Anja Stork


What is the green in the sauce?

As a UX consultant, I often deal with the question of how I can best prepare my thoughts so that our customers can better understand our ideas and concepts and thus understand them. In doing so, I like to fall back on proven communication mechanisms that support the structure of a presentation or a conversation. Even if these insights are not brand new: It is worth dusting off communication theorists from time to time and consulting them.

"Every communication has a content and relationship aspect" explains Paul Watzlawick, Austrian-American communication scientist, psychotherapist, sociologist, philosopher and author. Also the message square of Friedemann Schulz of Thun underlines this statement.

News square by Friedemann Schulz von Thun

The recipient decides which message to listen to. Sound and facial expressions of the sender play just as much a role as previous experiences or the mood of the recipient. If we look at the message levels in the graphic, the following information is transported with each message.

Detailed view: News square by Friedemann Schulz von Thun

Disturbances and conflicts arise when sender and receiver interpret and/or weight the four levels differently. The following example illustrates this disproportion.

Example: News square

In addition, we can better convince our counterpart of our arguments if we base our choice of arguments on his values. This is where the Riemann-Thomann scale comes into play, with which people can be better assessed in order to then use arguments - related to target groups, so to speak. The model classifies persons or relationships as follows:

  • The visionary acts between the values proximity and change.
  • The team player acts between the values proximity and duration.
  • The revisor acts between the values duration and distance.
  • The strategist acts between the values distance and change.

Norms and values are important for the rational distance type. If it agrees with the norms and values chosen in the argumentation, it will be open-minded. Innovations, trends and professional authorities play a major role for the restless change-over type. To convince him, I would rely on expert opinions and statements to support my own statements. The social proximity type is more likely to be won through personal experience. In order for the conversation to be perceived as authentic, however, these should be based on real experiences. Statistics and studies convey competence and credibility. With provable facts and analyses you convince the strategically thinking long-term type.

When I face an unknown audience, I work out a mix of different types of argumentation. This way I can prepare myself optimally for the topic in advance and reach all four types with my arguments.

If you are looking for further inspiration on this topic, I recommend a lecture or seminar by René Borbonus.

PS: You can find this and other delicious recipes here.

Anja Stork

UX Consultant


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