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Destructive and Constructive Communication Techniques

Main Core Tie

Adult Roles And Responsibilities
Strand 2 Standard 1

Additional Core Ties

Adult Roles and Financial Literacy
Strand 4 Standard 2




Students will identify types of communication styles, types of destructive communication and constructive communication, and practice using I-messages.


Instructional Procedures

Primary Vocabulary:

  • Clarity
  • Reflective Listening
  • I-Messages
  • Timing
  • Asking Questions
  • Respect and Consideration

Secondary Vocabulary:

  • Blaming
  • Interrupting
  • Character Assassination
  • Withdrawal
  • Endless Fighting
  • Calling in Reinforcements
  • Need to be Right
  • Avoiding Intense Anger

Option A:
Have students get in small groups and hand them a small toy hammer. Tell the students that a hammer represents communication and there are 4 parts. Have them brainstorm ideas for labeling the four parts of the hammer of communication.

Process Questions:

  1. What was the hardest part of this activity?
  2. Who came up with the parts of the hammer to name? What were they?
  3. How hard was it to label the 4 parts of the hammer of communication?
  4. What did you label the parts?

Option B:
Read and discuss Calvin and Hobbes or any comic strip that deals with communication. Discuss how often we really communicate constructively or destructively with people we are surrounded with. Discuss how whole days can be ruined because of destructive communication. It was stated once that it takes take14 positive remarks to erase one Put--down. Ask the students why they think this is?

Content Outline, Activities and Teaching Strategies
(All options do not necessarily need to be taught. Select ones to cover standards and objectives and according to your district policies.)

Option 1: Constructive Destructive Communication Discussion
Have two students come to the front of the room and read/role play the Destructive Communication scene (pdf). Discuss destructive communication techniques while students are filling in the listening guide. Have students recall or construct examples of each of the types of destructive communication techniques. Share their ideas with the rest of the class.

Show video clips of destructive communication:

  • "LITTLE MERMAID": The king finds out Ariel has gone to the surface and saved a human, then destroys her cave of treasures
  • "FOOTLOOSE": The father slaps the daughter and tells her if she lives in his house .
  • "SCOTCH BRITE ADVERTISMENT": This is a video about plastic surgery.

In order to complete the performance objective have students fill out the Let's Communicate Worksheet (pdf) to review the destructive communications by checking them on the list. Have the students fill in the communication technique with a destructive communication type and then write a destructive communication example.

Have two students come to the front of the room and read / role play the Constructive Communication scene (pdf).

Discuss constructive communication techniques while student's fill in the listening guide (pdf).

Have students recall or construct examples of each of the types of constructive communication techniques. Share their ideas with the rest of the class.

Show video clips of constructive communication:

  • "Little Mermaid"
  • "FOOTLOOSE": The daughter is at the drive in and father shows up as they are dancing and he asked her if she had any money).

Use the worksheet Let's Communicate (pdf) to review the constructive communications by checking them on the list. Then have the students fill in the communication technique.

In order for students to understand how to use constructive communication using "I" message have students practice in small groups writing "I" messages on the You Message to I Messages (pdf).

To finish the performance activity hand out the performance handout as an assignment.

For more discussion information read the attached article Be Constructive, Not Destructive (pdf).

Option 2: Communication Demos
Divide the class into teams. Assign specific students a communication technique. Two members of one team should demonstrate the type of communication technique given to them. The opposing team tries to identify the type of communication technique they are demonstrating. It then becomes the other teams turn to demonstrate a communication technique.

Option 3: Video Clips
As a recap of the whole unit show video clips of Barefoot in the Park. The fight scene between Robert Redford and Jane Fonda is great for destructive communication. Use the Barefoot in the Park Teacher Notes (pdf) and the Barefoot in the Park Student Study Guide (pdf).

If you create an environment where negativity is not tolerated, where meetings and conversations take place with purpose and meaning, and where people praise and appreciate each other, then you start to bring out the best in people, productivity increases along with employee satisfaction. You also start to create fertile ground for trust to develop. People don't always know how to be great, but they want to be! Start by being great yourself and learn to be more masterful in your communication. Take care in what you feed your mind. You'll feel better and the people around you will be grateful for your lead.

Created: 07/04/2011
Updated: 02/05/2018