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Feeling frustrated? How to communicate with compassion

Feeling frustrated? How to communicate with compassion

We are constantly in communication. We are social beings, so all realms of our lives from work to play, from exercising to family time require communication. Yet miscommunications are rampant, they too infiltrate all areas of our lives. One of the worst feelings is walking away from a conversation with unresolved feelings simmering in pit of your stomach.

Words should create bridges to others, not put up walls of isolation. Sounds great in theory, but how does one put it into practise?

Doctor Marshall Rosenberg developed a theory called Compassionate Communication (Non Violent Communication) with four principals that teach us to connect with others from the heart, and alleviate unnecessary drama. The goal is to clearly express how you are feeling, and what you’d like without criticism or judgement. Without further ado, here they are:

We love to evalutate and draw conclusions, but instead try simply observing. Notice the situation you are in. Get present in the moment, and engage with your senses - touch, smell, sight and sound. Don’t attach judgements or evaluations, simply take in the context of the moment. "Observing without evaluation is the highest form of intelligence.” - J. Krishnamurti.

In context: It’s 6am and I can hear you making a smoothie

Once you’re observed the situation, ask how it's affecting your wellbeing. Identify how you’re feeling. If we bury our feelings they actually hold way more power over us, and underlying tensions fester causing more conflict in the long run. Instead embrace vulnerability, and say how you’re feeling in relation to what you observed. Express without blame or criticism.  Research suggests there are just six universal emotions, and all others are derived from these: happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger, and disgust. Take your pick, “I feel….” 

In context: It’s 6am and I can hear you making a smoothie and I feel angry

The next step is to identify your needs in relation to your feelings. We have different emotional responses to certain needs not being met. It can help to look at your core values, as these often play a role in our needs. Need is an almost taboo word. If you think of basic human needs like water, food, sleep they are far from it. There’s also a whole lot of relational needs: warmth, stability, acceptance, companionship, humour, authenticity, community... Don’t confuse needs for wants.

In context: It’s 6am and I can hear you making a smoothie and I feel angry because I need sleep.

These are concrete actions you’d like taken, having taken into consideration the situation, your feelings and your needs. Be specific, and make clear requests. This isn’t about being demanding. Exercise consideration when forming your requests. “Would you be willing to….” You attract more bees with honey than vinegar.

In context: It’s 6am and I can hear you making a smoothie and I feel angry because I need sleep. Would you be willing to make it the night before next time?

Remember, while it’s fundamental to express your own feelings and needs it’s equally as important to listen to the other person. Compassionate communication is all about empathy, this flows both ways. Both to yourself and to others.