What is the Difference Between Supportive and Defensive Communication?

People communicate in different ways. The way you communicate with friends, family, and co-workers may make the difference between a successful relationship and one that fails. The first step in effective communication is knowing what is the difference between supportive and defensive communication.

What is the Difference Between Supportive and Defensive Communication According to its Purpose

To better understand the difference between supportive and defensive communication, you need to understand the purpose of each type of communication. The purpose of supportive communication is to resolve conflict or achieve a change in a situation while preserving the relationship between communicating participants. Defensive communication, on the other hand, actually focuses on the conflict or the problem instead of trying to solve it.

The Difference in Supportive and Defensive Communication in Practice

Here is a more detailed look at the difference between supportive and defensive communication when it is put into practice.

Supportive Communication

When engaging in supportive communication, a person seeks to resolve conflict or potential conflict through cooperation between the parties involved.

Supportive communication has specific goals in mind and uses specific techniques to reach those goals. Therefore, this type of communication does not place blame, nor do people using this type of communication make judgmental statements. Instead, they simply state the problem and collaborate with others on finding a solution.

During the supportive communication process, everyone listens to one another, and they work together to find a solution to the problem or to make a needed change.

Communicating in this manner actually preserve and often strengthen the existing relationship between the people who are communicating, because everyone feels valued and a part of the process.

Defensive Communication

Defensive communication occurs when a person responds to a self-perceived flaw or feels threatened by others. Instead of communicating in a helpful manner, the individual seeks to protect oneself from expected criticism, often going on the attack and blaming others for the problem instead of helping to find a solution for the problem.

In other cases, the person using defensive communication may show little concern or interest in the subject. A person who is engaging in defensive communication cannot properly hear what others are trying to say and they make it difficult for others to hear the concerns they are voicing because the others in communication with this person feel attacked.

It is often best simply to end communication with someone engaging in defensive communication until they are in a more reasonable state of mind.

When determining what the difference is between supportive and defensive communication, look at the communication style of each person in the group and ask yourself if they are seeking to solve a problem or if they are focusing on the problem and blaming others for that problem.

Is the person calm and do they welcome the input of everyone in the group, or are angry and venting with no seeming purpose?

If you tend to communicate defensively, then seek ways to better your communication style so you can communicate more effectively. You will help preserve your relationships this way.