Communication: An introduction to a historical model and to the new PNDC model

For centuries, Aristotle’s model for communication has been taught in Western culture as the art of winning arguments. Powerful Non-defensive Communication replaces this traditional model with one that gives each person the ability to communicate effectively without engaging in a power struggle. Dr. Martin Jacobi, Clemson University

The War Model

Defensive Self-Protection: The historical use of the rules of war as the basis for our verbal interactions currently affects our lives in all realms. Using the war motto “To be open is to be vulnerable, and to be vulnerable is to be weak,” people automatically close down, become defensive, and react to others in an adversarial manner. Such defensiveness not only inhibits our ability to understand and learn, it literally creates and accelerates conflict. Rather than protecting us, defensiveness depletes our energy and prevents us from achieving our goals.

Types of Defensive Reactions: Our defensive strategies, often not conscious, typically fall into three basic categories: surrender, withdrawal and counterattack. Each of these strategies includes one format designed primarily for protection and another to also retaliate against others. While a person might use any or all of six defensive reactions, most people have a habitual one; thus a common personality type can be associated with each type of defensive reaction.

Communication Tools Misused: Our three basic forms of communication —questions, statements, and predictions— are all misused when we are defensiveso dramatically that we might as well be trying to build a house by pounding nails with a saw. For example, when we ask a question, we often, through our tone, body language and wording, convey an attitude of interrogation. People are often quite unconscious of the degree to which they do this.

Power Struggles: These defensive ways of speaking and reacting are manipulative—and cause others to resist what we say. Each person involved can feel like a victim, even while lashing out in verbal attack; this dynamic causes ongoing power struggles which become addictive. Because we have never changed the basic model for how we communicate, we consider such conflict to be normal just human nature.

The Powerful Non-Defensive Communication Model

Non-Defensive Communication Tools: The character and function of questions, statements, and predictions are very different when we use them non-defensively. For example, rather than asking questions that convey our own opinion or lead others to answer in a prescribed way, we can ask questions that are genuinely curious, open, innocent, neutral, and inviting.

Formats for Non-Defensive Communication: This part of the material covers specific formats for using each communication tool.

Questions: We can select from dozens of ways to use questions to gather accurate information quickly and to stimulate others to respond sincerely and honestly.

Statements: We can make statements using four different formats. These statements provide others with thorough information about how we interpret what they are saying and our own reactions to it.

Predictions: We have two formats for making predictions, which we use to create security through predictability.

Quantum Leaps: Each of us can protect ourselves without getting defensive and have greater influence without being manipulative or controlling. Using non-defensive communication, we can be honest and powerful while being compassionate and sincere.

One aspect of the power of non-defensive communication is that the process allows us to communicate with great clarity and walk away with increased self-esteem, even if the other person chooses not to cooperate. Anyone who uses this process can make a quantum leap in personal and professional growth. By changing how we communicate as individuals, we can work effectively toward greater understanding among diverse groups, and ultimately toward a more peaceful world.


3 thoughts on “Communication”

  1. Stephen Covey’s Habit # 5 Seek first to understand, and then to be understood is an excellent foundation for communication. Using open ended questions give others the opportunity to express their concerns and thoughts


  2. B White,

    Thanks for the comment and for the link to your blog. Communication skills are one of my favorite topics, especially powerful and open questions. If you know of any good links, please let us know!


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