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Paul Watzlawick

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Paul Watzlawick PhD (July 25, 1921 – March 31, 2007) was a theoretician in communication theory. He also commented in the fields of family therapy and general psychotherapy. He lived and worked in California until his death in 2007 in Palo Alto.

He formulated five axioms. They are:

  1. It is not possible to not communicate. Every behavior is some kind of non-verbal communication.
  2. Every communication has a content. In addition, there is 'metainformation', which says how the communicator wants to be understood.
  3. All parters involved in a communication process also interpret their own behaviour during communication.
  4. Human communication involves both verbal and non-verbal communication. In addition to the spoken words, there are is also a non-spoken part (gestures, behavior, intonation..) which is part of the communication.
  5. Communication between humans is either symmetric or complementary. This is based on whether the relationship of those communicating is based on differences or parity.

Watzlawick is author of 18 books (in 85 foreign language editions) and more than 150 book articles and book chapters. Books he has written or on which he has collaborated include:

  • Invented Reality: How do we know what we believe we know? (Contributions to constructivism)
  • Pragmatics of human communication
  • The situation is hopeless, but not serious
  • Ultra-solutions: how to fail most successfully
  • How real is real?
  • Change
  • The language of change

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