Communication is key, in good times and bad

We can not "not communicate". Whether we want to or not, we are continually sending messages, both verbal and non-verbal, to our outside world and we are always in contact with our surroundings.

Communication binds us together as human beings, more so than anything else. Day in, day out, we exchange information, ask other people to do something specific, talk about our moods and feelings. When we do so, we don’t just communicate verbally, using language, but also non-verbally, with facial expressions and gestures. Research shows that we pay even more attention to body language than we realise. The common sayings: “a smile is worth a thousand words” or “here’s looking at you, kid” contain a lot of truth.

Not communicating – can’t be done!

Even though approximately 6500 languages are spoken around the globe, people worldwide talk with their hands and feet, wink at each other, smile, jump for joy, and grieve with sagging shoulders. We are constantly exchanging non-verbal messages, whether we want to or not. Sometimes we try to speak other languages and can make ourselves understood using facial expressions and gestures. Sometimes these signals are unequivocal and sometimes we interpret them incorrectly.

Understanding communication

Communication is a catch-all term, and not everybody means the same thing by it. To summarise, communication can be defined as an exchange of information, but also of thoughts, knowledge, opinions, feelings, experiences – in short, anything that can be shared verbally or non-verbally. The term comes from the Latin word “communicatio”, which means something like discussion or telling. The etymology therefore postulates that at least two participants are involved in communication. Where this is two people, we talk about interpersonal communication, which is hugely important for our mental health, but not always simple. This means that we should always make an effort to improve our interpersonal communication, so that we can talk to each other freely.

Communicating successfully

Talking to each other – sometimes very simple, sometimes really hard. We all have the need to express ourselves and communicate with others. Nothing is more human than wanting to share both joys and sorrows. While we may wish to discuss certain things, and may be interested in the opinions of others, there are situations in which we simply long for someone who will listen. To be able to talk about something – whatever the situation – we need a listener who will take the time to listen and be there. By implication, talking to each other means not just actively speaking, but also listening. And listening does not mean just waiting until it’s your turn to talk. Rather, it is about listening to understand the other person, so you can empathise and relate. Eye contact and non-verbal gestures such as nodding can be used to signal to the other person that you are actively listening to and processing what is being said.

Active listening

Active listening is not always easy and needs a little practice. The 10 principles of active listening in the “How are you?” campaign may help you to improve your listening abilities.

Sometimes, when we feel that we can’t find the right words, or we're afraid of saying the wrong thing, we may underestimate how good it can be when someone simply listens and takes an interest. As a starting point for the conversation, or to break the ice, these conversation tips might help.

Communicating openly and honestly

Talking to each other also means sharing when you are not currently able to have a conversation yourself. This may be because you don’t have the time or the headspace for it, or because you lack the necessary energy. Depending on the situation, you can recommend someone else for the person to talk to or agree another time for the conversation. It is important that you make this explicit and do not simply turn your back on the person who wants to talk to you. Communicating openly is not always easy, and it requires courage. Particularly during the times when our mental health is not good, we are going through a difficult phase or crisis, we are often inhibited about opening up. Although, deep down, we already know that talking about it would help, we close ourselves off to the outside world and don’t have the courage to talk to anyone. Sometimes we just don’t know how. We can’t find the words, so we can’t find the courage either.

Conversation tips

Conversation tips can help you to feel more confident in the future, so you don’t have to grope for words and can tell your listener how things are. If, however, you still can’t bring yourself to say a word, then write a text message, e-mail or letter, and share how you feel with the people around you this way. Talk about negative feelings as often as you do about positive ones, and share both happy and sad moments. Your health will thank you for it!

Silence is golden.
Speech is priceless.


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    Tips and tricks

    Make sure you communicate with “I-messages”. This means that what you are saying is about you and not another person, which in turn means that your listener is less provoked to a defensive reaction than with “you-messages”.

    Listen actively and let the other person talk.

    Pay attention to your body language. If you are uncertain or nervous, it helps to stand on both feet, to keep your posture upright and to take a few deep breaths before you start talking.

    What’s available in Zug Canton

    • Conversation tips

      We support the “How are you?” campaign run by the Pro Mente Sana Foundation. On the campaign website, you will find lots of information and numerous helpful tips for various differ-ent conversation scenarios.

      How are you? - Conversation tips
    • Free German classes

      Speech is the central medium we use to communicate with each other. In order to feel at ease as a migrant in Switzerland, it is important to be able to get by in at least one of the na-tional languages. The Migration Zug specialist centre offers various free German courses and provides further information on learning German in Zug Canton. There is no need to reg-ister for the free classes; you can just turn up. You can also bring your children with you. There is no childcare but art materials and toys are available for them.

      Learn German for free by the lake
    • What’s available for migrants

      As well as the free German courses, Zug Canton also offers a range of other services for all immigrants, including asylum seekers and refugees. From mentoring programmes, events for meeting people, professional integration services, to early linguistic development and par-enting classes. Are you from abroad and is your German not yet good enough? Or do you know someone who could use some support, so they can communicate better in the future? You can find all the opportunities available on the Zug Canton website.

      Overview of opportunities for migrants
    • Psychological consultation

      A counselling session with a psychologist can help you in many different areas of life. Some-times it can be helpful to confide in an external or neutral person, whether to talk about prob-lems or to gain another perspective on things. Additionally, a counselling session will also en-able you to expand and improve your own communication skills.

      Find a psychologist in Zug Canton
    • For adults

      By phone, email or webchat – you will always find a listening ear at the Dargebotene Hand (Helping Hand). It’s free and anonymous. Somebody is there, day and night, to talk to you, listen to you and support you.

      Dargebotene Hand Central Switzerland
    • For children and young people

      Would you like to talk to someone, share your fears or worries, are you looking for a sympa-thetic ear – someone who will listen to you and who is there for you? By calling Pro Juventute on 147 you can get hold of someone at any time of day or night and get some help. You can also send a text to 147 if you prefer. All counselling is free and anonymous.

      Pro Juventute
    • References
      Eberspächer, H. (2011).
      Gut sein, wenn's drauf ankommt. Von Top-Leistern lernen. (3. Auf.). München: Carl Hanser Verlag.
      Röhner, J. & Schütz, A. (2016).
      Psychologie der Kommunikation. (2. Aufl.). Wiesbaden: Springer.