many other clearly unethical methods, such as faulty generalizations, faulty particularizations (deductions), and faulty causation.

Ethically Gray area

1  Assuming the point

2  Appealing to popular feeling or prejudice

3  Appealing to sympathy or pity

4  Shifting the burden of proof

5  Transferring emotional approval

6  Arguing to the man

7  Oversimplifying

8  Using stereotypes, ridicule, and sarcasm

9  Applying the 'bandwagon' technique

The foregoing and other methods of rationalization are used in convincing speeches, in addition to stimulating ones.  When rationalization is used to supplement logic, it may be ethical; when use to supplant logic or to serve ignoble ends, it is dishonest and should be avoided.


However, there is a difference between actually having integrity and being perceived as credible by listeners or an audience.  Unfortunately, it does a communicator very little good to have integrity if he/she is not seen that way by others.  Sadly, there are irresponsible communicators in our society who exude self-confidence and appear credible to their receivers.  With these  rascals, it is the listeners who must be the responsible communicators by analyzing and evaluating what they hear.


To create a favorable communicative climate, we need to possess integrity, to project credibility, and to display self-confidence.  Speaking in a dynamic manner that establishes our interest and involvement in the topic and in the audience projects credibility. It is difficult for people to believe someone who appears tentative and uncomfortable.

Self-confidence.  What traits characterize a poised and self-confident speaker?  Among other things, he has an erect but comfortable posture; easy movements free of fidgeting or jerkiness; direct, eye-to-eye contact with his listeners; earnestness and energy in his voice; and an alertness of mind which enables him to adapt his remarks to the demands of the occasion.

Many factors help determine the degree of nervousness a speaker may feel--including the amount of sleep he had the night before and the quantity of mince pie he ate for dinner.  The observance of the following simple rules, however, should help increase your poise and self-control.

Philosophy and rationale

Self-confidence is so essential to becoming an effective speaker that most of this book's content is aimed at helping you to improve and strengthen this quality.

Speech anxiety occurs when our bodies secrete hormones and adrenaline that eventually overload our physical and emotional responses.  These chemical reactions are similar to those you might experience if you suddenly meet a growling dog or a person holding a gun.  Your heart begins to beat faster and your blood pressure begins to rise.  Consequently, more sugar is pumped into your system.  In addition, your stomach may begin to churn.  When you experience these reactions, you may feel as if your body is operating in high gear and that little or nothing  can be done about it.

Confidence can be acquired.  A common initial reaction of the beginning speaker is that of apprehension, commonly termed 'stage fright.'  Some students let trembling hands and knees, perspiring palms, dry mouths, tremulous voices, breathlessness, loss of memory, and 'butterflies in the stomach' serve as stubborn roadblocks to improvement.  Further elaboration of the symptoms of stage fright is probably unnecessary.  A student once confessed that until his high school teach described in vivid detail the symptoms of stage fright he had felt reasonably confident about speaking.  Upon hearing of the panic felt by some at the prospect of facing an audience, he became fearful that a barrage of similar reactions might attack him.  This apprehension triggered a fear reaction each time he spoke thereafter.  Before you tend to react similarly, let us leave the symptoms of stage fright and look for its causes and remedies.

If you suffer from the fear of speaking before an audience--a condition known as speech anxiety, it may help to know that you are not alone.  In fact, even the most experienced speakers confess to having some anxiety about speaking before a group, but they are able to control it.

If you have had the opportunity to speak before a group, you probably know a little about speech anxiety, the number-one fear of Americans, according to a national survey.  The important thing to remember is that having some anxiety about giving a speech before a group is normal.  It only becomes a serious problem when you cannot control your anxiety or choose not to communicate.

Speakers who suffer from speech anxiety often overestimate how much the audience notices about their behavior.  The audience, on the other hand, tends to underestimate or overlook a speaker's anxiety. 

Coping with Nervousness All speakers feel nervous as they approach their first speech.  labels: stage fright, speech fright, shyness, reticence, speech apprehension... a fear or anxiety about public speaking interaction.

Trait or State.  A trait is a relatively ongoing characteristic of an individual; a state is the state of mind that a person experiences for a period of time...Research has shown that up to 20 percent of the population may experience trait communication nervousness...As much as 80 percent of the population admits to some public-speaking nervousness.  If you have no major problems in interacting with people in other communication situations, your nervousness at the thought of giving a speech is likely to be less of a problem than you might think.

Public-speaking nervousness may be cognitive (in the mind) or behavioral (physically displayed).  Cognitively, speaker nervousness comes at the thought of speaking in public.  Behaviorally, speaker nervousness is represented by such physical manifestations as stomach cramps, sweaty palms, dry mouth, and the use of filler expressions as "ums, " "likes," and "you knows."

The more important question is whether it is harmful.  Phillips has noted that "learning proceeds best when the organism is in a state of tension."  In fact, it helps to be a little nervous to do your best:  If you are lackadaisical about giving a speech, you probably will not do a good job.

Because at least some tension is constructive, our goal is not to get rid of nervous but to learn how to cope with our nervousness.  Phillips study of people one and three years later..."apparently they had learned to manage the tension; they no longer saw it as an impairment, and they went ahead with what they had to do."

Persistent Nervousness   Recent research has shown that a small number of students may need more help than the ordinary speech course provides...don't drop the course...see your professor...systematic desensitization...cognitive restructuring...The purpose of a speech course is to help you learn and develop the skills that will allow your to achieve even when you feel extremely anxious. 

Coping with Nervousness According to a study by R. H. Bruskin Associates in which people were asked to pick items for a list of things that frightened them, 40.6 percent said they were frightened by speaking in public--more than anything else on the list, including heights, insects, flying, sickness, and death!

Treating Speech Anxiety.  There are no simple cures for speech anxiety--only ways to reduce, manage, or control it.


1.  Appropriate attitudes.

2.  Preparation.

3.  Rehearsal.  Practice. Practice

4.  Relaxation

before the encounter

1.  Image successful speaking experiences.  During the preparation period you can also be "psyching yourself up" for the speech.  Prepare yourself mentally for success.  Believe that you are going to be successful and you probably will be.Third, Prepare yourself psychologically.

            Your speech will do something for your listeners.

            You know more about the subject than your audience does.

            You appear more confident than you feel.

            Others share your misgivings.

            Audiences are friendly.

            Heightened feeling is essential to effective speaking.

            Tension usually decreases with experience.

2.  Pick an interesting subject.  Pick a topic you are comfortable with.  Selecting a topic you enjoy and know something about helps to reduce anxiety since the more you know about a subject, the easier it is for you to talk about it. Select a topic that you are familiar with and that you enjoy.  First, Choose subjects that you strongly wish to discuss with your listeners.

3.  Know your subject thoroughly.  The better prepared you are, the better you will cope with nervousness. Take time to prepare fully.  Being prepared.  Second, Prepare thoroughly.

4.  Learn thoroughly the sequence of ideas you intend to present.

during the encounter

1.  Never allow yourself to give up.

2.  From the time you enter the room before your speech until you have concluded your remarks, try to 'accentuate the positive' and 'eliminate the negative.'  Think affirmatively.  If you act as if you are confident, you may begin to feel more confident. 

3   Don't focus inwardly, that is, avoid being overly concerned about how you look, sound, or feel. 

4.   Don't concentrate on how well you are doing or whether the listeners like you personally, think you are nervous, or consider you to be an ineffective speaker.

5.  Focus your attention on your audience.  Know your audience and the surroundings where your presentation will take place.  Concentrate upon the process of communicating your ideas to the listeners.  Meet squarely the gaze of your listeners.  Talk directly to them.  Consider them receptive persons who are pulling for you to do well.  Remind yourself that your task as a speaker is to engage them in a meaningful dialogue on your topic. 

prac8.  Use physical activity to reinforce your ideas.  In addition, experienced speakers learn to channel their nervousness.  Try to move about a little during the first few sentences--sometimes, a few gestures or a step one way or another is enough to break some of the tension.  Attempt to convert nervous energy into appropriate outlets of animated vocal and physical delivery.  Without going to extremes, engage in sufficient activity to release the tension in antagonistic muscle groups.  Be vigorous.  If you feel like doing so, try some gestures.  Turn toward one section of the audience and speak directly to it; then turn toward another section.  Occasionally change position on the platform.  Use a pointer to direct attention to some element of a visual aid.  Try to maintain the lively, flexible vocal and physical delivery of forceful conversation--expanded to meet the needs of public speaking....What is your prognosis?  If you follow the simple principles outlined in this section, your chances of avoiding excessive nervous tension are excellent.

6.  Try to schedule your speech at a time that is psychologically best for you.

7.  Pause for a few seconds before you begin.  When you reach the stand, pause a few seconds before you start. 

8.  Take a deep breath; this may help get your breathing in order.

after the encounter

Inventory yourself...What did you think...What did you feel..What did you do during the encounter?

any time

1.  You are in good company...famous people get nervous.  Realize that almost everyone has some anxiety about presenting a speech--you are not alone.

2.  Despite nervousness, you can make it through your speech.

3.  Listeners are not as likely to recognize your fear as you might think.

4.  Remember that some nervous tension is both natural and good for you.

5.  Speak as often as you can.  The more experience you get in speaking, the better you can cope with nervousness.

6.  Assert yourself in appropriate situations.  The nonassertive person does not stand up for his or her rights when they are threatened or violated. 

definition,  Assertiveness entails verbalizing your position on an issue for purposes of achieving a specific goal.  Assertiveness may involve describing feelings, giving good reasons for a belief or feeling, or suggesting a behavior or attitude you think is fair, without exaggerating for dramatic effect or attacking the other individual verbally.

Examples:  I'm really feeling anxious about not getting to talk with you about my paper.  I'm afraid that if we don't talk I'm likely to make the same kinds of mistakes again.  Could we please meet to talk about my writing before Thursday?

I really need to talk to you before I turn in my next paper.  I don't want to make the same mistakes I made last time.  Can we please get together before Thursday?

Why are some people hesitant to assert themselves?  Probably for one or several of the following reasons.

1.  They believe it's not worth the time or effort.

2.  They question their self-worth.

3.  They accept others' expectations.

4.  The fear reprisal.

passive,        Passive Behavior.  When people believe they have been wronged, they are likely to behave in one of three ways:  passively, aggressively, or assertively.  When people behave passively, they do not try to influence the behavior of others.  People who behave passively are reluctant to state opinions, share feelings, or assume responsibility for their actions.  Thus, they often submit to the demands of others, even when doing so is inconvenient or against their best interests.

            Two types of nonassertiveness--situational and generalized

Basically, assertive individuals are willing to assert their rights, but unlike their aggressive counterparts they do not hurt others in the process.  Assertive individuals speak their minds and welcome others doing likewise.  Behavior which enables a person to act in his own best interest, to stand up for himself without undue anxiety, to express his honest feelings comfortably, or to exercise his own rights without denying the rights of others we call assertive behavior.  Norton and Warnich found assertive people to be open, not anxious, contentious, and not intimidated and not easily persuadable.

Reluctance to communicate your feelings and thoughts characterizes nonassertive behavior (also called passive behavior).  Linked to avoidance strategies, nonassertive behavior virtually ensures that your concerns go unsatisfied.

aggression,  Aggressive Behavior.  When people behave aggressively, they lash out at the source of their discomfort with little regard for the situation or for the feelings of those they are attacking.  Unfortunately, too many people confuse aggressiveness with assertiveness.  Unlike assertiveness, aggressive behavior is judgmental, dogmatic, fault-finding, and coercive.

            Indirect aggression is the expression of concerns in a disguised way.  Rather than stating the real issue, you attack in various ways:

attacking the person directly, attacking the person indirectly, lying about your real feelings, manipulating the situation, embarrassing the person, hinting about the problem, withholding something from the other person, inviting the person to feel guilty, using sarcasm.  Indirect aggression is risky.... other person my miss the point....person may understand but ignore you...people may feel manipulated and get angry.

            Direct aggression, unlike nonassertiveness and indirect aggression, is easy to recognize.  Direct aggression is the open expression of feelings, needs, wants, desires, and ideas at the expense of others.  People who use direct aggression try to dominate and possibly humiliate the other person by acting  self-righteously, as if they're superior, certain of themselves, and know what's best for everyone.

assertion,     Assertive Behavior.  When people behave assertively, they state what they believe to be true for them, describe their feelings fully, give good reasons for their beliefs or feelings, suggest the behavior or attitude they think is fair, avoid exaggerating for dramatic effect, and take responsibility for their actions and feelings without personal attacks.  To be assertive, then, you should (1) identify what you are thinking or feeling and (2) state it in the most interpersonally sound way possible.

            Assertion is the direct statement of needs and wants.  Because it is direct, assertion is more closely related to direct aggression than to either indirect aggression or nonassertiveness.  Assertive communication lacks an important element of direct aggression; it express thoughts and feelings directly and clearly without judging or dictating to others.  it is hones and has as its goal the resolution of conflict.

Principles for increasing assertiveness and decreasing shyness.

1.  Analyze the assertive and nonshy behavior of others.

2.  Analyze your own behavior.

3.  Record your behaviors.

4.  Rehearse assertive and nonshy behaviors

5.  Do it

1.  Assert the action

2.  Express your subject

3.  Express your sensations

4.  Indicate the effects

5.  Make your request

6.  Tell your intentions


Interpersonal attraction or speaker attractiveness refers to being perceived as personable and likable.  Attractive communicators are viewed as people of goodwill.  If participants in communication describe each other as friendly, there is likely to be a favorable communicative climate.

Sociability:  gloomy, cheerful, irritable, good natured, unpleasant, pleasant, cold, warm.

The second area of analysis centers around the interpersonal attraction participants in interpersonal encounters have for each other.  For the public encounter, this aspect is referred to as speaker attractiveness.  Whether we refer to it as interpersonal attraction or speaker attractiveness, the basic issue is likability.  Do the members of the group like each other?  Or do the audience members like the speaker?

It should be noted that credibility and attraction (attractiveness) can operate independently of each other.  For instance, an employee may not like a supervisor but may respect her competence, integrity, and vigor.  Or a father may love his child but may not respect his judgment when it comes to money matters.

Attractiveness: Audience perceptions of personality are often based on first impressions of such characteristics as attractiveness.  Although physical attractiveness is a genetic quality over which we have little control, speakers can behave in ways that will increase audience perception of your attractiveness.  For instance, speakers can dress, groom, and carry themselves in an attractive manner.  The old compliment "He/she cleans up really good" is one to remember.  It is surprising how much an appropriately professional dress and demeanor will increase audience perception of attractiveness. 

In addition audiences react favorably to a speaker who acts friendly.  Friendliness is an important component of personality.  A smile and a pleasant tone of voice go a long way in developing a quality of warmth that will increase an audience's comfort with a speaker and her or his ideas.

Three key behaviors that increase an audience's favorable perception of a speaker's personality are enthusiasm, eye contact, and vocal expressiveness.


Defensive communication.  HUGHEY'S 315 NOTES  Ego threat (Defensive communication)

The nature of ego threat...Internal, the superego versus the id...external, between people.  The dynamics of ego threat...

Jack Gibb provides us with an insightful analysis of supportive and defensive climates which should enable us to see the specifics that go into making these two very different classes of communication behaviors.  Gibb analyzed and divided these specifics into six categories, each of which has a supportive and defensive dimension.

1.  A defensive climate is created by

evaluation, If you are evaluative rather than descriptive:...First, evaluation does not inform; it places a judgment on what has been said or done.  Misunderstanding often results from a shortage of information...Second, evaluations are likely to make other people defensive, especially if the evaluation is personal, negative, or contrary to the other person's perception.  Defensiveness is a negative feeling and/or behavior that results when a person feels threatened.....Open communication without a secret underlying motive--hidden agenda--promotes supportiveness rather than defensiveness.  Interpersonal communication works best when the people involved understand what is going on....

Description and evaluation.  When we perceive a communication as being a request for information or a description of some event, we generally do not perceive it as threatening.  We are not challenged and have no need to defend ourselves.  On the other hand, a communication that is judgmental or evaluative often leads us to become defensive, to back off, and to otherwise erect some kind of barrier between ourselves and the evaluator.

Insecurity is likely to generate defensiveness on both sides of the dyad.  The insecure speaker seems especially prone to use evaluative language, to claim that this is right and this is wrong, to argue that this person is the cause of that problem, and to make moral and ethical judgments about people and about their interactions.

control, Problem orientation and control.  In working with one person or with a group of individuals on a particular problem, we have probably all notices that some individuals will readily focus on the specific problem or find a solution, while other individuals will just as readily attempt to control the group processes, to impose their own values on the other members of the group, and to otherwise infer that they are somehow better than the other members.

"Implicit in all attempts to alter another person," says Gibb, "is the assumption by the change agent that the person to be altered is inadequate.  That the speaker secretly views the listener as ignorant, unable to make his own decisions, uninformed, immature, unwise, or posses of wrong and inadequate attitudes is a subconscious perception which gives the latter a valid base for defensive reactions."

strategy, Spontaneity and strategy (manipulative strategy).  Individuals who are spontaneous in their communications, individuals who are straightforward and open about what they think, generally receive the same response--straightforwardness and openness.  But in may situations we feel that certain people are hiding their true feelings--that they have some hidden plan that they are attempting to implement for some unrevealed purpose.  This strategy approach leads us to become defensive and to resist any attempts at manipulation.

neutrality,  Empathy and neutrality (detached neutrality, clinical neutrality).  In interacting with another individual on a personal level we often reveal certain things about ourselves that we feel are extremely important.  When our listeners react neutrally, we have been betrayed; they are, we feel, not seeing how important these things are to us.  On the other hand, when our listeners respond empathetically and we can feel that they are placing themselves in our own position, we feel supported.  When a friend fails a test and confides his or her worry to us, we feel supported.  Responding with a "so what" attitude.

superiority, and/or Relationships grow best when communication between people indicates equality rather than superiority....Whatever the basis for the assumption of superiority, however, projecting it often results in a negative rather than a positive communication climate, particularly when others involved are not convinced of that superiority.  A positive communication climate may be achieved by choosing language that conveys an attitude of equality rather than superiority.  Equality implies that two people exist on the same level, that they perceive each other as being of similar worth.

Equality and superiority.  When we work we work on a problem or some kind of task with other individuals and make it clear that we are participating equally in the experience, they are generally more apt to be open and responsible.  If, on the other hand, they perceive that we feel superior to them, they are going to resent us--they will feel that their efforts are not going to be perceived as equal to outs, or that their talents or abilities are inferior.  We should not deny differences in abilities or knowledge, but we should recognize clearly that when working together on a project, everyone has something to contribute.  Use the language of equality.

certainty. Provisionalism helps cope with defensiveness...Provisional wording suggest that the ideas expressed are thought to be correct but may not be; dogmatic wording leaves no room for discussion...

Provisionalism and certainty.  We are probably all familiar with teachers who say they want all their students to think for themselves, to develop inquiring minds, and to explore all sides of the question--to have open minds, to leave room for differences or opinion and new facts, and so on.  Most teachers will verbalize some such goals at some time in their classes.  Such teachers are encouraging provisionalism among students.  Unfortunately, however, these same teachers are often in practice very dogmatic.  know it all, closed-minded.  authority

2.  Anxiety, a sign that self esteem is in danger, is aroused. 

3. An ego defense mechanism is brought into play which takes energy away from the goal of the communication encounter.

Ego Defense mechanisms...Characteristics...They are largely unconscious, they are universal, they create a diversion from the real problem facing the individual (they are designed to cope with reducing anxiety; energy is diverted from problem-solving to reducing the anxiety level.)

Some specific mechanisms...

WITHDRAWAL-to leave the threatening condition either physically or psychologically. 

DISPLACEMENT (aggression)-to express an emotion toward a less threatening person or object when one cannot express it directly towards its proper person or object--scape-goating; boss bawls out underling, underling argues with wife, wife screams at little boy, little boy kicks dog; Hitler, Germans hungry and miserable--take it out on the jews. 

RATIONALIZATION-a reason for   taken or to be taken which seem plausible, but which are not the real ones, lying to one's self.  When you have a fool of ourselves you tell yourself "They didn't hear me."; sour grapes, convincing one's self that something isn't worth having when he or she finds it is impossible to obtain--"Those lousy Cadillacs, I wouldn't have one."  "Who wants A's--I'd rather have an education."  "Morality is for little old ladies, honey."  Sweet lemons (convincing one's self that something is highly worthwhile when one is forced to accept it.  Pollyanna and Candide.  Last in line and kindergarten..."The back leader." 

PROJECTION-to attribute one's unacceptable feelings to others to avoid attributing them to ones self.  Prejudice  "They look sneaky," "They're lazy." 

REPRESSION-to drive thoughts and memories from consciousness into unconsciousness...Selective forgetting and selective retention....the three faces of eve. 

IDENTIFICATION-to relate one's self to another person, ideal, group, or institution in such a manner that its successes become one's own-to gain feelings of worth.  Little girls and mothers; little boys and fathers...Happy in 'Death of a Salesman'. 

REACTION FORMATION-to express attitudes which are the reverse of what one would like to express to protect one from accepting the latter as one's own--as they are too threatening.  She protests too much. 

DENIAL-to reject the idea that a problem exists, or that it is as important as it really is.  "It can't happen here", convincing one's self that a threatening event will not occur to one's self or in one's location.  Fatalism, denying of responsibility for an event by treating it as inevitable.  Humor, any kind of comic reaction, jest, lightness, ridicule or laughter which removes the threatening qualities from an event by making it appear less real or less important, thus reducing the necessity for action.


1.  Avoid arousal of anxiety, promote a supportive climate:  Description, Problem orientation, Spontaneity, Empathy, Equality, Provisionalism. 

Skills for creating positive communication climates--descriptive, open, provisional, and equal.  open--agenda & hidden agenda.

Supportiveness and confirmation.

1.  Because it depend on "I" language, supportive language is descriptive and not evaluative.

2.  Because it focuses on immediate thoughts and feelings, supportive language is spontaneous and not manipulative.

3.  Because it focuses on accepting the other person's feelings and putting yourself in the other person's place, supportive language is empathic and not indifferent.

4.  Because it focuses on remaining open to new ideas, perspectives, and the possibility of change, supportive language is provisional and not certain.

2.  When anxiety or defensiveness is present, identify the defensive mechanism and then use a smooth transition, accented transition, abrupt transition, and or reassurance technique.


In summary, receivers are more likely to listen to and believe a person whom they like and see as informed, honest, and animated.  Listeners find it easier to give attention to friendly people than apathetic or hostile ones.  A favorable communicative climate produces communication satisfaction. 

Typically, communicators want to achieve their purposes and create favorable communicative climates at the same time.  They want both success and satisfaction.  But a clerk may get us to purchase an item using an abrasive approach.  He may be successful at the expense of producing bad feelings.  It is important to recognize early in this course that all communication has a control dimension and a relational dimension.  These dimensions can be at odds with each other.  Careful attention must be paid to the remaining four role requirements if both the desire for control, success, and the desire for good feelings, satisfaction, is to be realized in an encounter.








Table of Contents of this Unit:

Preview of the Unit

Unit Objective 01, CREDIBILITY

Objective 02,  ETHICS   INTEGRITY


Objective 04,  ATTRACTION


Review of the Unit

Communication Challenges

For Further Reading

End of the Unit