Compassionate communication relies on the following basic principles.
We examine each thought and action to see whether it is helpful or harmful. Does it advance connection and understanding between us and others? Does it increase the chances of satisfying everyone’s needs or decrease chances? This is what always guides us, rather than playing the destructive game of “who’s right and who’s wrong”.
Compassionate communication is possible only after we have learnt to act out of a conscious and aware mental state rather than in an automatic and reactive manner. We need to develop emotional intelligence, self awareness to the feelings and needs of ourselves and of others.
Practice and patience
As with any new skill that we learn, at first we will make mistakes. We need to be patient with ourselves, and understand that even if we make mistakes, it’s ok, we can learn from that, and also apologize or fix what we said.
Because learning this new communication skill is not trivial, it is recommended at first to speak slowly, to make it easier on ourselves to remain connected to our heart and talk from an aware state, and so that we can examine what we say before we say it. Speaking slowly, because we are taking our time to think how to phrase what we are going to say, is a natural part of the learning process (and we can ignore the unhelpful criticism that our minds may generate, such as “it sounds strange”).
Empathy and compassion
Towards ourselves and towards others.
We must respect the personal sovereignty of others, respect their wishes and boundaries. Every person is a sovereign entity, free to choose what they want and do, even when this conflicts with our wishes. We must never try to coerce anything on anyone, neither by force nor by manipulations.
We need to understand that no one – neither people nor institutions – can cause us to do anything. We are always free to choose what we do. We may not like the available options, but we always have freedom to choose.
In particular, we need to learn to take personal responsibility on our emotions and our actions. Our emotions arise from our psychological structure, from needs that are being met or are not met, and from our mind’s interpretations of situations. What happens outside of us may be a trigger for our emotions, but it does not cause our emotions. An external trigger also cannot cause us to do any action. The same external trigger may cause two different people to feel and act differently in the same kind of situation.
For example, in a war between tribes, one person whose family was murdered may feel rage and decide to fight back with vengeance, while another person in the same situation would feel sadness and decide to act to bring an end to the conflict so that no one else would have to experience such loss. Therefore, a statement such as “she really pissed me off, so she made me hit her” is always wrong.