In order to better understand what others want from you, and to convey to them what you need, it is important to correctly build a conversation. This skill is useful in relationships with friends, and with a partner, and with parents, and especially with colleagues and subordinates. Alex Osterwalder and Stefano Mastrogiacomo, authors of Teamwork Tools, believe that it is difficult to build trust between people and a sense of psychological security without such a skill. That is why they offer to master it.

The Alpina Publisher publishing house has released a work in, and we publish an excerpt from the fourth chapter.

The Fact Locator suggests questions to bring clarity to the conversation. These questions give other participants the opportunity to formulate their thoughts more precisely and clearly.

The tool is based on a simple principle: a dialogue based on concrete facts is better than a dialogue based on assumptions. Participation in such a dialogue requires preparation, as we tend to omit or misrepresent information. Distortion is a direct consequence of a three-level process meaning formation:

  1. Perception: We begin by becoming familiar with or knowing the situation.
  2. Interpretation: We give meaning to a given situation, interpret it, or form a hypothesis.
  3. Evaluation: We share an assessment of a situation, a judgment, or a derived rule.

Breaking this order leads us into one (or more) of the five communication pitfalls:

  1. Unclear Facts or Impressions: Missing key information from the description.
  2. Generalizations: when we turn a special case into a universal law.
  3. Assumptions: Creative interpretation of an impression or situation.
  4. Constraints: Imaginary limits and obligations that limit choices.
  5. Value judgments: subjective assessments of a thing, situation, or person.

These pitfalls illustrate the difference between what psychologists call first-order reality and second-order reality. The reality of the first order is formed under the influence of the physically perceived – through the five senses – the qualities of a thing or situation. The realities of the second order include individual interpretations of the reality of the first order (judgments, hypotheses, assumptions, etc.).

For example, Ann might say “I’m hungry” (fact based communication, first tier reality) or loudly complain “We always eat too late” (value judgment, second tier reality) to indicate that she is hungry. The second statement causes communication problems and leads to conflicts, quarrels and dead ends. This is most evident during quarrels.

By helping to uncover facts (first-order reality) hidden behind ambiguous statements (second-order reality), the Fact Locator increases conversational productivity.

Fact Locator helps you:

  • Ask like a pro – identify and overcome common verbal traps.
  • Improve the quality of information and decisions – clarify what is being said: what others and yourself are saying.
  • Save energy – have shorter and more effective dialogues.

The Five Pitfalls of Communication

1. Initial situation

At a local fast food restaurant, Ivan sees a man eating three burgers.

He can express his impressions to the point, in fact. “Yesterday I saw a man who ate three burgers at a local fast food restaurant.”

2. Pitfalls of communication

Ivan can also fall into one of these traps when talking about his experiences.

3. Clarifying questions

These questions help to understand the facts and impressions (first-order reality) behind individual interpretation (second-order realities). This moves the conversation out of the gray area of ​​vagueness and vagueness into the central area of ​​concrete facts.

On practice

The practical application of the fact locator occurs in two stages:

  1. Hear: identify the trap. What did you hear – an assumption, a limitation, a generalization, a value judgment, or incomplete facts?
  2. You ask: you ask one of the proposed clarifying questions in order to return the dialogue to the center, that is, to the area of ​​exhaustive facts and impressions. Clarifying questions are neutral and open in form – they do not contain value judgments and do not require a short answer (yes / no).

Clarify incomplete facts or impressions

Questions help clarify facts.


  • “I have heard…”
  • “They said…”
  • “She saw…”
  • “I feel…”


  • Who? What?
  • When? Where?
  • How? How?
  • Could you be more precise?
  • What do you mean when you say…?

The designers said they needed more time.

– Could you be more precise?

Clarify Assumptions

Questions help uncover causal relationships.


  • “He/she thinks…”
  • “He/she thinks…”
  • “He/she shouldn’t/should…”
  • “He/she loves…”
  • “You/they… will…”
  • “Business/life/love…will be…”


  • Why do you think that…?
  • How do you know…?
  • What facts show that…?
  • What makes you think so?

“I think if we get the materials in two days, the whole project will be delayed by two months.

How can two days lead to a two-month delay?

Clarify Limitations

Questions help establish the cause or effect of a belief.


  • “I must”
  • “We should”
  • “I cant…”
  • “I don’t…”
  • “We should not…”


  • What happens if…?
  • What’s stopping you/us from…?

— I can’t, we’ve never worked like that, it’s not typical for us.

“I see, but if you try, what will happen?”

Clarify generalizations

Questions help bring out the conflict.


  • “Is always”
  • “Never”
  • “Nobody”
  • “All”
  • “People”


  • Is always?
  • Never?
  • Nobody?
  • All?
  • People?
  • Are you sure?

“The risks are high, everyone has lost their enthusiasm.

– All?

Clarify value judgments

Questions help to identify the evaluation criteria behind the judgment.


  • “I think…”
  • “Life is…”
  • “That’s good/bad for…”
  • “It’s important for…”
  • “It’s easy/hard…”


  • Why do you think..?
  • How does it manifest itself?
  • In what way is this unacceptable?
  • Are you worried about something?

“It is important that we first achieve my goals.

– What makes you think so?

Teamwork Tools is the perfect reference book for leaders. It will help to create a team whose members will feel comfortable and at the same time achieve high results. On the pages you will find simple and visual instructions that you can immediately try with your team. Although some strategies will be useful to every person, regardless of profession and position.