The 4 Sides of a Message or Communication Square
By internalizing the 4-sides model, we succeed as coaches to better understand the statements of the client. We are able to capture the matter of fact, the relationship, the appeal, and the client’s self-revelation in his/her statement. This allows us to evaluate which aspect is superficial and essential for the client. By practicing the conversational situations, we strengthen our ability to respond to these aspects in a targeted manner and to bring the client back to the matter of fact level or, to address the clarification of the coach-client relationship.
The communication square is a widespread communication model. This model also became known as the ‘four-ear-model’. The four levels of communication are not just significant for private companionship, but especially for the vocational domain—where the professional and human are constantly interlocking.
The four sides model of communication is a communication model by German Friedemann Schulz von Thun that explains the idea that every message has four facets. It combines the postulate that every communication has a content and a relationship aspect – well known from the approach of Paul Watzlawick – as well as that every information contains something about the matter, the sender and the receiver.
The four facets or layers are
- The fact or matter layer that contains statements, which are matter of fact like data and facts, which are part of the news
- The self-revealing side – tells something about him-/herself, his motivation, values, emotions etc. – conscious or not intended
- In the relationship layer is expressed / received, how the sender gets along with the receiver and what he thinks of him
- The appeal facet contains the desire, advice, instruction and effects that the speaker is seeking for
On the matter layer the sender of the news gives data, facts and statements. It is the task of the sender to send this information clearly and understandably.
The receiver proves with the Matter ear, whether the matter message fulfills the criteria of truth or relevance and the completeness. In a long-term team, the matter layer is clear and needs only a few words.
In every news, there is information about the sender. On the layer of the self-revealing or self-disclosure the sender reveals himself. This message consists of conscious intended self-expression as well as unintended self-revealing, which is not conscious to the sender. Thus, every news becomes information about the personality of the sender.
The self-revealing ear of the receiver perceives which information about the sender is hidden in the message.
The relationship layer expresses how the sender gets along with the receiver and what he thinks about him. Depending on how he talks to him he expresses esteem, respect, friendliness, disinterest, contempt or something else.
Depending on which message the receiver hears with relationship ear, he feels either depressed, accepted or patronized. A good communication is distinguished by communication from mutual appreciation.
Who states something, will also affect something. This appeal-message should make the receiver do something or leave something undone. The attempt to influence someone can be less or more open, like an advice or hidden, like a manipulation
On the appeal ear, the receiver asks himself: “What should I do, think or feel now?”
The emphasis on the four layers can be meant differently and be understood differently. Therefore, the sender can stress the appeal of the statement and the receiver can mainly receive the relationship part of the message. This is one of the main reasons for misunderstandings.
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