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Wise Online- Week 6


Compassionate Communication

The essence of communicating compassionately is about cultivating empathy, understanding and love. It’s a practice devoted to mindful pausing; noticing the breath; identifying and expressing feelings needs and expectations with care and respect; and listening for the same in others.

Compassionate communication (also known as NVC non-violent communication) helps us remain empathetic with each other, even in situations fraught with anger or frustration. It teaches us to speak to others without blaming and to hear personal criticisms without withering.

Mindfulness, with its inherent focus on being present and non-judgmental, seems particularly suitable for promoting the quality of communication and dealing with conflict.

To be assertive, you need to learn to engage in healthy conflict. Healthy conflict directly and constructively addresses the issue at hand without ignoring the needs of either party. The strategies that follow will get you there.

Effective communication with those who we disagree with is extraordinarily difficult. If you are like most people, you have a fall-back strategy to deal with conflict that was learned early in life, one that is habitual and embedded in interactions with others.

The three most common strategies are:

  • Accommodate (“be nice”)
  • Demand (“me first”)
  • Withdraw (“I don’t care”)

There is a fourth way, one that involves investigating both your world and the other person’s world, that can sometimes yield a surprising and creative solution that honours both parties. In the martial art, Aikido, this would be called blending, a move that harms neither party and turns conflict into more of a dance than a fight. This is complex and an art form in itself, and forms the basis of Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication (NVC), something that is introduced this week.

Mindful non-violent communication (NVC) consists of three facets:

(a) being present and paying attention in conversations

(b) an open, non-judgmental attitude

(c) a calm, non-impulsive manner.

NVC is often referred to as ‘giraffe language’. The giraffe is the land animal with the biggest heart. With its long neck the giraffe has a good overview and clear vision. The giraffe stands for compassionate communication.

NVC guides us to reframe how we express ourselves and how we hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on awareness of what we perceive, feel and want in that moment. Within the framework of NVC, we’re led to express ourselves with honesty and clarity, while simultaneously paying others respectful and empathic attention.  

4 steps to applying NVC Giraffe Language

  1. Observe what is happening and describe the situation without judgement:
    I see … / I hear … / the situation is / repeat what you’ve just heard…
  2. Identify/express your feelings:
    I feel …
  3. Find the need behind your feeling:
    My need is …/ because I would like … / I desire … / I need …
  4. Formulate a clear, positive, doable request:
    Please will you … / Are you willing to do this …?


Are you a Mindful Communicator?

This week the focus is on mindfulness, compassion and effective communication.  Ask yourself the following questions and based on your answers, decide if you can be more mindful at work and in your relationships at home.

Work your way through the following checklist, answering either YES or NO to the following questions.  There is no need to judge yourself. Simply make a note of what you can work on further.

Ask Yourself…. Yes, I am very mindful of my behaviour  No, I need to work on this further
Do you take the time to listen to what others have to say?
Do you really hear them and appreciate their view point? Or are you quick to interject your own thoughts before they are even finished?
Can you be in a meeting and concentrate on what is being discussed or is your mind scattered and thinking about your previous meeting or what is to come later in the day?
Are you calm and in control when faced with difficult or challenging situations? Or do you jump to conclusions or react unfavourably?
Are you clear on your path and have the ability to inspire and motivate others? Do you have self-compassion and the courage to lead and mentor others?
Are you a positive pillar at work (and at home) and a person others can turn to? Or do you always have negative things to say?
Is there always trust and respect for other human beings? Are you able to accept responsibility for actions without placing blame on others? Do you avoid saying bad things about other people?
Do you care about helping other people and their well-being. Do you genuinely wish them happiness and ease?
Do you always show kindness to all human beings (including work colleagues and even strangers)?

Sending the Compassion Outwards

Practice radiating compassion and kindness to your self first. This will help to send it outwards. You can practice directing kindness and compassion towards anybody, toward people you know and people you don’t know. It may benefit them, but it will certainly benefit you by refining and extending your emotional being. This will mature you as a person especially if you direct it towards those people you have a hard time with, towards those who you dislike or are repulsed by, or towards those who have threatened you or hurt you in some way. You can also direct compassion and kindness towards people with whom you have some difficulty with. This can be profoundly healing.

Mindful Listening

We are asked to lead a life of honest expression, which starts with listening as a way to remember what matters, to name what matters, and to voice what matters. These are the practices that keep us authentic.” ~ Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand- they listen with the intent to reply.  Adopting a mindful approach to communication has many benefits including shared understanding, strengthened relationships, deepened trust, and a keen awareness.

Take your communication to a new level by being mindful as you speak and listen:

  • Be fully present.
  • Listen attentively, from your mid-chest rather than just your ears.
  • Deeply understand before evaluating. Don’t be quick to jump to an assumption or conclusion.
  • Respond appropriately. Not only with your words, but with your entire body, being mindful of what you say, how you say it, and what you show in your facial expressions and body movements.


INFORMAL PRACTICE-  Mindful Listening

The informal practice this week is to use conversation as an opportunity for ongoing meditation practice. Listen mindfully to your colleagues, friends, family, loved ones, clients, neighbours, strangers etc. Notice when your mind becomes distracted and notice when the mind wants to formulate a response and interject its own ideas and opinions into the conversation. See if you can be present to it all- get curious about what the mind does during listening.

*Remember- listen deeply from your giraffe heart. When it is your turn to reply demonstrate reflective listening by letting them know exactly what you heard. People want to be heard and this is a wonderful way to strengthen relationships and build rapport with others.


FORMAL PRACTICE- Compassionate Hands

Those who have greater self-compassion, report higher levels of adaptive resilience and greater mental wellbeing. Practice this week offering a moment of self-compassion to yourself. Small moments of positive self-talk, compassion and kindness during times of hurt, difficulty, disappoint or distress will ultimately result in us being more compassionate to others. This will help to strengthen your mind and create a happy, healthy brain. Imagine what you would say to a close friend or a loved one who was hurting. Imagine that you are saying these words to yourself.  This is a skill that should be practiced regularly. It helps us with the ability to communicate more effectively and to offer more compassion to others.

Week 6 : Compassionate Hands (7 min)