Compassionate Communication: The Art Of Saying The Hard Things

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Love, Self

Compassionate Communication enhances our emotional vocabulary and listening skills.

I don’t think that we can learn enough about effective communication. It's a tool that's essential to every part of our lives. The way we communicate has the potential to motivate people to action or to tears. It has the potential to mend fences or to put helpful fences in place. In fact, our ability to comfort ourselves and help people comfort us all comes from our ability to communicate. 

Throughout our lives, we're taught how to use language to talk about ideas. This means that we're not as familiar with how to use language to communicate how we feel and what we want on a more interpersonal level. Because of this, we experience more set backs and heartaches than we would if we were more practiced in using our words to speak on behalf of our emotions.

Compassionate Communication: The Art of Saying the Hard Things 

Compassionate Communication - often called Non-Violent Communication - was created by Marshall Rosenberg and contains the following steps:

  1. Differentiating observation from evaluation: being able to carefully observe what is happening free of evaluation and to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us
  2. Differentiating feeling from thinking: being able to identify and express internal feeling states in a way that does not imply judgment, criticism, or blame/punishment
  3. Connecting with the universal human needs/values (e.g. sustenance, trust, understanding) in us that are being met or not met in relation to what is happening and how we are feeling 
  4. Requesting what we would like in a way that clearly and specifically states what we do want (rather than what we don’t want), and that is truly a request and not a demand (i.e. attempting to motivate, however subtly, out of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, etc. rather than out of willingness and compassionate giving). (

This form of communication can work exceptionally well in personal situations and a slightly looser version can facilitate understanding in many work environments. 

At its core, compassionate communication helps us separate our interpretations of what happened from what actually happened. It gives us the freedom to experience and express our emotions about a situation and, at the same time, gives other people the space to express their emotional experience about the same situation. In Non-Violent Communication, each person takes responsibility for their emotions and does not let them cloud their perception. 

This kind of communication technique is exceptionally helpful for navigating difficult situations. When we know that an emotional reaction to what we say is likely, we can use compassionate communication to help us be as delicate and clear as possible. When we are upset about something, we can use it to help us make sense of the situation and to help us communicate what is going on for us. 

Yet, there are challenges that come up when using Non-Violent Communication or any communication tool. A common pitfall happens when one becomes so preoccupied with how Non-Violent Communication is used that they fail to practice what it's all about. The danger here is that they use compassionate communication in a way that makes them less -- rather than more -- authentic. This can further weaken people and can prevent them from stepping up.

In the end, the most important thing to learn while developing a new communication technique -- and especially compassionate communication -- is compassion itself. How we use words can connect us or they can tear us apart. When you speak from a truly compassionate place, you'll have a far easier time navigating any situation with grace and mutual respect.


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