Where does the communication go wrong

Communication: When a simple sentence starts a huge argument

In Germany he is the old master when it comes to successful communication: Friedemann Schulz von Thun (70) explained in an understandable way why conversations fail so often and how we can do better with his classic "Talking to each other", which has been sold more than 1.3 million times can.

This Friday (September 12th) the Hamburg psychologist and media scientist Bernhard Pörksen from Tübingen are presenting a book that shows the applicability of his research to a wide range of areas of life - from upbringing to dealing with death.

Schulz von Thun has found a concise example of his model of the “four sides of one message”. The man in the passenger seat says to his wife at the wheel: “The traffic light is green.” The sentence contains a factual message, but also a lot more. It can be understood as an appeal (“drive off at last”), as a self-declaration (“I'm in a hurry”) and as a relationship message (“I drive a car much better than you”).

And these "four beaks" at the transmitter have their counterpart in "four ears" at the receiver. If the right beak doesn't hit the right ear here, communication will go wrong.

In over 200 pages of an intelligent, yet understandable dialogue with Pörksen, Schulz von Thun reports on how he came up with his ideas and why he was denied a great university career. His orientation towards practice was frowned upon in university psychology at the time.

That is why he “made the life decision at some point not to appear at specialist congresses and to be present in specialist journals, but to write paperbacks and socialize”.

Different voices in the head

Schulz von Thun developed another easy-to-understand picture. The different voices that respond to challenges and problems in a person are what he calls "inner team".

And he suggests treating this team like any other: Everyone can have their say. Even unpleasant voices (such as the “greedy” or the “procrastinator” in me) are first valued and must not be silenced.

In his opinion, this is elementary, because internally, too: “Those who feel ignored will take revenge”, for example through burnout or depression. According to the psychologist, this “inner group dynamic” leads to an understanding of oneself. And that in turn is a prerequisite for communicating better with others.