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So here's the question, how do the principles of supportive communication apply in management? Supportive communication focuses on a kind of interpersonal communication that allows someone to communicate accurately and honestly, especially in difficult circumstances, without jeopardizing interpersonal relationships. It seeks to preserve or enhance a positive relationship while still addressing a problem, giving negative feedback, or tackling a difficult issue. (WHETTON) Supportive communication has eight attributes. First, supportive communication is based on congruent, not incongruent. Rogers (1961) stated that the best interpersonal communications, and the best relationships, are based on congruence, that is, exactly matching the communication, verbally and nonverbally, to what an individual is thinking and feeling. A mismatch between what one is experiencing and what one is aware of is one of the incongruent. For example, manager may not be aware of he or she experiencing anger towards the employee, even though the anger is really present. The second kind of incongruent, which has the closest relation to supportive communication, is a mismatch between what one feels and what one communicates. For example, denial feeling of anger even though one is aware of the feeling of anger. When manager hides or hold back their true feelings or opinions, or does not express what's really on their minds, people might tend to view it as an existence of hidden agenda. Therefore, people will be focusing on the ways to interpret the hidden message while not on listening or trying to improve, as they have a little trust on the communicator. The relationship between the two communicators stays superficial and distrusting. Hence, it is best to be honest and to be transmitting the intended messages.
Besides that, a supportive communication is descriptive, not by evaluate. Evaluative communication makes an assessment or valuation on other individuals or their behavior, such as "You are doing it wrong." It weakened the interpersonal relationship as people generally felt insulted or criticized and they will respond defensively. An alternative to evaluation is descriptive communication. Descriptive communication tends to reduce the tendency to evaluate and preserved a defensive interaction. It consists of 3 steps for descriptive communication. First of all, it is being described objectively of the event, behavior, or circumstance. For example, "Three clients have complained to me this month that you have not responded to their requests." It focused strictly to the actions and the objective while it does not evaluate on the behavior or the person. As long as the manager is honest with the message, describing a behavior, which is different from evaluating a behavior, is relatively neutral.
Next step will focus on the behavior or consequences the behavior has produced, not the other person's attributes. For example, "I am worried because each client has threatened to go elsewhere if we aren't more responsive." Since the problem is locked in the context of the communicator's feelings or objective consequences, people will tend to reduce their defensiveness. Last step will be to suggest a more acceptable alternative. This focuses the discussion on the solution rather than the person. It also helps the person to avoid feeling personally criticized as well as to preserve self esteem because the individual is separated from the behavior.
Next, supportive communication is also problem-oriented while it should not be person-oriented. Problem-oriented communication focuses on problems and solutions rather than on personal traits. It is useful even when personal appraisals are called for because it focuses on behaviors and events, rather than focusing on the individual's incompetent. A accepted standards or expectations rather than to personal opinions should be associated in building a positive, supportive relationships, problem-oriented communication. Since it is directed on the problem, not the person, the feelings of defensiveness are less likely to occur. In addition, commonly accepted standard which is based on a statement, is more likely to be supported by the people.
In addition, validates rather than invalidates individuals, is also one of the principles of supportive communication. People will feel recognized, understood, accepted, and valued by using validating communication. Communication that is invalidating arouses negative feelings about self-worth, identity, and relatedness to others. Communication that is superiority oriented gives the impression that the communicator is informed while the others are ignorant, adequate while others are inadequate, competent while others are incompetent or powerful while others are impotent. It creates a barrier between the communicator and those to whom the message is sent. Indifference is communicated when the other person's existence or importance is not acknowledged. This is common as people tend to ignore the importance of communication by using silence, by making no verbal response to the other's statements, by avoiding eye contact or any facial expression, by interrupting the other person frequently, by using impersonal words. The communicator seems to neglect about the other person and gives the impression of being unmoved to the other person's feelings or perspectives.
Imperviousness means that the communicator does not acknowledge the feelings or opinions of the other person. It is respectful where others are treated as worthwhile, competent, and insightful and emphasizes joint problem solving rather than a superior position. It is flexible, it means communicating genuine modesty - not self-abasement or weakness -- and openness to new insight. It involves two-way communication where others are asked questions while given "air time" to express their opinions. It verifies areas of agreement before areas of disagreement, recognize vital points of the other person before insignificant ones, and provides complements before criticisms, advantages before disadvantages.
Furthermore, it is also a specific (useful) statement, not global (useless). Specific statements are supportive because they identify something that can be easily understood and acted upon. In general, the effectiveness of motivating improvement is depends on the how specific is the statement. Specific statements avoid extremes and supremacy. For examples, "You have no consideration for others feelings," "You either do what I say or I'll fire you." The denial of alternatives is from extreme and either-or statements. It is tightly restricted from the possible replies of the recipient of the communication. To challenge or deny the statements will results to defensiveness and arguments. In general, the more specific a statement is, the more useful it is. Specific statements are more useful in interpersonal relationships because they focus on behavioral events and rather than the person.
Specific statements may not be useful if they focus on things over which another person has no power. "I hate it when it rains," for example, may relieve some personal disappointment, but nothing can be done to change the weather. Similarly, conveying the message that is towards one's personality, weight, tastes, the way they are and many more only proves frustrating for the interacting individuals. Personal attack is usually being viewed on such a statement. Specific communication is useful to the extent where an identifiable problem or behavior about which something can be done.
Supportive communication is also conjunctive, not disjunctive. Conjunctive communication is linked to previous messages in some way where it flows smoothly. Disjunctive communication is disconnected from what was stated before. Communication can be disjunctive in three ways. First, when one interrupts another or overrule "air time", lack of fair opportunity to speak will occur. Second, prolonged pauses which caused by nervousness are disjunctive. Third, topic control can be disjointed such as when one person decides unilaterally what the next topic of conversation may be. A communicator's statement or question is most conjunctive when it refers to an immediately former statement; it is disjunctive when it refers to nothing that has been said or that the parties share in common. Therefore, one must be prepared to communicate and be cautious as people will interrupt a conversation unintentionally.
Besides, effective supportive communication is owned but not disowned. An owning communication can be defined as taking responsibility for one's statements and affirming that the source of the ideas is oneself and not another person or group. Owning communication can be distinguished by using first person words such as "I", "me" and "mine". Disowning communication is indicated by use of third-person or first-person-plural words like "We think", "They said" or "One might say". An unknown person, group, or external source, for example, "Lots of people think", is assigned in disowned communication. The communicator avoids taking responsibility for the message and thus avoids committing in the interaction. This shows that the communicator is detached or uncaring about the receiver or is not convinced enough in the ideas expressed to take responsibility for them from the messages.
Last but not least, the principles of supportive communication states that it requires listening, not one-way message delivery. The previous seven attributes of supportive communication focus on message delivery. Listening and responding effectively to someone else's statements is one of the key issues in management. Without a response from the listener, communicators do not know whether that the messages are being transmitted or not. In general there are four types of response that range on a continuum from most directive and closed to most nondirective and open. Closed responses eliminate the discussion of topics and provide direction to individuals; Open responses allow the communicator, not the listener, to control the topic of conversation.
An advising response provides direction, evaluation, personal opinion, or instructions. Such responses imposes on the communicator the point of view of the listener, and it creates listener control over the topic of conversation.
A deflecting response switches the focus from the communicator's problem to one selected by the listener. The listener changes the subject.
A probing response asks a question about what the communicator just said or about a topic selected by the listener. The intent of the probe is to acquire additional information, to help the communicator say more about the topic, or to help the listener foster more appropriate responses. Four types of probes can be used: elaboration probe (e.g., "Can you tell me more about that?"); clarification probe (e.g., "What do you mean by that?"); repetition probe (e.g., "Once again, what do you think about that?"); reflective probe (e.g., "You say you are discouraged?").
A reflecting response mirrors back to the communicator the message that was heard and communicates understanding and acceptance of the person. Reflecting the message in different words (paraphrasing) allows the speaker to feel listened to, understood, and free to explore the topic in more depth.
Open responses (reflecting) are generally useful during early stages of discussion.
Closed responses (advising) are generally useful during later stages of discussion, or when they are requested by the communicator, or when one is in position to offer direction (e.g., an expert).