Communication – this is how it can succeed

We actually communicate all the time. Since communication is not limited to speech, but also includes body language and facial expressions, we communicate even when we are not talking. Communication is an essential part of working together. It is part of our lives. Whether at work or in private life – you can’t do without it. But not infrequently it drives us to despair. Why are we not understood or do we not understand our interlocutor?? Misunderstandings accompany our communication and make it a minefield.

What lies behind communication?

Communication becomes comprehensible when we approach it using communication models. No matter which model you use, they are all based on the same basic principle. Communication takes place on two levels: the factual level and the relationship level. The second level is responsible for the fact that communication is so difficult. Unfortunately, it influences our communication much more than the first level. Especially on the relationship level, body language and facial expressions also play a major role. Even how we speak is a signal that comes from the relationship level.

How communication can succeed - communication levels

To understand this better, I would like to refer to a basic model of communication – the so-called iceberg model, which goes back to Sigmund Freud. The figure on the left illustrates the dilemma. An iceberg is known to stick out of the water only to a very small extent. In the model, this visible part stands for the subject level. The much larger part, which is under water, represents the relationship level.

Communication in conflict

What this means for communication becomes clear in a conflict (figure on the right). Because if in conflict our communication was only over water, there would always be a solution through the exchange of facts and factual arguments. But the underwater world is clearly involved in every communication. Our feelings, which stand for the relationship level, determine the "how" in our communication. Your vibrations are responsible for the disagreements and misunderstandings. They are very often expressed in our facial expressions, body language and voice. In order to find a compromise, the relationship level must be sorted out and satisfied under water, in order to be able to find a solution above water in the subject level. This is the challenge of successful communication.

How can communication succeed?

In order to decode communication problems, we must therefore dive down and start at the relationship level. The magic word here is reflection. Whereby this does not only mean to reflect the sensitivities and feelings of the interlocutor, but also to take a closer look at one’s own: Why am I reacting this way?? What moves me to my way of communicating? These questions are for you to answer yourself and for your conversation partner to answer. Analysis and reflection are therefore important building blocks for successful communication.

Furthermore, it is important to consciously try to get to the surface of the water in order to admit arguments and to be able to evaluate them apart from feelings. But this can only succeed if you are aware of your feelings and sensitivities. Because only then can you consciously deal with your relationship level and concentrate on the factual arguments.


Communication is complex and complicated. But with training in analysis it can be mastered well. And if it doesn’t work out, one can actually only learn from reflection.

Other interesting communication models are Schulz von Thun’s message square and Marshall B’s non-violent communication. Rosenberg.

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