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The Best Defense

Author: Mary Sue Love
Date: June 07, 2016
Category: Commentary, General


A Facebook friend posted an old song the other day as a tribute to his father. I remembered the song from the 80s, "The Living Years", by Mike and the Mechanics, but I didn't listen to it; who has time for more than a quick scan of Facebook these days? But, as luck would have it, it queued up for me the next day in the car for my drive time sing along. One of the lyrics struck me as I was belting it out, 'we all talk a different language talking in defense.'

Defensive communication, I think, is one of the biggest ways we escalate conflict in our daily interactions. Jack Gibb defines six types of defensive communication:

  • evaluation,
  • control,
  • strategy,
  • neutrality,
  • superiority,
  • and certainty.

To put it simply, we tend to get our hackles up whenever we feel like someone is trying to tell us what to do, manipulate us, treat us indifferently, think they are better, or smarter, than us. No surprises there. But, Gibb goes on to state that defensive communication is reciprocal and this causes it to escalate (

John Gottman, one of the preeminent relationship researchers, agrees, and calls defensiveness one of 'the four horsemen of the apocalypse', and states that successful marriages have a ratio of at least 5 supportive statements for every negative one ( He purports that this ratio maintains for business relationships, too (, citing research by Zenger and Folkman (

So, that old adage doesn't ring true, the best defense isn't a good offense, not if you want to maintain a positive relationship. Just how do we step back from our urge to meet fire with fire? Jagod Perich-Anderson's infographic might be just the trick to get you through:

Defensive Communication

or click here to see it in a readable format.

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