Using the 4-ears communication model

Communication models usually come with lots of footnotes – about the situation, context or just so that you do not use an overly complicated model for a much more trivial situation. I guess it is common to catch a glimpse of something in a conversation and then try to make sense of the information using a communication model. This can be done so that you do not overlook a conceived aspect of the situation. With time you may be able to switch concepts faster and on-the-run, but this depends on your personal use of a set of models.

Having said this, the 4-ears communication model has, in my opinion, a very big flaw. It does not include the option for ignorance once you have begun evaluating the information this way. In recruitment this can often lead you to a headache as some of the people you will be talking to over-share. The overflow of communication can be about personal life, aspirations or any other detail, really. For some it comes natural and other try to enforce a superficial bond between recruiter and applicant. You are left with a bouquet of statements – factual, relational and so on, and it seems hard to transition through all the conversation phases on such mixed information. You may want to “structure” the flow, or person.

Even if I have already emphasized how important summarization can be, let me do it again. It works miracles as long as you do not take it over the top. Depending on the communication style, and model, this technique can take slightly different forms, but let us think about the 4-ears communication model and the described abundance of information.

You will need to navigate the communication flow.

  1. Bottom line – this summary can list key statements over the persona or experience you wish to talk about in more detail. I have heard this being described as ‘keeping the momentum’. Here, as well with the other two types, you can use contrast between two statements (in a very polite form, of course).
  2. Bridging – drawing a line between two points can be used to go into detail about a conflict, interest, intention or engagement.
  3. Passing over – often in the form of a question, this summary can be aimed directly at probing for different outcomes.

Thus, the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” takes the right turn towards a more specific set of outcomes, and you still get to choose if you are talking about someone’s personal or professional life, which stage, where etc.

Please keep in mind, as said above – using the summarization technique too often is the exact equivalent of flooding a conversation with information of all sorts. It stalls the flow instead of structuring it. If you engage in exchange of excessive information and summaries, the result can perhaps resemble paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, as illustrated below:


Zeno’s paradoxes. Photo borrowed from the article

Please keep in mind that the 4-ears communication model requires not only to manage the information flow, but to also be open to hearing what the other person is communicating. If you try to structure prematurely, you are just crippling the discussion.



Photo by Unsplash

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