As counsellors we aim to minimize the amount of emotional harm a client is experiencing or inflicting on themselves through teaching and modeling effective communication, expressing compassion and patience. But what about our own conditioned human response and how we communicate with ourselves or others in our personal life?
I recently read a book by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg – Nonviolent Communication: A language of life. He outlined to communicate nonviolently is a process of communicating compassionately with both yourself and others. Dr. Rosenberg outlined 4 steps in the process of “compassionate communication”:
1) Observations – the actions we observe that affect our well being
To make honest observations about the actions which impact our well being we must be willing to observe without evaluation. In other words, we acknowledge a particular action without judgment as we would if we were observing the action (s) of our client.
2) Feelings – how we feel in relation to what we observe
Though it may be easier said than done, we must be willing to identify the feeling(s) associated with the action (s) we observed in ourselves/others that negatively impacted our well being. Dr. Rosenberg encourages the individual to distinguish feelings from thoughts (i.e. I am disappointed in my performance versus I am a failure); distinguish between what we feel and what we think we are (i.e. I am sad my client has decided not to continue to see me versus I am a terrible counselor) and; distinguish between what we feel and how we think others react or behave toward us (i.e. I am lonely versus I feel like you abandoned me).
3) Needs – identifying the needs, values and desires that create our feelings
In this step of the process, we take responsibility for our feelings versus blaming others for how we feel. Instead of using judgments, criticism, diagnoses, and interpretations as to the reason our needs are not being met, we can choose to take ‘emotional responsibility’ for our actions.
4) Requests – the actions we request in order to enrich our lives
The final step is to be open to asking for what it is we want. This request should come without a demand and be clear and specific. The intent is not to force someone to behave in a certain way but to request an action if the person is willing to do so without guilt or feeling like they “have to”.
In summary, to promote compassionate understanding and communication within our personal lives and, most importantly, with ourselves: take ownership; be willing to be open & honest and; be receptive.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA