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There are four components in the compassionate communication model. Each step helps you respond to others with less blame and more compassion in difficult situations.

  1. Practice observing actions, rather than judging or evaluating them. This helps to short-circuit emotional reactions and gives you the opportunity to harvest important insights.
  2. Identify your feelings in difficult situations and describe them in specific terms. Try using precise words like unsettled or agitated, instead of good or fine. Specific emotions provide clarity, simplifying the connection between your feelings and the deeper needs underlying them.
  3. Explore how needs inform your feelings: The next time you experience a strong emotion, try linking it to a need. For example, if you feel angered with your spouse for forgetting to pay the bills on time, see if that feeling connects with your core need to act responsibly, or perhaps your need to feel secure, taken care of or in control. Next try to connect what he might be feeling — perhaps overwhelmed at the number of chores on his plate, or frustrated that he’s not better at keeping track of fiscal details — with a deeper need of his. Perhaps he feels called to focus on other things, a need to succeed in areas that come more naturally to him, or a need to do things “his own way.” Taken in this light, his “offense” may begin to make more sense, to seem more human, and therefore more deserving of a compassionate, constructive response. Identifying and owning your needs and preferences may, at the very least, help you evolve your own reaction beyond accusations and nagging.
  4. Practice making specific, positive requests for what you would like someone to do to meet your needs, instead of instinctively reacting to a situation with blame and negativity. Focus on what you want to create and experience or would like to see happen, as opposed to what you want to prevent or stop.

This was excerpted from “Compassionate Communication” which was published in the March 2009 issue of Experience Life magazine.

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