Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0169 September 7, 2004 | 7,000 Subscribers...

Dear friends,

I hope that your Labor Day Holiday went well and now that we're back to work this week, I seek to deliver some short but useful information to minimize your efforts in being understood and helping those you work with do the same.

Most of us are notorious for delivering only partial truths in our communications. It's not that we're intentionally trying to mislead people, it's just that we're not always conscious of the what the whole message is we're trying to convey, or we're in too big of a hurry to think through all that we're trying to say. In this article, "Deliver the Whole Message," we look at a simple formula to help you communicate completely. Taking these simple steps will not only assure you say all you meant to say, but will likely get you what you want in a more peaceful fashion from others.

In this Issue:

Feature Article: Deliver the Whole Message

Resource: Fat Free Meetings

If any of you have any interesting stories or experiences about facilitation, group process, work groups, team building, training, etc. that might interest our readers, please send them to us.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis

Relating Skill

Deliver the Whole Message
Four questions to help you communicate completely.

The Point

It seems that according to Richard Maybury of Peak Performance Group, "The English language is built on polar terms. What are the midpoints when you try to place a term between good and bad, generous and stingy, polite and rude, success and failure?"

In my experience it seems that groups do tend to polarize around any given point of controversy, and though I hadn't considered that our language might be contributing to that, I can surely see how it could. I know personally that whenever someone speaks in absolutes, I feel a natural desire to counteract that view to move perspectives back to center, and I notice others tend to do the same.

What Comprises a "Whole Message?

Burt Albert, in his book, "Fat Free Meetings," tells us that a "whole' message consists of four types of statements, or parts, delivered in this sequence:

  • Observation (statements of fact)
  • Thoughts (inferences/conclusions drawn)
  • Feelings
  • Needs

Burt goes on to suggest that if a sender omits any one of these four elements in delivering their message--especially one dealing with an interpersonal, potentially volatile topic--the receiver may become confused, unconvinced, irritated, or alienated. And in a frenetic business world, where shorthand is often spoken, the likelihood of omission is significant.


Here's an example of a message fragment, commonly used in our business world delivered by Bill to Joe:

Well Joe, it look like we're not going to make that WInston Report deadline.

A more complete way of expressing that message using all four of the above elements might go something like this:

Joe, around 8:30 this morning I noticed two of the three people working on the WInston Report head off to assist another customer on the other side of town for what sounded like an all-morning affair. According to our schedule, we need a first draft of that report to the customer by this friday and yesterday, when you showed me the report, it was barely halfway done. (Observation) Based on our past performance with Winston, if he doesn't get the report by this Friday, as promised (Thought/Inference), I'm afraid we'll lose his follow on project which will amount to nearly $1M in annual revenue. (Feeling) I made a promise to him that we'd get this to him on time and with high quality, and you agreed to agreed to this schedule. I really want us to succeed on this project and earn his respect. (Need)

In this message, Joe is not attacked personally. Bill simply states what he saw, what he inferred, and how these inputs affect how he feels and what he needs. With this complete information, Joe is far more likely to accommodate Bill.

In your groups, you might want to post the following four questions for participants to consider whenever they have a difficult concern to convey to someone else in the room. Encourage them to use this approach in all their challenging communications in the workplace. Though it may take a little longer to communicate the "whole" message, it's apt to save a lot of time in the way of hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and missed deadlines.

  • What facts do you know based on what you actually saw, heard, or read?
  • What inferences or conclusions do you draw from the facts?
  • How do the inferences or conclusions make you feel (without blaming or judging anyone)?
  • What needs do you now have (without blaming or judging) because of the information you related above?


Use the four questions above to deliver a difficult message to someone this week. And/or offer this approach to your clients or coworkers and encourage them to use it in their next meeting? Please
send us your questions and comments.


Fat Free Meetings, by Burt Albert

Concise and upbeat (like an ideal meeting), this book zeros in on the shortcuts that move ideas into action and save countless hours and dollars. The guide offers specific advice on managing all types of meetings--from telephone calls to task force meetings, from face-to-face to electronic, in both real and virtual offices. These guidelines can help transform meetings from tepid talkfests into dynamic events.

In the Spotlight

Happy Holiday Week!

Thought I'd spare you a full advertisement this week. But did want to offer you a link to our new product page that lists all our offerings at

Enjoy your week!

Thanks for reading.

Steve Davis

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