Your friend or boss says something to you. Your partner didn’t respond as you wished. You put meaning to the words and respond. Maybe this went well, maybe you made the situation worse.
The reason for miscommunication is that often we interpret behaviour, we view a situation through our own lens on how we see the world. Not through their eyes.
A client shared a link to a Ted Talk where Louise Evans talks about 5 Chairs, 5 Choices.
In this post I write about how you can use the 5 Chairs to improve communication.

We never know the reasons for other peoples’ behaviour

Louise starts by sharing a story of putting her own interpretation on the behaviour of someone else. By waiting and not rushing to her own conclusion, how this enhances the relationship.  Too often we rush to judge where looking at a situation from the other persons’ perspective can lead to much stronger communication.


The 5 Chairs to improve communication

Red Chair – ATTACK

The jackal chair where we love to blame, complain, punish. Our main aim is to judge. We think that we are right! We see someone and decide we like or dislike without knowing very much.
She asks if we could try to spend time with others without a single judgement?
“The more we judge people the less time we have to love them” – Mother Teresa


Hedgehog. We feel vulnerable and want to protect ourselves, so we judge ourselves. We say we aren’t intelligent enough, we have fears of being rejected or disappointed. We feel rejected. We feel that nobody loves us.  We don’t like to admit to our weakness.
“The highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe ourselves without judging” Jiddu Krishnamurti


Meerkat.  We are mindful, aware, observant, conscious. We consider what we are thinking, we become curious, we are interested. When other people are angry, we wonder why.
“You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way and the only way, it does not exist.” Nietzsche


Dolphin. We become the detective of ourselves. This is us at the very best of being human. We look at our behaviour. We become self-aware. We know what we want and where we are going. We speak our truth. We are powerful. We grow, we become free. Assertive but not aggressive. We can be here for the rest of our lives.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. Aristotle


The giraffe has the biggest heart of all land animals, and the longest neck so has the biggest vision. In the purple chair we are displaying empathy, compassion and understanding. We listen to people. We hold people in our presence, we care for them. We step into their shoes; understanding them is a great act of generosity.
This is where we look at other perspectives, to embrace other realities, to embrace diversity and become tolerant. We want to know what is important to the other person. We want to stay connected, whatever happens.
Abraham Lincoln – “I don’t know that man, I must get to know him better.”


Victor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning said “Everything can be taken from man but one thing.  The last of human freedoms – to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances”.

We have a tendency to prefer one of these chairs, we have a default position. Self-development helps us to learn more about who we are and to make conscious choices.
We have a choice. We can use the  5 Chairs to improve communication.
If we tend to want to choose the red or yellow chair, we can move to the blue or purple chair where we can be more open. If we want to and embrace the journey.

Your Challenge on using the 5 Chairs to improve communication

To notice your default position, and next time you want to snap, argue or punish … to stop. think, and see if you can take a different approach.
We can reflect on questions such as

  • What impact am I having on the people around me?
  • Am I in control of my emotions, or are they in charge of me?
  • Am I willing to have the difficult conversation and call out bad behaviour?
  • Am I seeking to be everything I can be?
  • What will people say about me when I’m not in the room?

I’d love to know how you get on with this article on using the 5 Chairs to improve communication. Feel free to comment below.

Published On: November 6th, 2018 / Categories: Career Management, Personal Development /


  1. Nancy Turner January 15, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    I am a residential trainer for a crisis stabilization unit in Cincinnati, Oh. I would like to incorporate this exercise into our training program for new hires as well as using it for current employees. I was wondering where I can buy the chair covers as I would like to conduct scenarios allowing them to show which chair they would be sitting in and demonstrate how they can move to a more productive chair.

    • Denise Taylor January 15, 2020 at 4:48 pm

      Hi Nancy, I’m not sure where you can buy these chair covers. Have a search online and see if any are on sale. Good luck searching.

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