This is a verbal communication framework I’ve been studying for a year and it really simplifies our basic interactions. In knowing this model, you’ll be better prepared to understand the factors and intentions of why people say what they say. I can’t take credit for it, this model comes from my mentor Jim Bunch.
The communication model breaks down the content of our statements into 4 categories: Facts, opinions, feelings, and wants. The idea is that when you directly address all 4 of these things in communication, it makes your message clear and fully understood.
First are the facts. This is what actually happened with no emotional connection, and no assumptions. You know something is a fact when it’s impossible to disagree with. When you start by stating the facts, it creates a neutral ground and firm foundation.
Next comes opinions. This is when you state your perspective or frame of reference. This is an elaboration on the facts and how you’re interpreting it. Note that your interpretation is not factual itself, it’s simply your biased judgment of the facts. When you express your opinions with that level of awareness, people are more likely to listen and see where you’re coming from.
Then we get to feelings. This is the specific emotion that your opinion, interpretation, or judgment caused within you. When you communicate how you’re feeling about everything, it removes any blame or fault. This reduces the threat and allows people into your world so that they know how you have been impacted.
And last, we get to ‘wants’. This is your opportunity to talk about what you’d like to happen next. When teed up correctly, your ‘wants’ don’t come off as so selfish because you’ve explained the context, and your request is more reasonable.
In a practical example, this is how a manager might speak to an employee:
Fact - The deadline was yesterday and I did not receive the completed project
Opinion - To me this means that either you have too much on your plate, or you’re not being efficient with your work
Feelings - This makes me worried because we have a lot riding on servicing this client
Wants - In the future, I want you to meet your deadlines but if you know you’re going to miss it, give me 24 hours notice so that I can plan accordingly.
Doesn’t that feel effective, fair, and solution oriented? The next time you find yourself miscommunicating with someone else, take a step back and make sure all 4 elements of the communications model are being addressed! It will make things clear, smooth, and understandable.