What is Compassionate Communication?

Updated on October 30, 2016
Room of My Own profile image

Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.

Compassionate communication can help reduce conflict and improve your relationships. Learn more about the principles of nonviolent communication, also known as compassionate communication, and how it can help you understand, influence and act upon those things that can help make life more wonderful for both you and the people you relate to.

When you find yourself shutting down, ignoring, or walking away from someone else's pain, the principles of nonviolent communication can help you connect and be fully present when someone clearly needs you.
When you find yourself shutting down, ignoring, or walking away from someone else's pain, the principles of nonviolent communication can help you connect and be fully present when someone clearly needs you.

The goal of compassionate communication is to foster connections and cultivate relationships in which people do things for one another out of genuine concern and care rather than feelings of guilt or shame.

Practicing nonviolent communication can help prevent difficult conversations from turning into painful, confusing conflicts. At one point or other in almost every one of your significant relationships you will need talk about an issue within the relationship that is causing an upset. Perhaps you are having a difficult time working out a fair working schedule with your co-worker. Or you could be feeling frustrated that your partner is spending time at work on the weekend. It could be a teenage son or daughter who is skipping class and falling behind at school. When we practice nonviolent communication we are able to safely express our feelings and ask for what we need using language that doesn’t imply criticism or judgement.

People sometimes unknowlingly act in violent ways, even without using physical force.
People sometimes unknowlingly act in violent ways, even without using physical force.

While we may not consider the way we talk to be 'violent,' our words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for others or for ourselves.

When you learn how to practice compassionate communication in all of your relationships, not just the most significant ones in your life, you see the beauty and humanity in other people at any given moment regardless of what they may be saying or doing. You realize that every one of us is simply trying to meet our own basic needs for, among many things, love, recognition, safety, and satisfying and meaningful employment.

When was the last time you gave someone your full attention?

Sometimes what you really need is someone who will listen without judging you or offering advice. That's what compassionate communication is all about.
Sometimes what you really need is someone who will listen without judging you or offering advice. That's what compassionate communication is all about.

Your presence is the most precious gift you can give to another human being.

Having compassion necessitates taking responsibility for how we react to challenging situations. One of the skills that people learn by practicing compassionate communication is to recognize that the cause of our feelings is our own needs and not other people’s behaviors. We have very little control over the way people behave and so by turning our attention inward and focusing on the things we can control---noticing our feelings and identifying our own needs attached to those feelings---we can more effectively identify what it is we need to experience in order to live more joyfully. When we see that we are responsible for our responses we feel more empowered and in control of our lives.

What others do may be the stimulus of our feelings, but never the cause.

— Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

Practicing non-violent communication means using positive action language rather than negative action language. What that means is that rather than identifying what you don’t want the other person to do, you find ways to express and ask for what you would like them to do. Positive action requests are specific and are much easier for someone to respond to effectively. Negative-oriented requests tend to be rather vague and provide the recipient with very little information to help them respond in a meaningful, non-defensive manner.

Negative-oriented request
Positive action request
Don't ignore me!
I would appreciate your turning off the television and listening to my concerns about our overdue bills.
 
 
You shouldn't be doing that!
I am concerned about your safety when I see you riding your bike without a helmet. Please where your helmet when you take your bike out
I wish you wouldn't keep leaving your dirty dishes in the sink.
I'm really tired when I get home from work late at night and I need time to rest and recuperate. It would be really helpful if you could do your own dishes after having a midnight snack.

When we hear the other person's feelings and needs, we recognize our common humanity.

— Marshall B Rosenberg, PhD.

Compassionate communication is a healthy habit to cultivate in all of your relationships. You’ll know you are experiencing it because you'll see that each of you enjoys giving to the other in a mutually supportive way. That means taking the time to listen without judgement, expressing deep care and concern, and when needed, witnessing the other person’s pain without feeling the need to rush in and fix the problem for them.

When someone reaches out to you in their time of need, practicing compassionate communication will give you the strength to be there for them, fully and completely.
When someone reaches out to you in their time of need, practicing compassionate communication will give you the strength to be there for them, fully and completely.

Sources:

Main Concepts:

  • Practical Spirituality: The Spiritual Basis of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B Rosenberg, PhD.
  • Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B Rosenberg, PhD.

Image Credits:

  • Pixabay.com

Pull Quotes:

  • Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD, www.nonviolentcommunication.com/pdf_files/Marshall_Rosenberg_NVC_Quotes_for_Social_Media_Use.pdf

© 2016 Sadie Holloway

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Room of My Own profile imageAUTHOR

    Sadie Holloway 

    21 months ago

    Thanks for your comment, dashingscorpio. I hope that by helping people understand what compassionate communication is, they can learn that we are responsible for our 'response' to the things that people say and do. It takes plenty of patience and self-awareness to listen to ourselves and recognize when the fearful ego is running the show. When we can listen to our ego, then we can actually make a conscious decision to act from a place of compassion and empathy rather than a place of fear.

  • Room of My Own profile imageAUTHOR

    Sadie Holloway 

    21 months ago

    Thanks, vocalcoach. It always makes me happy to know that my tips on communication might be able to help someone improve their relationships!

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    21 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    Thanks for this informative hub. I know a few people who need to read this. Sharing.

  • dashingscorpio profile image

    dashingscorpio 

    21 months ago

    People don't change unless (they) are unhappy.

    Most people are ego driven and are most concerned about themselves. Whenever their is a disagreement their goal is to win the argument.

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