Friedeman Schulz von Thun is a German Professor for communication. His ideas and frameworks are very helpful for communicating, especially in a professional context. Unfortunately, his three most famous books („Miteinander reden“) are only available in German. He offers a small English booklet as summary of his frameworks on his website.
As I very much like his thinking, I translated his guiding principles from his website. You find the longer German original here.
1. Talking to each other
Successful communication is an eternal task of life, means and ends of being together. „That we are able to talk to each other makes us human“ (Karl Jaspers). Without good understanding, we are up to war and/or isolation, insults, and misunderstanding.
2. Social competence as a development goal
The ability to talk sensible to each other is the result of personal development and education. It is worthwhile and possible to get better in this core competence of life.
3. Those who know themselves communicate better
Becoming better in communicating is a personal matter. It is not only about rules and techniques. More importantly, you have to get hold of yourself in order to be authentic and situationally appropriate in any communication.
4. Coherence as north star
Authentic and situationally appropriate: this is the ideal of coherence. In order to be good, a communication has to be coherent. You need a fit with yourself as well as with the „truth of the situation“.
5. Inner pluralism – the inner team
Looking inside, we become aware that we do not have this one identity. There are different voices and views, often in disharmony. Yet it is possible to form an inner team that works together effectively.
6. Communication: who I am and how I behave
Communication has those two components of identity and behavior. We have to understand who we are and then communicate in such a way that we make ourselves understood
7. The square of communication
The way we behave and appear has always the four elements of any communication: (1) factual information, (2) disclosure about ourselves, (3) statement about the relationship, and (4) an appeal.
8. Meta-communication as competence and attitude
Being aware of those four elements of communication is the base for a promising meta-communication. This is the ability to talk about communication if the original communication is difficult or prone to fail. „Truth starts with two“ (Nietzsche) – with this attitude, things become easier and more human.
9. The square of values
Communication is always about values. Any virtue, any positive quality is always at risk to degenerate if it stands on its own and gets too much weight. Therefore, any virtue has to be matched with its sister virtue: honesty and discretion, understanding and self-assertion, empathy and distinction.
10. Rainbow qualities
When two opposite sister virtues come together, they create (like with sun and rain) a wonderful rainbow. The integration of opposites is the secret of any successful communication and life in general.
11. Expect differences and cope with them
People are different. A virtue one person needs is in abundance for another person. We need to learn „foreign“ languages to understand people who tick differently.
12. Professional communication
Communication has to be coherent with ourselves and the situation we are in. It has to fit to our role and the system we are acting in. This is particularly important in any professional communication. We have to understand what we want to make out of our professional role and what this role makes out of us.
13. Professionality and humanity
We have to combine a confident professionality with a developed humanity. Those two qualities rely on each other and at the same time lead to tension. Professionality aims at perfection and control. But those two goals are dangerous for our human soul.
14. Confidence of first and second order
In the world of professionality confidence of first order counts. Have everything under control, don’t show any weakness, be goal oriented with rational calculation. Yet a successful human development leads to a confidence of second order. Weaknesses and mistakes, fault and failure, injury and helplessness are not excommunicated, but integrated with dignity. This is true confidence.
15. Development with head, heart, hand, and foot
The development of communication needs four elements: (1) information and learning with your head (frameworks), (2) self inquiry by heart, (3) practice by hand, and (4) knowing where you stand.
16. The humanistic credo
Being human is not given to us, but something we have to do. „Be yourself and become who you are“ is the task. You have to accept yourself as you are. And it is only this acceptance that leads to the ability grow as a person. Communication is a good starting point.