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Compassionate communication: Do you really hear me?

Stop, be present, listen and empathize

Theresa M. Szczurek //November 1, 2016//

Compassionate communication: Do you really hear me?

Stop, be present, listen and empathize

Theresa M. Szczurek //November 1, 2016//

For the first time, I shared with others that a dear friend has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It was because of the way others listened to me and empathized during a Compassionate Communication workshop that I experienced a deeper connection to myself and my colleagues.

As a result, I became aware of my feelings of sadness, fear, loss and the need for action around my friend's disease. I felt heard, supported and much more.

Whether communicating positive or not-so-positive experiences in your personal and business life, Compassionate Communication techniques (also known as NVC or Nonviolent Communication) offer value. This is the "Connection Strategy" from my book, Pursuit of Passionate Purpose, at work.

What is Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication?

The core practice of NVC is simple: Whatever you say to me, I do my best to hear what is important to you in saying it or what needs you are expressing. NVC is an awareness practice that invites us to bring choice to where we place our attention.

Key assumptions of NVC include the following. This material is derived from the book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, and the Seven Principles Project.

  •      All human beings share the same needs.
  •      Our world offers sufficient resources for meeting everyone's basic needs.
  •      All actions are attempts to meet needs.
  •      Feelings point to needs being met or unmet.
  •      All human beings have the capacity for compassion.
  •      Human beings enjoy giving.
  •      Human beings meet needs through interdependent relationships.
  •      Human beings change.
  •      Choice is internal.
  •      The most direct path to peace is through self-connection.

Practical Pointers for Compassionate Communication

START WITH SELF-CONNECTION. Notice your feet, the sensation of contact with the earth and the sensation of breathing in your body. Be present for the speaker.

JUST LISTEN. Maintain awareness of your direct experience in your body, thoughts and feelings. Observe.

OFFER A REFLECTION. Tell the person what you heard them say — especially the essence or meaning — and any guesses about what is important to them in what they shared.

CHECK FOR ACCURACY. End your reflection with "Did I get it?" or "Was that accurate?" or some other question to confirm you heard what the other person intended.

EMPATHIZE THROUGH FEELINGS / NEEDS / REQUESTS. You can ask, "Are you feeling…? What do you need? Would you like…?" Empathize with others by guessing their feelings and needs, even in silence. Self-connect to your own feelings and needs to enable you to skillfully choose your next step.

Compassionate communications bring great benefits to your work and personal life. Stop, be present, listen, reflect and empathize.