Five Finger Communication

Here is a handout I pull out at least once a week to offer to clients. It puts the basics of a good sending message at the tips of your fingers -literally! Each finger represents one of the five essential components of a message.

The thumb represents the overall issue. For example, I might say to my partner, “I’d like to talk with you about housekeeping issues”. The thumb is also a reminder to ask, “Is this a good time to have this conversation?” Thumbs up, “yes”, or thumbs down, “no”.

The pointer finger is a reminder to point to the facts. Using my example, I might add, “The wet towels were left in a heap on the bathroom floor after your shower and they stayed there all day.” I don’t want to add any judgment. I want to stick to the facts.

The middle finger reminds me to name my feelings. I tell my clients that the middle finger if used the right (or wrong!) way can engender lots of feelings! In my example I might say, “I feel annoyed and afraid of mildew problems.”

The ring finger represents my needs. I want to identify the need underlying my feelings. I might add, “I have a need for order and cleanliness.”

The pinky reminds me to state my request. “I’m wondering if you’d be willing to hang up the towels on the hook after your shower?” A request is much easier to hear than a demand and it usually is all that is needed to let someone know how they can help make your life more wonderful. Requests also present an attitude of cooperation and dialogue.

This simple tool has been very helpful to my clients over the years. The components are straight out of Marshall Rosenberg’s, Nonviolent Communication, material. I find his work to offer the most powerful communication teaching tools.

I give my clients a copy of the hand handout so they can remember the components and practice using this at home.