What are shapes that have 4 sides

4-ear model: the four sides of a message

The four-ear model (also known as the “four-sided model” or “communication square”) is a communication model by Friedemann Schulz von Thun. According to this, each message contains not just one, but four messages at the same time, which we perceive on four different levels. The 4 ears model illustrates why people misunderstand or talk past one another. How does the 4 side model work? We also give practical examples and tips on how to avoid misunderstandings in the future ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

The 4-ear model simply explained

According to the 4-ear model, a message basically consists of four messages and levels. Schulz von Thun speaks of the "four sides of a message" and depicts it in four colors as a square. Hence alternative names for the communication model such as "four-side model", "message square" or "communication square":

  1. Factual level (blue): What is the speaker informing about
  2. Self-revelation (green): What does the speaker reveal about himself
  3. Relationship level (yellow): What is the position of the speaker in relation to the recipient
  4. appeal (red): What does the speaker want from the recipient

The sender (or speaker) communicates something on four different levels (“with four beaks”). The recipient (or listener) receives the message on four levels (“with four ears”). If the levels do not fit together, different interpretations will result. Conversely, it will be easier to avoid future communication conflicts if interlocutors are aware of these four sides of a message and communicate on the same level.

How does the 4 ears model work?

1. Factual level

Facts and data are communicated at the factual level. If the recipient listens with the "factual ear", he asks himself what information the sender is transmitting through the message. It checks whether the information transmitted is true or untrue, relevant or irrelevant, or whether it needs to be supplemented or inquired. In order to avoid irritation, the speaker should express himself unequivocally.

2. Self-revelation

This side of the message, the "self-disclosure", is often not clear to the speaker. No matter what you say, you always reveal something about yourself and your own personality at the same time. For example, your own emotions, values, views and needs. True to the motto: "What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than about Paul." This self-revelation can be deliberate. More often, however, it happens unconsciously - through choice of words, emphasis, gestures and facial expressions. In this way, the recipient feels that there is more in the subtext.

3. Relationship level

On the relationship level, the third ear, the recipient learns how the sender feels about him or her. Here, too, body language supports what is said. A frown, a smile or a wink convey whether someone is irritated or, for example, flirting with us. Depending on whether the recipient hears the message primarily at the relationship level, he or she may feel valued or attacked.

4th roll call

With an appeal, the sender makes it clear what he or she wants from the recipient. These can be requests, orders, wishes or advice directed directly to the recipient. The appeal can also be hidden between the lines - for example, when the message is supposed to influence the recipient. If the recipient hears the message predominantly with the “appeal ear”, he asks himself what to do or not to do and whether or not to follow the request.

This is how misunderstandings and conflicts arise

The colors and levels explain how misunderstandings arise. Even if the understanding at the factual level of the sender and recipient is identical during a dialogue, discrepancies and fallacies can arise. Reason: If the sender and recipient weight the four sides of a message differently, they can still talk past each other. For example, if someone wants to make an appeal to the other person while he or she is only listening on the relationship ear, a conflict can easily arise.

4-ear model examples

Communication always needs a sender and a receiver. The sender tries to deliver his message and encodes it by transmitting the message using voice, writing or body language. The recipient's job is to decode this message. This does not always work out as intended by the broadcaster.

4-ear model man-woman

The following example comes from Schulz von Thun's work “Talking to Each Other”: A man and a woman are sitting in the car, she is driving. She stops at a red light. When the traffic light switches from yellow to green, the woman does not drive off immediately, whereupon the man says: “It's green.” The woman's answer: “Am I driving or are you driving?” What happened? On the level of meaning in the 4 ears model, the woman can interpret the message completely differently if she does not pick it up with her factual ear, but instead with the self-disclosure ear, relationship ear or appeal ear.

What the sender could mean

  • Factual level: "The traffic light has switched to green."
  • Self-revelation: "I'm in a hurry and want to drive off."
  • Relationship: "I can drive better."
  • Appeal: "Go ahead!"

What can reach the recipient

  • Factual level: "The traffic light is green."
  • Self-revelation: "You're too slow."
  • Relationship: "You can't drive a car."
  • Appeal: "I'll drive again next time."

The example plays with a classic cliché, of course. But it does a good job of illustrating how the 4-ear model works. What is unfavorable about this situation is that the woman primarily hears the statement from the “relationship or appeal ear”. The statement is then an insult. Your husband, on the other hand, may have emphasized the level of self-disclosure or appeal.

4-ears model mother-son

Another example of the 4-ear model: a son asks his mother to make his favorite dessert. The son tries the dessert and asks: "Did you make the dessert differently?"

What the sender could mean

  • Factual level: "The dessert tastes different than usual."
  • Self-revelation: "The dessert is better / worse."
  • Relationship: "I want to give honest feedback."
  • Appeal: "Please do the dessert again and again / never again."

What can reach the recipient

  • Factual level: "The dessert tastes different than usual."
  • Self-revelation: "I am disappointed / excited."
  • Relationship: "You can't cook / great."
  • Appeal: "Please no / more experiments!"

This example illustrates the wide range of possible interpretations: Without additional information such as “He grimaced in disgust” or “A smile crossed his face”, the son's question cannot be clearly interpreted on a textual level. In the specific situation, the recipient of the message (the mother) is particularly dependent on further signals in order to correctly understand the question and to respond appropriately. The same question can be both a compliment and a criticism.

4-ears-model clerk for office management

As a clerk for office management, service-oriented, diplomatic behavior towards customers is an important part of social skills. Suppose you received a phone call from a customer saying, "I've been waiting ten days for the delivery."

What the sender could mean

  • Factual level: "The ordered delivery has not yet arrived."
  • Self-revelation: "As a result, I am getting behind schedule with my tasks."
  • Relationship: "I am disappointed because I have always seen you as a reliable business partner."
  • Appeal: "Could you speed up the process and assure me of the definitive delivery date?"

What can reach the recipient

  • Factual level: "There is a problem with the delivery."
  • Self-revelation: "I am dissatisfied with the performance."
  • Relationship: "This is sloppy work!"
  • Appeal: "I expect compensation for my anger."

Much can be interpreted into the above sentence - if the office management clerk hears with the relationship ear, she may feel unnecessarily attacked if the sender wants to communicate primarily on the level of self-disclosure. If the recipient perceives this, she can defuse the incipient conflict by offering reparations or better conditions.

4 ears model at work

The 4-ear model can be applied to all areas of life: family, school, work. Wherever people talk to each other regularly, they can - consciously or unconsciously - get one another wrong. In school or at work, however, this often has more negative consequences, because there is less emotional connection here or there is generally less trust. If you use the 4-ear model at work, you should therefore pay attention to the following points:

  • Make sure you use precise and unambiguous language.
  • The statements should be free of irony and sarcasm.
  • You should clearly formulate a request or wish.
  • Hidden clues are taboo and can be understood passively and aggressively.
  • The same applies to subliminal allegations.
  • Make sure the message was understood correctly.
  • If you are unsure, ask actively.
    • Make yourself aware: Despite clear communication and unambiguous words, it is not 100 percent in the power of the sender whether the recipient receives a message as it was intended. This is due, among other things, to the complexity of the statement, the precision of the formulation, the cognitive abilities of the recipient and his current daily form. In addition, there is often what is known as non-verbal communication. Paraverbal signals can trigger a feeling of disturbance when transmitting messages or even turn the message into the opposite.

      Why active listening is becoming increasingly important

      Most people don't even listen with two ears: they prefer to talk. Today, almost every promising employee is expected to have strong communication skills: He or she should be able to present, argue, convince - and all thanks to rousing eloquence and polished rhetoric. Not all wrong. But that quality is often forgotten that is far less exhausting and, on top of that, often leads to the goal much faster: listening. The 4-ear model reminds and admonishes us to do so, so to speak.

      Listening is a virtue - and an important key to success on top of that. Those who listen learn more and can make better decisions. Listeners can differentiate between the important and the unimportant - and then comment accordingly. They make the other person feel respected and valued. And: if you listen more, you can tell less nonsense. In short: if you really have something to say, you must first listen.

      Talking is silver - listening is gold

      Harvard professor William Ury was able to demonstrate the positive effect of listening. His studies showed that people who actively listen to their counterparts achieve better negotiation results than those who mainly put forward their own arguments and ideas. In experiments by scientists at the University of Tennessee, on the other hand, a third of the test subjects rated good listeners as having the greatest communication skills - one of the 10 most important soft skills.

      Amazing, but true: There are numerous coaches, trainers and meters of advice literature on how we can give better speeches, present more convincingly, sell better. But almost no seminars, trainings, books about better listening. We learn 85 percent of what we know through listening. In order to avoid misinterpretations, misunderstandings and conflicts among colleagues or friends in the future, it is advisable to listen with at least two ears, but even better with four ears. And vice versa, to become aware of your four “beaks”.

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      [Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]