The 4 Sides of a Message Applied



Let’s look into these “4 sides of a message” and how to apply them with the help of a little example everyone can easily relate to.


As explained in Post 006 about “The 4 Sides of a Message”, one and the same message easily can have a very different meaning depending on which party you ask in a conversation.

For the sake of repetition, here are again…


The 4 Sides of a Message (The Communication Square)

For the sake of repetition, basically there are four sides to every message:

–          The Information – or ‘What I want to inform about’

–          The Self-Revelation – or ‘What I tell about myself’

–          The Relationship – or ‘What I think about you and how we relate to one another’

–          The Demand – or ‘What I want you to do’


The 4 Sides of a Message


The 4 Sides of a Message Applied – A Real-Life Example

Imagine following situation:

He is sitting in the living room on the couch in front of the TV relaxing while She is busy preparing dinner in the kitchen. Suddenly he calls across the apartment,…

“Honey, my glass is empty!”

(Please understand this is a totally made-up situation. It could just as well be the other way around. In case you feel offended by it, keep reading this article to the end for clarification. You may be up to an enlightening moment of understanding yourself better.  )


The Analysis

The Information – or ‘What I want to inform about’

First of all we get some information about the state of this man’s glass. It is empty. If in this situation his comment was purely about the information this conversation would stop right there. She could say or think, “OK.”, and do nothing further with it.

In most cases we human beings mix some kind of emotions in our communication and therefore we can assume this man had different intentions.


The Self-Revelation – or ‘What I tell about myself’

Besides the information about the empty glass, He is telling us quite some things about himself. We get to know that he obviously is awake and has not fallen asleep watching TV. He can see and can think clear enough to recognize his glass is empty.

Moreover, we could assume he is very comfortable on the couch and does not want to move. Or maybe for some reason he even cannot move.

Please note, every message contains some kind of self-revelation.


The Relationship – or ‘What I think about you and how we relate to one another’

From His statement we can derive which kind of relation (or relationship) these two people have with one another. Often this shows through the tone of voice or other non-verbal signals.

In many cases this side of a message is the root of misunderstandings because the receiver feels treated in a certain way.

If He happens to use the “wrong” tone of voice She might snap back at him and (e.g.) make clear she was not his servant. On the same level He may have meant to ask for a little favor because he in fact was very comfortable and did not mean to order a fresh drink like at a bar. Or He heard the noise of glasses clinging assuming she was also doing the dishes and he just wanted to tell that his glass was empty to go into the dishwasher before switching it on.

The relation side of a message is a very problematic issue and you better be very careful about how you send or interpret a message. Any conversation can quickly drift off into the wrong direction if either of the parties is very sensitive here.


The Demand – or ‘What I want you to do’

This side of the message implies a demand or claim of some sort. In fact with almost everything we say we follow some kind of intention. We want to achieve a certain goal and therefore we always try to take some kind of action towards this goal.

In our example the “demand” could be, “Would you mind bringing me another drink?” or “My glass can be washed, too. Could you please pick it up?”


You can see, even a simple statement like the one taken as an example here, can cause a serious misunderstanding and possibly a huge argument or just pass by and not even be remembered the next day. Again, all that depends on how the persons involved interpret this statement and what they make of it in their heads.


Your Assignment

As suggested in my previous post “The 4 Sides of a Message” try the following:

From now on pay attention to the four sides of a message. Investigate which one you tend to use in which situation when sending and which one you are very sensitive to and focus on when being on the receiving end.

Just give it a go. Try it and play with it. Leave a comment below and share your experience with our community.


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– Miteinander Reden 1, Friedemann Schulz von Thun, 2003

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