Compassionate Communication is a consciousness of connection. That doesn’t mean creating the most connection possible with everyone in your life. Rather, it means discerning what type of connection is most supportive in each relationship.
A student of mine, Adolfo, was recently talking about how his acupuncturist had crossed a boundary in treatment (brought up a topic outside of their usual realm and implicit agreement around relating). Adolfo is interested in a career in acupuncture and was asking for advice regarding various school programs. During the conversation the acupuncturist asked him, “Are you going to be around town this weekend?” Adolfo hesitantly answered yes. Then the acupuncturist asked, “Would you like to go to dinner with my partner and I?” Adolfo answered with a wavering yes and quickly changed the subject.
Adolfo, felt nervous needing clarity about his acupuncturist’s intention. At the same time, he had a need for harmony and connection within the boundaries of the client / patient relationship they had created. His strategy was to give the most immediately pleasing answer and then move away from the topic. This strategy didn’t meet either of his needs very well.
I gave Adolfo this formula for situations like this in which you don’t want to create more intimacy, but you do want clarity about a sticky interaction. First, refer to the event in observational terms. Second, make a guess about most neutral reason the other might have had for what they said or did. For Adolfo, it sounded like this:
“Hey, last visit when you asked me about dinner, were you just wanting to offer more about acupuncture career stuff?”
Here the need is implicit with the word “offer” He guessed his acupuncturist had a need for contribution.
If the acupuncturist answers yes, they can talk about a comfortable venue for doing that or Adolfo can say he has enough information for now.
If the acupuncturist answers yes and also expresses an interest in friendship, Adolfo now has had time to consider if he would like that dual relationship or not.
If not, he may say, “Oh, I can’t be friends, life just feels too complicated for me.” (Implicit need for ease).
Otherwise he can start a dialogue about getting together as friends and what that might look like.
Creating the connection you want means deciding what elements of your experience and process to share. In any given interaction there are many strands of observations, feelings, needs, and possible requests. To create the particular kind of connection you want with someone requires sifting through these and deciding which will be the most helpful to share.
This week notice both relationships in which you would like more intimacy and those in which you would like less intimacy. For both, notice exactly what of your experience you are choosing to share and what you are leaving out. How are your choices shaping your relationships?
*click here for a list of feelings and universal needs and an empathy guide. http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/resources.php