Listen and give support: social communication

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The needs of the two target groups, suffering from the long-term consequences of Covid-19: young adults and senior citizens. These two groups suffered from the restrictions on physical and social activities imposed by the lockdown, but they had different challenges: senior citizens lack digital skills to use social media and telecommunication devices for social communication, while young adults lack resilience and stress resistance, because they had not experienced serious hardships before. These two groups can help each other in developing coping strategies and resilience skills.

Social communication importance

Young adults often experience anger, depression, and feelings of guilt, which are complicated by poor communication in the family and isolation from peers. However, it is also quite common for them to experience difficulty and frustration in articulating their needs. 

Communication... sharing stories...

By sharing their stories, individuals engage in the processes of fostering resilience, which includes creating new norms, affirming identity, learning to rely upon communication networks, legitimising feelings and pursuing positive steps forward. Genuine dialogue, in which the multiple voices are recognized, respected, and integrated in the common story, is a useful tool to help individuals, families and communities to go through the Covid-19 crisis. 

Building Emotional Awareness


Noticing and understanding emotions in oneself is considered one of the four key ingredients of emotional intelligence (Davies, Stankov & Roberts, 1998). Just as intellectual intelligence is manifested through reading and learning, emotional intelligence can be fostered through mindfully attending to current emotional states.

Exercise for emotional awareness

Learners are invited to notice and connect with an emotional state. The goal is to help learners to become more familiar with their emotions. As such, it is advisable that learners choose to connect with positive or neutral emotions in this exercise, rather than difficult or distressing emotions.

Learners who have a low level of emotional awareness may struggle to find words to describe their emotions or find it hard to describe any characteristics of the emotion. The educator should instruct these learners to adopt a curious attitude while completing this exercise. Moreover, it takes time and practice to increase emotional awareness.

Time: 10 to 40 minutes


This exercise invites you to become aware of your emotions. It’s your chance to really get to know your emotions. By practicing emotional awareness in this way, you can build your emotional intelligence.
1. Find a comfortable seated position. Allow your spine to be straight and long, and let your shoulders drop. Gently close your eyes, or simply gaze down in front of you with a soft focus.
2. Notice where your body is making contact: your feet touching the floor, your sit bones on a chair…
3. Notice your breath. For the next five or so breaths, follow each inhale and exhale, feeling or imagining the breath flowing into and out of the body.
4. Now, shift your awareness from your breath to your body, and begin to scan through the body slowly from head to toe, observing any feelings or emotions that are present.
5. You might detect numerous feelings or emotions throughout the body. For the purpose of this exercise, choose one feeling or emotion to focus on for now.
6. Notice where in your body this emotion located… What part of the body is holding this feeling?
7. How big or small is the feeling?
8. Does the feeling have a colour? And if so, is the colour changing or remaining the same?
9. Is the feeling heavy, or light?
10. Is the feeling moving, or still?
11. Is the feeling hard or soft? Is it rough or smooth? If I could touch this feeling with my hand, what would its texture be like?
12. If you were to give a name to this feeling or emotion, what would it be? Can you identify it?
13. If a name for this feeling doesn’t come to mind, that’s OK. Continue to observe the feeling in the body with curiosity and without judgment, until the nature of this emotion becomes clearer to you.
14. Continue to get to know this emotion for another five or so minutes. When you feel that you have reached a level of comfort with and understanding of this feeling, gently open your eyes and bring your attention back to the room you are in.

Davies, M., Stankov, L., & Roberts, R. D. (1998). Emotional intelligence: In search of an elusive construct. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 989-1015.


In the space below, write about your experience in as much detail as possible. Writing about your experience of this emotion will enhance your understanding and familiarity with it.



In this exercise, the speaker is asked to choose one of seven primary emotions (anger, contempt, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise). To increase the difficulty of the exercise, the instructor may also ask the speaker to select more specific descriptions of emotions.
Sharing a negative story may cause participants to re-experience a difficult emotion. The instructor is advised to inform learners that they should choose an emotion that they feel comfortable sharing with the group. Moreover, the instructor should stress that participants can stop at any given time with the exercise.

Time: 10-40 min.

Exercise description

Step 1: Introduce the exercise

The experience of an emotion is reflected by changes in speech, body, and face. For example, a person who experiences joy may speak loudly, make a lot of gestures, and use positive words like “beautiful” and “exciting”. An overview of the aspects of our speech, body, and face that are commonly influenced by our emotions is provided in Appendix A.
In this exercise, you are going to practice “reading” other people’s emotions. Reading others’ emotions involves analysing their facial expressions, as well as the way in which they are talking and moving. (See Appendix A for an overview of these three characteristics of emotional expression.)
Step 2: Create groups
Divide your group of participants into groups of four
Step 3: Assign roles
Inform your participants that they will each be assigned a role. There are four different roles per group: the speaker, the face decoder, the body decoder, and the speech decoder. Hand out the role descriptions shown in Appendix B to each participant. (Note that every group member will receive all four role descriptions because the role descriptions include scoring forms.) Ask each group of four to read the role descriptions, and then organize who will play each role amongst themselves. The three decoders use the form in the role description to write down their observations.
The four roles are as described:
1. The speaker. The speaker selects one emotion (see the list of emotions described in the speaker role description in Appendix A) and talks about a time when he or she experienced this emotion quite strongly. The speaker should not mention the emotion he or she has chosen, as the job of the observers is to guess the selected emotion.
2. The face decoder. The face decoder carefully observes the speaker’s facial expressions to decipher the emotion being spoken about. For instance, are the speaker’s eyes opened wide in surprise, or drooped down in sadness?
3. The body decoder. The body decoder carefully observes the speaker’s bodily movements to decipher the emotion being spoken about. For instance, how is the speaker using his hands to gesture while speaking, and what is his posture like?
4. The speech decoder. The speech decoder carefully observes how the speaker is talking in order to decipher the emotion being spoken about. The speech decoder focuses on both verbal and non-verbal characteristics of speech. For instance, what kind of words is the speaker using (i.e., strong, bold, positive, negative), and how is the emotion reflected in the pitch, loudness, and speed of the speaker’s way of talking?
Step 4: Start the conversation
Announce to all that the speaker has five minutes to share his or her emotional story. Note that the decoders should be advised to limit their interaction with the speaker as much as possible, as this may interfere with their observation. So, decoders should simply observe without responding to the speaker, and write down their observations in the space provided in Appendix A.
Step 5: Share observations
After five minutes, when the speaker is finished, the decoders take turns to share their observations with their group. Take up to 10 minutes for this step. The following questions may be used to guide this step:
• What were the observations of the face decoder?
• What were the observations of the body decoder?
• What were the observations of the speech decoder?
• What did each of the decoders think was the emotion that was chosen by the speaker?
• What was the actual emotion that was chosen by the speaker?
Step 6: Exercise evaluation
Evaluate the exercise with all participants. The following questions may serve as a guide:
• How was it to do this exercise?
• Which aspects were challenging?
• What did you learn?
• What is your take-home message?
Step 7: Switch roles
As an optional next step, have participants within their smaller groups switch roles so that each person plays each role once (i.e., each person is the speaker once, each person is the face decoder once, and so on). The instructor is advised to set a timer so that participants are informed when to switch roles.

The total duration of this part of the exercise is 20 minutes.

Decoding emotions by analysing speech, body and face


The ability to accurately perceive and understand the emotions of the people around us is a core component of emotional intelligence (Davies, Stankov & Roberts, 1998). Accurately “reading” other people’s emotions plays a key role in social interaction (Kilts, Egan, Gideon, Ely, & Hoffman, 2003) as it facilitates appropriate responding and bonding (Isaacowitz et al., 2007).
There are three different ways to “read” other people’s emotions. First, one can try to decipher facial expressions. Past research has provided strong evidence for the universal facial expressions of seven emotions – anger, contempt, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. For instance, a study by Friesen (1972) found that the same facial expressions of emotions were produced spontaneously by members of very different cultures in reaction to emotion-eliciting films.
Second, one can attempt to “read” body language. Numerous emotions, including pride, shame, anger, fear, and disgust can be accurately deciphered from nonverbal bodily displays (Witkower & Tracy, 2018).
Third, it is possible to decode emotions by observing speech. People use hundreds, if not thousands, of semantic terms to express a wide variety of emotional states (Russell, 1991; Sabini & Silver, 2005). Aside from the verbal information in speech, emotions are also expressed by the non-verbal qualities of speech, such as pitch, loudness and rate of speech (for reviews see Scherer 1977, 1981).
In this exercise, learners practice reading other people’s emotions by exploring each of these three ways of decoding emotions.
In daily life, it is often difficult to check whether one’s inferences regarding another person’s feelings are correct. A valuable aspect of this exercise is the opportunity for participants to check whether their observations are correct or not. The instructor may decide to reserve more time for step 5 (share observation) so that participants can maximally benefit from the opportunity to verify their observations.
The speech decoder’s job requires the observation of both verbal and nonverbal qualities of speech. For some learners, attending to both aspects of the communication may be too challenging. The instructor can solve this problem by making groups of 5, where the speech decoder’s job is carried out by 2 group members; one focusing on the verbal and the other on the non-verbal characteristics of the speech. Alternatively, the speech decoder may choose to focus on only one characteristic rather than both.


Davies, M., Stankov, L., & Roberts, R. D. (1998). Emotional intelligence: In search of an elusive construct. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 989-1015.
Russell, J. A. (1991). Culture and the categorization of emotions. Psychological Bulletin, 110, 426-450.
Scherer, K. R. (1981). Speech and emotional actions. In J. K. Darby, Jr. (Ed.), Speech evaluation in psychiatry (pp. 189-220). New York: Grune & Stratton.
Scherer, K. R., & Oshinsky, J. S. (1977). Cue utilization in emotion attribution from auditory stimuli. Motivation and Emotion, 1, 331-346.
Tracy, J. L., Robins, R. W., & Schriber, R. A. (2009). Development of a FACS-verified set of basic and self-conscious emotion expressions. Emotion, 9, 554–559.
Witkower, Z., & Tracy, J. L. (2018). Bodily Communication of Emotion: Evidence for Extrafacial Behavioral Expressions and Available Coding Systems. Emotion Review.

Identifying False Beliefs about Emotions

Exercise Goal

Many people have implicit beliefs about emotions. These beliefs operate outside conscious awareness, and strongly determine the way people cope with their emotions.
First, people hold beliefs about the “acceptability” of emotions. People may believe that experiencing and expressing negative feelings is not acceptable. Beliefs about the unacceptability of experiencing or expressing negative thoughts and emotions play a key role in the development and maintenance of psychological problems (Surawy, Hackmann, Hawton & Sharpe, 1995) and can be associated with a worse prognosis and treatment outcome (Corstorphine, 2006). Beliefs about the unacceptability of emotions have been found in people with a range of different problems, such as depression (Jack, 1991, Cramer, Gallant & Langlois, 2005), eating disorders (Corstorphine, 2006), social phobia (Clark & Wells, 1995), post-traumatic stress disorder (Ehlers & Clark, 2000), and borderline personality disorder (Linehan, 1993).
These beliefs may lead to the avoidance of emotions, which prevents the individual from developing self-awareness and self-understanding and, hence, the ability to take care of oneself appropriately (Kennedy-Moore & Watson, 2001). Growing up in an environment where the expression of difficulties or negative feelings was met with punishment or a lack of sympathy has been suggested as a potential cause for the development of beliefs about the unacceptability of emotions (Linehan, 1993).
People may also believe that no matter how hard one tries, one cannot really change emotions. This belief that emotions are outside personal control is likely to result in fewer efforts at regulating the emotion (Dweck, 2000; Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Because the individual does not engage in active attempts to regulate emotions, and will not learn to regulate emotions, the belief will remain unchallenged. People who believe that emotions are not changeable experience fewer positive emotions and more negative emotions, decreased psychological wellbeing, lower perceived emotion regulation self-efficacy, and higher levels of depression (Kappes & Schikowski, 2013; Tamir, John, Srivastava, & Gross, 2007). By contrast, a person who believes that emotions are changeable will display a more assertive and active pattern of coping (Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Tamir et al. 2007). Over time, this active pattern of coping with emotions will confirm that emotions are indeed changeable and thus strengthen the very belief regarding the changeability of emotions.
This exercise is designed to help learners uncover dysfunctional or false beliefs about emotions.
Learners should not blame anyone for the false beliefs they have about emotions. Advise them that parents, grandparents, siblings, and teachers were likely told the very same dysfunctional messages.

This exercise can be completed numerous times with different emotions, as people can hold different beliefs about different emotional states. The learner may benefit from completing the exercise with each of his or her main problematic emotional states, to gain an in-depth understanding of the core beliefs and consequences associated with each emotion.
An example of a completed worksheet is presented in Appendix B. This may be helpful for learners who have difficulty understanding the exercise.

Time: 15 min



Corstorphine, E. (2006). Cognitive–emotional–behavioural therapy for the eating disorders: Working with beliefs about emotions. European Eating Disorders Review: The Professional Journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 14, 448-461.
Cramer, K. M., Gallant, M. D., & Langlois, M. W. (2005). Self-silencing and depression in women and men: Comparative structural equation models. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 581-592.
Dweck, C. S. (2000). Self theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.
Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256-273.
Ehlers, A., & Clark, D. M. (2000). A cognitive model of posttraumatic stress disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 38, 319-345.
Jack, D. C. (1991). Silencing the self: Women and depression. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Kappes, A., & Schikowski, A. (2013). Implicit theories of emotion shape regulation of negative affect. Cognition & Emotion, 27, 952-960.
Kennedy-Moore, E., & Watson, J. C. (2001). Expressing emotion: Myths, realities, and therapeutic strategies. New York: Guilford Press.
Linehan, M. M. (1993). Diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Cognitive- behavioural treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.
Surawy, C., Hackmann, A., Hawton, K., & Sharpe, M. (1995). Chronic fatigue syndrome: a cognitive approach. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33, 535-544.
Tamir, M., John, O. P., Srivastava, S., & Gross, J. J. (2007). Implicit theories of emotion: Affective and social outcomes across a major life transition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 731-744.

Exercise description

In this exercise, we will examine your basic assumptions about emotions; that is, what emotions mean to you, what it means to express them, and what would happen if you allowed yourself to feel particular emotions. The purpose of this is to uncover any false or misleading beliefs that you have which may be having a negative impact on your wellbeing.
Step 1: Choose a difficult emotion
For the purpose of this exercise, choose one particular difficult emotion to work with. Perhaps choose an emotional state you are struggling with at the moment; for instance, you might be feeling anxious about an upcoming event, or regretful about a recent transgression. Write down the emotion you have chosen to work with in the centre of the person outlined in the Core Beliefs About Emotions worksheet (Appendix A).
Step 2: Uncover false core beliefs about emotion
Read through the below list of common false beliefs about emotions and see which resonate most with you. Place a check mark next to those statements that ring true for you. Pay particular attention to those that sound familiar, as these may be thoughts that exist outside your awareness. Please add any personal beliefs that are not listed at the end. Then, write down your core beliefs about emotions in the thought bubbles outlined in the Core Beliefs About Emotions worksheet (Appendix A).
• If I lose control of my emotions in front of others, they will think less of me.
• I should be able to control my emotions.
• If I let myself feel this emotion, I will become overwhelmed by it.
• If I tell others how I feel, they will use it against me.
• If I tell others how I feel, they will think I am weak.
• Other people don’t feel this way. There must be something wrong with me.
• Only an immature person would get so emotional.
• I should be able to cope with difficulties on my own without turning to others for support.
• To be acceptable to others, I must keep any difficulties or negative feelings to myself.
• This emotional state is not a normal response; I have to get rid of it.
• A happy person would not feel this way.
• That person responded differently than I did, therefore my emotional reaction is wrong.
• If I let myself feel this pain, it will kill me.
• Letting myself feel bad would mean falling to pieces, being a total mess, or wallowing in self-pity.
• If I show signs of weakness then others will reject me.
• Being an adult means not getting carried away by emotion; I’m supposed to be rational!
• Showing my emotions to others makes me look like a “drama queen.”
• I’m stupid for feeling this way. I should just suck it up!
• I should not let myself give in to these feelings.
• Other:
Step 3: Explore the consequences of holding these beliefs
Now let’s look at what happens as a consequence of holding these beliefs about emotions. What impact do these beliefs have on how you feel, behave, and talk to yourself when faced with this emotion? Write down as many outcomes (positive and negative) as you can think of in the Consequences section of the Core Beliefs About Emotions worksheet (Appendix A).
Step 4: Evaluation
Discuss the following:
• How was it to do this exercise?
• Looking at the consequences part of the exercise, how adaptive is it for you to hold such beliefs about your emotions?
• What was easy or difficult about the exercise?
• What insights have you gained about your beliefs about emotions?

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