For the Media: Sample Interview Topics & Questions
Taking the War Out of Our Words:
The Art of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication
By Sharon Strand Ellison
he new communication paradigm presented in Ellison’s book provides fascinating interview material. Sharon can compare/contrast how we traditionally communicate using the “rules of war” with how we can effectively alter our personal, professional, and community interactions — even our approach to solving global problems — once we learn to communicate non-defensively. The surprise is that non-defensive communication can be much more powerful that defensive reactions.
The following categories of questions can be used in radio, TV, magazine or newspaper interviews about the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication process. Interviewers can put the questions in either a personal, professional, and or community context. Sharon can focus on any topic that involves communication or respond to current events. Below, the topics are listed in several categories:
Categories of Questions for Interviews:
Defensiveness and Power Struggle
The “War Model” for communication
The “Powerful Non-Defensive Communication” model
Shifting from Interrogating to Non-Defensive Questions
Shifting from Argument & Convincing to Non-Defensive Statements
Shifting from Threats to Non-Defensive Predictions
How did Sharon Strand Ellison develop this process?
How does Sharon Ellison’s work compare to others: Deborah Tannen — John Gray — Marshall Rosenberg?
Defensiveness and Power Struggle:
• How often do you think people are defensive?
• Do people usually know when they are being defensive?
• Is most defensiveness aggressive?
• You talk about six defensive modes we all use. What are they?
• Do men and women use different defensive styles?
• Do we need to be able to be defensive to protect ourselves?
• Will others “walk all over us” if we are non-defensive?
• In your book you talk about being defensive but not about people who are just plain agressive. Why don't you address the issue of aggresive people as well as defensive people?
• What effect does being defensive have on us?
• What effect does being defensive have on the other person?
• How big a problem do you think defensiveness is?
• Can a person defend him/herself without getting into a power struggle?
• What if one person is being non-defensive and the other person won't cooperate?
• Do you think that power struggle is sometimes necessary to get what we need?
• How can we create social change without power struggle?
• Why do you say that power struggle is an addiction?
• Do you think it just human nature to be in power struggles?
The “War Model” For Communication:
• In your book, you call traditional ways of communicating, the “War Model.” Can you explain what you mean by that?
• Do people from all different cultural backgrounds use this “War Model?”
• How pervasive is it?
• Where does it come from?
• How do you outline or describe for people how the “War Model” works?
• What effect do you think this “War Model” has on our interactions with family, co-workers, and others?
• How does it impact our ability to resolve issues that face us at a global level?
PNDC: The Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication Model
• What is the basic difference between the “War Model” and the Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication model you have developed?
• Is it difficult is it to learn this new way of communicating?
• Why do you call the process “Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication”?
• Non-defensive is a negative, is there a more positive name you could use?
• What do you mean when you say in the book that this communication process is disarming?
• What do you mean when you say we have three "basic" forms of communication
• Are they the same or different in your model as compared to what you call the "War Model" for communication?
• What do you actually change to make these communication forms non-defensive instead of defensive?
• Do you think non-defensive communication has less power, the same, or more power than traditional communication?
• What can “PNDC” do for a person that other communication methods can’t do?
PNDC: Shifting from Interrogation to Non-Defensive Questions
• How do we ask questions that make others react defensively?
• How are non-defensive questions different from defensive ones?
• You say we have to change our voice tone when asking questions. Don't people use the same basic tone to ask questions in every language? Isn't it just part of our human nature?
• Can you give an example of how a non-defensive question sounds compared to a defensive one?
• Is it very difficult to change how we ask questions?
• Should we be asking questions more often than we are?
• Is it invasive to ask other people too many questions?
• What kind of effects do you see when people ask non-defensive questions?
• How much difference does it make when we ask questions the way you are suggesting.
PNDC: Shifting from Argument to Non-Defensive Statements:
• Do you think we need argument to spice things up and get people to think?
• Are you saying that we shouldn’t ever try to convince others to agree with us? How would we have any influence if we don’t?
• What is the problem with arguing or trying to convince others?
• Will we become passive if we never argue or stand up for what we think?
• Can people speak non-defensively and still get their ideas across?
• How is a non-defensive statement different from being argumentative? Can you give an example?
• You say there are four steps in a non-defensive statement. What are they?
• Is there an easy way to remember these steps?
• Can you give a example that shows how a non-defensive statement works better than trying to convince someone to agree with what we are saying?
• Can you use this process with a supervisor at work as well as peers?
• What are the advantages of using these steps?
• Why do you say that people listen better when we use these steps?
PNDC: Shifting from Threats and Punishment to Non-Defensive Limit Setting:
• Is limit setting like making a threat?
• What good is setting limits if you don't get people to change their behavior?
• How is non-defensive limit setting different than threatening some kind of punishment to get someone to do what you want?
• What is the process for setting non-defensive limits?
• What if you set a non-defensive limit and it doesn't work?
• Is limit setting just for children?
• If you set limits with your own partner (husband, wife, spouse), will they feel like you’re taking a parental role?
• Why would we want to set limits with each other as adults?
• What do you think happens when people don’t set effective limits?
• What is the purpose of limit setting with children? With adults?
• Do you set the same kind of limits with children and adults, or are they different?
• Do you advocate setting limits with your co-workers? Your boss?
• How do adult relationships change when people set non-defensive boundaries?
How Does Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication Model Work in Real Life?
• Will people lose their personality if they try to be non-defensive all the time?
• Is this just another new technique for manipulating others?
• What would happen if one person uses this non-defensive communication and the other person doesn’t?
• What kind of changes have you seen people make using non-defensive communication?
• Would you give an example of how someone has used PNDC in a difficult situation and turned it around?
• Do these methods work in situations where one person has more power than another, at work or even in a family?
• How much effect do you think the way we communicate has on the kind of person we are or become?
• What kind of effect does this way of communicating have on a person’s self-esteem and confidence?
• How much difference do you think it makes in a person’s life when he/she communicates non-defensively?
• To what groups of people do you teach these skills primarily?
• How responsive are people in various environments when you teach them this process?
• Do you get a similar response from different groups of people, such as men versus women, people from different races, and/or people with different levels of education?
Examples from Real-Life Situations:
Interviewers can ask questions about how non-defensive communication applies to many different every-day situations people have to deal deal with. Questions about the how to handle the kinds of behavior listed below (or anything else you can think of) can be asked as general questions and/or in the context of specific examples at work, home or in community meetings.
How can you respond when someone:
• Continues to interrupt you
• Won’t listen to what you are saying
• Puts down your ideas
• Is accusatory and blaming
• Is argumentative
• Is sarcastic
• Is bossy
• Is Rude
• Gives double messages
• Acts upset or sullen but won’t say what is wrong
• Makes excuses for not completing certain tasks
• Is often late for meetings or social engagements
• Breaks commitments
• Makes comments that show prejudice
• Refuses to hear feedback about her/his part in a problem
• Has an anger problem
• Refuses to take responsibility for her/his actions
• Blame others for her/his own behavior
How Sharon Strand Ellison Developed This Process
• What motivated you to develop this way of communicating?
• How did you develop this process?
• How long did it take you?
• How long did it take to write the book?
For more information in advance, see the book introduction: It's Just Human Nature — Or Is It?
How Sharon Ellison’s work compares to others, such as:
Deborah Tannen — John Gray — Marshall Rosenberg
• How does your work compare to Marshall Rosenberg’s
• Do you agree with John Gray’s point of view—that men and women have different communication needs and patterns?
• What do you think about Deborah Tannen’s idea that men and women communicate from a whole different perception of reality?
• Does your work support or contradict people like Gray and Tannen?
Questions about Societal Ramifications
• How can you say that violence isn’t “just human nature” given our history?
• You suggest that non-defensive communication is an evolutionary step that is essential to the survival of the human race. Can you explain that?
• What do you mean when you say that when we communicate non- defensively, we are “using power in a different way?”
• Do you think people in this country are ready to learn to be non- defensive?
• Why do you place so much importance on communication as a psychological, social, and/or political problem?
• What about economic injustice, racism, sexism? Aren’t other things bigger problems?
• How can non-defensive communication work when we face situations such as dealing with terrorists?
• How can changing how we communicate possibly make an impact in the face of the enormity of the problems we face at a global level?
• Do you have any examples that demonstrate how being non-defensive might have an impact when groups are in intense conflict and/or we are dealing with war and violence?
• To what degree do you think how we communicate influences human reality?
• How much effect do you think this book can have on how people deal with conflict and even violence?
• What do you think the relationship is between how we communicate and how we go about solving world problems?
• If everyone were to use this new communication process, what effect would it have on our world?
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