I’ve talked a lot about how we can be loving towards ourselves and others, but I thought it would be good to get really specific. This is the first in a mini-series of Applied Compassion posts.
Please keep in mind over the course of this mini-series, this is me, using my understanding, training, and skills as a general guide. There are no hard and fast rules to compassion but one – everything is contextual. These are guidelines only. That said, there are some things that are never loving (dehumanization, for example).
The following communication guidelines are based on an extensive body of conflict resolution principles and non-violent communication work that have been employed by mediators, counselors, and others (and I’ve found them incredibly beneficial in my professional and personal life). Try them out in social media as well as real life!
Compassionate Communication Guidelines
Give up name-calling. Idiot, moron, stupid, monster are all examples of words that should be purged from your vocabulary. Name-calling is inflammatory and conflates action with person as well as dehumanizing the person in question.
When you encounter conversations where others are name-calling or using judgmental language, do not join in. Whenever possible, “call in” those individuals using such language and point out how it is harmful and counter-productive (this is best done in a one-on-one setting or a private message). If you cannot “call in,” then reframe the conversation by focusing on specific actions and results of individuals.
When describing actions, remove judgment and focus on results.
Example: “When you do X, it makes me feel Y.”
Suggest alternative behaviors to replace undesireable ones.
Example: “When you do X, it makes me feel Y. In the future, I would like you to do Z.”
Acknowledge the other person’s feelings.
Listen to understand, not to reply.
Ask clarifying questions when you don’t understand.
Example: “Could you tell me more about X?”
Do not assume you know someone’s experience – because you don’t. No one can.
Example of what NOT to do: “I know just how you feel…”
Instead say, “It sounds like that was really X for you.”
When you talk with someone, intend the conversation for the highest good of all. This helps get you in a good emotional place to focus on a positive interaction.
When someone calls you a name, remember: A person’s language is a reflection of how they think, what they believe, and their emotional state. It is about them – not you. This empowers you to maintain a sense of peace and happiness, regardless of others’ words or actions.
Seek intent rather than specific words. Some people are not aware of how their words read to others. They may have intended the highest good, but didn’t have the right words to express it. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and lovingly suggest alternatives.
Example: “I think when you said X, you meant Y. When you say X, it can make certain people feel A. In the future it would be good to say Y.”
Real life example: “I think when you said man, you meant human. When you say man to mean human, it makes many people feel excluded. In the future please say human.”
These are just a few ways you can improve your communication to be more loving to yourself and others, which will improve your relationships in all areas of your life. This is something that I have found in my personal life, but is widely accepted by communication and mediation experts (and has been implemented in many institutions and organizations).
When you start to use these, it may feel a little awkward. The more consistently you use these techniques in your daily life, the more natural they feel until they become second nature. After years of doing these things, I don’t even notice when I’m doing them. They just come naturally.
I tended to use these more in professional settings, however when I implemented them in personal settings (including social media interaction), it completely changed my personal relationships and overall life experience for the better.
When you choose to use these, be gentle with yourself. There is a learning curve. If you make a mistake, it’s okay. Adjust and continue to practice. You can only improve (and trust me – it’s worth the effort!)!
Have you used these techniques in your life? How have they worked for you? Leave a comment below!
Did you like these techniques? Get even more to transform your life through love with the Heart Unboxed: How to Love the Unloveable course! You’ll get more love, peace, joy, and wellness in every aspect of life! Click here to enroll today!
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