Mental Health Blog

From Fractured Communication to Whole Messages

Posted by Mackenzie Sodestrom on


A common reasoning for seeking counseling is to improve communication skills. Many of us grew up in families that struggled to model healthy communication, conflict resolution, and expressing emotional needs. Without the proper training we repeat the same faulty tools we learned, leaving our communication fractured, passive aggressive, defensive, and unclear. It is not uncommon to only partially communicate our thoughts and feelings and yet feel wholly unsatisfied with the result.

Communicating in whole messages involves four components: observation, thought, feeling, and need. Communicating via whole messages ensures you are doing your part to best represent what is going on internally for you and not put the listener in the position of mind reading (spoiler alert: they cannot read your mind, no matter how long you’ve known them). Let’s take a look at the four parts of whole communication:

  • Observation: what do you notice?
  • Thought: what are your interpretations about the observation?
  • Feeling: how are you feeling about the observation?
  • Need: what need would you like met/what request can you make?

Examples of whole messages:
O: I noticed you’ve been silent since I got home.
T: I realize that I may have frustrated you with what I said earlier.
F: I’m feeling hurt by your silence.
N: When you're ready can we talk about what happened so we can move forward?

O: Finals are coming up soon.
T: It’s important to study and do well.
F: I feel like you don’t trust me to budget my time.
N: Can you let me study on my own timeline?

Are there certain relationships that you are noticing feeling the most frustrated in communication - your marriage, workplace, with children, friends? Where can you start practicing whole messages this week?

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