1.1 How to distinguish Constructive Communication from Positive Communication

Article translated by dott. Federica Franca, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Let’s be clear. The Four Distances Model for an effective and constructive communication” (original title: “Parliamoci chiaro. Il modello delle quattro distanze per una comunicazione efficace e costruttiva”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Gribaudo.

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts”

Sir Winston Churchill

This is true: we often – very often – fail when we communicate. We cannot convince a family member to do a certain task, a customer to buy a certain product, nor a traffic warden not to fine us. Yet, intent is what matters.

Constructive Communication (CC) is defined by the intent and the ability to build a project or to make some progress within a project, to take steps forward and to make a decision. CC is an essential skill for people who work in fields – such as management, leadership, education – where, at the end of the day, a project or an idea must be fulfilled.

On the other hand, Positive Communication (CP) is characterized by the environment and relationships positivity and by relaxed and serene human interactions. CP restores people who take part in it.

Those who never live in places and times of positive communication end up being intoxicated and never recover.

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop”


Taking into account the combination of these two variables, four major types of communication result.

Fig. 1 – Four models of communication and quality of communication

Figure 1 represents:

  1. State A – Toxic prison: a communication form that aims at destroying, blocking, obstructing, slowing down and hindering. It is combined with a toxic emotional experience. This is the worst case of Toxic Leadership, as people living in such environment are unable to finish projects and their daily experience is emotionally miserable and possibly detrimental to their physical and mental health. When referring to family or other social systems, this condition veils every member of the “communicative aquarium”, projects do not get off the ground – or, if they do, they stop – people hamper each other, the communication is unclear or aggressive and the emotional environment is full of fear, anger, regret and sorrow.

 2. State B – Hard work and Silence: a communication form that is dominated by clarity and language precision, by goals that must not make room for human factor – unless they are forced to – and that aims at building, starting and finishing projects. This condition is associated with a negative emotional experience that produces a rather contaminated “communication aquarium” because of feelings of anxiety or haste among people. Mentioning leadership, this is a very common case: people do what they are asked to do, but guided by a background of negative experiences, hatred and resentment towards each other, negative and unnecessary competitiveness – the meanest or the most result-oriented wins and they do not care for the others. “If one of the members fails, I gain in visibility, because I will be considered better than them”: this is one of the toxic values that feeds state B. These types of environments are emotionally wretched and detrimental to physical and mental health, with the only counterbalance being that things get done and some results are achieved, even though some people might be harmed. When considering family environment, things work from a strictly practical point of view, but dining together represents a sad or toxic time; things work from neither an emotional perspective nor in terms of the emotional nourishment a family or a group could and should give to each of its members.

 3. State C – Regeneration: a communication form that is neither practical and pragmatic nor task-oriented, with little or no interest in achieving goals. Regeneration is characterized by positive feelings and a pleasant emotional experience. With regard to leadership, we are referring to a group that lives well but does not produce. In a family, these moments are pleasant and relaxing, not veiled by deadlines and tasks, and they are vital to an overall balance, as people are recover and recharge their batteries.

4. State D – Flow: the most effective communicative and interpersonal condition; every task is accomplished, every goal is achieved, every project is carried out and the emotional environment is positive, results are shared and people are joyful and pleased to be part of the team. In a company, this condition can be described as the “State Business Flow” (a state of positive “flow”). Speaking of family, members manage to develop and conclude their ideas and ambition through mutual support and projects are carried out and developed. The environment is a peaceful and productive and it is made of respectful internal relationships of love, passion, joy and happiness.

We cannot yet refer to this taxonomy as the Four Distances Model, but it tells us what and where we would end up – for better or worse – just by handling the levers of communication properly or incorrectly.

The Four Distances Model – that will be discussed in the following chapters – is useful to understand the reasons why there can be such big differences in groups and people lives, and to act in order to improve or to set things right from the outset.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/


-Dott. Trevisani D., Parliamoci Chiaro: il modello delle quattro distanze per una comunicazione efficace e costruttiva, Gribaudo, 2019

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