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C IS FOR COMMUNICATE    

C IS FOR COMMUNICATE

Artwork by Fisk

At Madhappy, we are on a mission to make the world a more optimistic place by creating conversation around mental health. Talking about mental health can be hard. We want to empower more people to ask for help, take action to help themselves, and support others.

We are creating this toolkit to dive into what those conversations look like and how we can have more meaningful conversations with our friends, family, and loved ones. Often, we may feel nervous or scared to talk about our mental health. Perhaps we’re not sure how to bring up the conversation with someone we are worried about. 

At a time when long overdue tough conversations are taking the forefront of national awareness, we want to highlight the patchwork mosaic of good COMMUNICATION: TALKING, LISTENING, and UNDERSTANDING.

What Is Communication?

Communication is defined as an exchanging of information. Thoughtful communication starts with self awareness. Understanding our own personal style of communication goes a long way towards making others feel comfortable and understood. 

Think about how you would decipher someone’s intention behind an email versus on a phone call? Being able to hear someone’s voice, inflection and tone can differ greatly from how you interpret their written words - context is so important. 

When it comes to conversations about mental health, it’s important to keep in mind the different styles of communication. 

What Types Of Communication Are There?

There are four main types of communication we use on a daily basis: verbal, nonverbal, written and visual. Each style has its own advantages and pitfalls. 

Verbal: Verbal communication includes sounds, words, language and speaking.

Nonverbal: Nonverbal communication involves physical ways of communication, like: tone of voice, touch, smell, and body motion.

Written: Written communication is writing the words which you want to communicate.

Visual: Visual communication is visual display of information, like topography, photography, signs, symbols and designs. 

How Do We Find Our Words?

The first step to healthy communication is finding the right words to accurately express your feelings. You don’t have to be an expert in mental health to develop a robust vocabulary for communication, but effective conversation does require a certain amount of effort and thought put into what you are saying and why you are saying it.

Some good starting points for when you can’t seem to find the right words to match what you’re feeling:

Verbal Conversation (Talking To Others)

  • Describe your personal experience; use first-hand perspective to detail what occurrences have affected your mental health
  • Indicate how long this has been affecting you; day, month, year, years?
  • Talk about what has been the impact; mental health is multifaceted and can impact energy, daily behaviors, appetite, sleep, interests, friendships, concentration, and more.
  • Verbalize what feelings you have experienced; dig deep to express the emotional aspect of your experience

Written Journaling (Self Talk)

  • Write stream of consciousness style; free of judgment and limitations, write all that comes to mind without ends
  • Write an unsent letter; express your feelings to an individual that you may have trouble communicating verbally with (the unsent letter can be a great stepping stone to verbal communication)
  • Write a daily gratitude or wellness journal; keep track of 5 things that make you feel thankful or improve your wellness each day

How Do We Express Communication Without Words?

In times when words are either insufficient or overwhelming, communication can be expressed without words. We often don’t consider communication without words as strongly as we do with words, but it can be just as effective and important means of expression as any--and can be done consciously and inadvertently. Communication without words involves sights and sounds.

Sights

  • Body language such as posture, movements, open versus closed positioning, and hand gestures
  • Facial expressions such as eye contact, smiling, frowning, nodding, and staring
  • Creating visual art through means of drawing, painting, mixed media, digital media, or videography

Sounds

  • Tone of voice includes pitch, cadence, and loudness
  • Expressive noises such as laughing, grunting, crying, or sighing
  • Listening to and producing music to express emotional synchrony