Sample Paper on Gibb’s Defensive and Supportive Model

Supportive and Defensive Climates

Gibb’s defensive and supportive model was developed to study behaviors that affect stability and wellbeing of the relationships involving several people and also analyze the interactions among members of small groups. The effects of defensive and supportive climates are paramount especially in interpersonal relationships hence the need to address them effectively to enhance the cohesiveness of a group (Burleson, 2009).

Group Dynamics

Group dynamics gives description on the effects of distinct roles and behaviors assumed by individuals when they are working in a group. It describes the impact distinct roles and behaviors applied in one group can cause to individuals members and the entire group. Defensive behavior occurs when one member of the group becomes aware of threat or anticipates chances of encountering threats in the group. As a result of threat, the individuals would respond to these fears with a behavior that indicates that they are defending themselves. Defensive behaviors consume an individual’s energy that could be used to achieve specific goals of the group and instead they use it to defend themselves against the detected threat.

Individual members also spend time and energy strategizing on how they could impress others, be favored, win and dominate others or thinking of possibilities available to reduce the perceived risk. Contrary, supportive climate makes the members of the group continue feeling connected and wanted in the group. The prevailing feelings of defensive climate from an individual create a similar position among other group members, which with time becomes more destructive if not acted upon. Defensive behaviors causes defensive listening in a group and this in turn cause slowness as indicated in nonverbal communication signs like postures, facial expressions, and verbal cues, which indicate noncooperation (DeKay, 2012).


Defensive stimulation prevents listeners from focusing and concentrates upon the message sent from the original communicator. This could cause the distortion of message sent from the communicator to receivers hence losing the original meaning to other receivers of communication. Defensive receivers of communication always fail to accurately perceive the values, motives, and emotions of the sender, which accompany verbal communication. This causes inefficiency in communication and hence minimizes the level of coordination resulting to negative outcomes in the group. As defenses are mitigated, the receivers of the information become more efficient and able to focus upon the structure, the content and actual meaning of the communication (DeKay, 2012).

Assertive communication

The defensive and supportive model of Gibbs explains about the need for group members to avoid evolution and instead embrace description behavior. Here the speaker behavior does not hurt or threaten the rights of any member of the group. Similarly, assertive communication supports individuals to express their ideas, rights, desires, and needs while taking into considerations those of other members in the group. This is in line with Spontaneity as a form of supportive behavior which advocates for honesty and truthfulness with the in a communication (DeKay, 2012).

Gibb work outlined six defensive behaviors that are used in interpersonal communication and constructed opposing supportive behaviors with different viewpoint. These supportive behaviors stimulate a sense of belonging in a group causing interconnection among the members. This is contrary to defensive behaviors, which occur when individuals feel threatened when participating in a communication hence defending themselves. Both supportive and defensive behaviors are applied in different situations and types of communication. Gibbs model explained the firs form of defensive behavior as evaluation, where the communicator directs the statement on other people. The behavior involves judging of other communicators in a discussion forum. The supportive behavior for evaluation as explained in Gibb’s model is description, which concentrates on the communicator’s ideas instead of blaming other people in the group. The description behavior involves the feelings of the speaker which can be expressed verbally or in nonverbal signs through facial expression and gestures using hands or body movements (Burleson, 2009).

The second defensive behavior outline by Gibb is control that occurs when one forces a solution towards other person or members in a group. Here the communicator makes a decision that would affect all members involved paying no attention to their ideas, needs, or contributions. Contrary, supportive behavior in this case is orientation, where a person seeks for solutions considering every person who would be affected by their decisions. Another form of behavior is a strategy, which could be applied when an individual feels threatened. In a strategy, one person seeks to manipulate others in order to emerge a winner and hence turns to be dishonest. Contrary, the supportive form applied here is spontaneity that is all about being open and truthful with the listeners (McWorthy, & Henningsen, 2014).

Neutrality is the forth defensive behavior where the communicator has little interest on communication making the listeners feel insignificant and unwanted. Contrary, empathy behavior gives room for other people’s feelings and opinions. Empathy is a difficulty form of behavior in communication since the receiver and sender of are giving and receiving the messages simultaneously. The fifth form of behavior is superiority where the senders of message consider themselves better placed than receivers. The manner to which the person communicates can indicate this behavior either through gestures and tone used. It opposite supportive behavior is equality which demonstrates sense of worth of all people and speakers use tone and gestures lowering themselves at the same level as their listeners. Sixth aspect is where the speakers demonstrate certainty behavior believing that they are always correct and are not willing to listen to other people’s ideas interpreting them to be wrong. Supportive behavior here is provisionalism where speakers believes they are right but creates provision to other peoples view and are ready and willing to change their opinions and apply the most reasonable idea (McWorthy, & Henningsen, 2014).

The awareness of these communication behaviors are of great importance when holding a meeting. As a leader of the group meeting, one is able to judge and determine whether to be supportive or defensive when leading a meeting. Awareness of interpersonal behaviors also help a person chairing a meeting learn to appreciate other people’s opinion hence avoiding defensive behavior that consumes their energy developing defensive mechanisms (Burleson, 2009).



Burleson, B. R. (2009). Understanding the outcomes of supportive communication: A dual-process approach. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26(1), 21-38.

DeKay, S. H. (2012). Interpersonal Communication in the Workplace: A Largely Unexplored Region. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 449-452. doi:10.1177/1080569912458966

McWorthy, L., & Henningsen, D. D. (2014). Looking at Favorable and Unfavorable Superior-Subordinate Relationships through Dominance and Affiliation Lenses. Journal of Business Communication, 51(2), 123-137. doi:10.1177/2329488414525195