The Messages We Send

Module #2 –

The Messages We Send 



Welcome to Module 2 of the coaching program on

“Say It! Hear It! – The Power of Effective Communication.” Communication can be defined as, "the need to impart thoughts, opinions, or information by speech or writing to others.”  Yet despite this need, it’s difficult to truly express what you see, think, and feel because you are communicating from your own unique perspectives as an individual. 

As George Bernard Shaw once said, 

‘The problem with communication ... is the illusion that it has been accomplished.’


That’s because communication involves both the sharing of information AND the receiving of information.  Between these two ends, many messages, not just one, are being sent and received.


In this module, you will look further at communication by exploring a conceptual model that helps to show its multi-layered intricacies.”

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“The Four Sides of Communication”






The Top Side = Facts – This is the information, facts, or data being conveyed.

  • This top side of a message contains some kind of information, facts, or data that you are trying to convey to someone else.
  • This is the part of a message that is most apparent through your verbal signals.


The Second Side = Self-Revelation – This is what the sender is saying about him or herself.

  • In addition to factual information, every message also contains information about the sender; the sender is always giving away something about him or herself.
  • This second side of a message gives hints about what is going on inside the sender, such as how he sees himself, and how he would like to be seen by others.
  • This may occur in an explicit or implicit way; usually it is implicit, in the form of an unintended self-disclosure.


The Bottom Side = Relationship – This is how the sender relates to the receiver.

  • Every message also says something about the relationship between the sender and the receiver, what they feel for each other, and how they are connected with each other.
  • This side of the message is also expressed through tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions -  through nonverbal signals.


The Fourth Side = Appeal – This is what the sender wants to effect on the part of the receiver. 

  • A message normally is not sent without a reason or intention behind it.  Generally, it is linked with a wish to influence the other person in some way.
  • The sender expects not only that her message will be understood, but also that the recipient will react in some way, and take some sort of action as a result. 

As you can see from this representation of communication by the German psychologist and interpersonal communication expert Friedemann Schultz von Thun, the messages you are sending and receiving are comprised of four sides.

Underline or highlight on your worksheet the key points that resonate with you most.



Here is an example from Friedemann Schultz von Thun that illustrates his model, and shows how the sender is actually sending four simultaneous messages that the receiver is hearing.


A front-seat passenger in a car tells the driver: “Hey driver, the traffic light is green.”  The driver may understand a different message depending on which of the four sides of communication he hears.

  • Fact Side: He could take the comment as a simple fact observation: “The traffic light is green. 
  • Self-Revelation Side: The driver could take the comment to be a self-disclosure about the passenger: “I am in a hurry.”
  • Relationship Side: The driver could also perceive the comment as a concern for the driver: “I want to help you navigate because there’s a lot going on.” 
  • Appeal Side: But the driver could also take the comment to be an appeal: “Come on, drive!” 

Because of these different sides, a message can be meant one way by the sender and understood another way by the receiver.  This is often the reason for miscommunication with others.

Connecting with someone else can be challenging; that’s why communication has rightly been called a two-way process because it involves the sharing AND receiving of information. 

Often it’s not a lack of information that leads to poor communication, but the way our message was delivered AND received. In most cases, we don’t need to do more communication; we just need to do it better!


The Challenges in Connecting with Others