Chapter 11: Communication Climate

INTERPLAY: The Process of Interpersonal Communication
8th Edition © 2001
Adler, Rosenfeld, & Proctor

Communication climate refers to the social tone of a relationship.
"Every relationship has a feeling, a pervasive mood that colors the goings-on of the participants."
People CAN change their communication climates--that is why it is important to understand them.


1.  Define communication climate.
2.  Explain the importance of being valued and confirmed.
3.  Identify the characteristics of confirming, disagreeing, and disconfirming messages.
4.  Explain the nature of positive and negative communication spirals.
5.  Understand the relationship between presenting self and defensiveness.
6.  Identify the types of messages that are likely to create positive communication climates.
7.  Explain the various ways to transform negative communication climates.

  I.  Communication Climate Defined
      A.  Refers to the social tone of a relationship.
      B.  Communication climate is strongly related to job satisfaction and performance.

 II.  How Communication Climates Develop (confirming vs. disconfirming messages)
      A.  Levels of Message Confirmation 
           1.  Confirming Messages
                a.  Recognition
                b.  Acknowledgment
                c.  Endorsement
           2.  Disagreeing Messages
                a.  Argumentativeness
                b.  Complaining
                c.  Aggressiveness
           3.  Disconfirming Messages
                a.  Impervious Response
                b.  Interrupting Response
                c.  Irrelevant Response
                d.  Tangential Response 
                e.  Impersonal Response
                f.  Ambiguous Response
                g.  Incongruous Response
      B.  Defensiveness - "protecting yourself from attack"
      C.  Climate Patterns "tit for tat" and "communication spirals"

III.  Creating Positive Climates  (Jack Gibbs, 1961 -- refer to Table 11.1, p. 331)
      A.  Evaluation versus Description
      B.  Control versus Problem Orientation
      C.  Strategy versus Spontaneity
      D.  Neutrality versus Empathy
      E.  Superiority versus Equality
      F.  Certainty versus Provisionalism

IV.  Transforming Negative Climates  (Be sure to read the summary of Foss & Griffin's 1995 Invitational Rhetoric, p. 338)
      A.  Seek MORE Information
           1.  Ask for Specifics
           2.  Paraphrase the Speaker's Ideas
           3.  Ask What the Critic Wants
           4.  Ask about the Consequences of Your Behavior
           5.  Ask What Else is Wrong
      B.  Agree with the Critic
           1.  Agree with the Truth
           2.  Agree with the Odds
           3.  Agree in Principle
           4.  Agree with the Critic's Perception

V.  Summary

Communication climate refers to the social tone of a relationship.  The most influential factor in shaping a communication climate is the degree to which the people involved see themselves as being valued and confirmed.  Messages can be categorized into confirming, disagreeing, and disconfirming types.  When faced with criticism by others, there are two alternatives to responding defensively:  seeking additional information from the critic and agreeing with some aspect of the criticism.  When performed sincerely, these approaches can transform an actual or potentially negative climate into a more positive one.