The Five Levels of Communication


In the book Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?, John Powell describes Five Levels of Communication on how people can relate to one another. The five levels of communication represent five degrees of willingness that people use to communicate about themselves to others.

The Five Levels of Communication

As you will see by the following descriptions, the higher the level of communication, the less willing we are to communicate about ourselves to other people.

Level Five: Cliche Conversation –

At this level of communication, shallow conversations takes place and questions often include –

“How are you?, What have you been up too? or What’s happening with the weather?”

There is very little sharing about the person at all and everyone remains safe in the conversation. When conversation remains on this level people can become lonely, bored and disconnected with the person.

Level Four: Reports Facts About the Other

On the fourth level, there is little real communication. People talk about other people and expose almost nothing about themselves. As Powell writes –

“We give nothing of ourselves and invite nothing from others in return.”

Level Three: My Ideas and Judgements

On this level there starts to be some communication. Individuals start to communicate their ideas, opinions and decisions, however communication remains guarded.

Level Two: My Feelings (emotions) ‘Gut Level’

Communication on this level describes what is going on inside of you – how you feel about a situation, experience or person. Feelings are owned by the individual and sharing them to another person can be quite challenging. Powell says –

“Most of us feel that others will not tolerate such emotional honesty in communication. We would rather defend our dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others, and, having rationalised our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships.” (p.35).

Level One: Peak Communication

Deep and authentic relationships occur at this level. Peak communication experiences occur when you are emotionally open and honest with the other person. According to Powell –

“In our human condition, this can never be a permanent experience. These should and will be, however, moments when encounter attains perfect communication. At these times the two person will feel an almost perfect and mutual empathy.” (p.36).

Over to You…

Now you know the five levels of communication, which one are you most familiar with?

If you are more familiar with 3, 4 and 5, but barely touching on 1 and 2… maybe it’s time to start learning to communicate more about who you are, and less about what you’re doing?

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to share them below!

Reference –

Powell, J. (1969). Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am? Chicago, USA: Argus Communications.

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