Language of Empathy

Nov 29, 2017
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Communicate In your Relationships

Using the Language of Empathy

American psychologist, Marshall Rosenberg developed one of the most popular and sought after styles of communication, Nonviolent Communication (NVC). NVC is based on the principles of nonviolence or the authentic state of compassion where no violence is present, physical nor verbal. This style of communication is sometimes referred to as the “language of empathy” which can be used in any relationship: personal, romantic, professional or even within oneself. Relationships can be a host of multiple stressors. According to a 2015 study in Switzerland, when your partner is under stress, they are less likely to provide the necessary support needed in the relationship.This can easily be tied to the empathy that is provided within the relationship. Don’t be confused though, empathy has absolutely nothing to do with feeling sympathetic for someone (or oneself) but rather is a full respect and understanding of where someone is coming from. The Center for Nonviolent Communication shares that “NVC begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies—whether verbal or physical—are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture.” However, despite society’s taught and supported learned behaviors, NVC also assumes that the actions we take and feelings we have are based on a subconscious and/or conscious strategy to meet one or more of our basic human needs. Empathy, in this case can be used like a superpower, by pulling others out of the negative feelings they might feel when their needs are not being met. Keep in mind their needs may not be met in various relationships of their lives including relationships with their significant others, family, friends, co-workers or even themselves. NVC and the use of empathy as taught by Rosenberg can be put into practice by using empathetic listening and honest expression by doing the following...

Avoid making assumptions or evaluations, instead make observations.

Use your five senses (touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing) to observe what behaviors are existent and what things are most affecting you and/or the relationship. For example avoid evaluations or assumptions like “I failed to eat healthy this week.” “I didn’t get any projects complete at work today.” Instead make an observation like, “I ate healthy three days this week.” “I completed over 50% of three projects I am working on today.”

Avoid expressing thoughts, instead express feelings.

Let go of judgement, accusation or critique which can lead to negative thoughts of self. Rather notice the feeling(s) that is just under the surface and choose to express from this space. Be careful because thoughts can often mask themselves as feelings. For example avoid saying things like “I feel like a disappointment.” “I feel like my boss is micromanaging.” “I feel incompetent.” These are thoughts based on another feeling that you are having. Instead say “I feel sad because I let you down on this project that I know was important to you.” “I feel angry because you did not show up to the event after I asked you to.”

Avoid identifying strategies or solutions, instead identify needs.

We all individually have different solutions and strategies to meet a need, but our overall universal needs are often similar to our counterparts. Thus, identifying the need and communicating it makes it easier to understand for all parties. For example avoid expressing things like “I need you to take me out to dinner on a date.” “I need you to stop my the drugstore to pick up Joey’s medication.” Instead say “I need to feel connected to you by spending quality time with you.” “I need to to feel like we are both contributing to our family by taking care of errands equally.”

Avoid making demands, instead make requests.

Once the feelings and needs are noticed then it is time show understanding and agree on any necessary action to support the need. For example avoid stating “You need to take out the trash every other day.” “I need to exercise every day.” Instead make a request like, “Would you be willing to tell me what you heard me say about support around household chores?” “What agreements would I be willing to make with my exercise for the next two weeks?”

Let us know how this helped you. We would love to hear your stories. Please email us!

——————————————————————————————————–We are also here to help! If you’re ready for support or want more information on the language of empathy, drop us an email or give us a call at 877-293-9355 ext. 0!


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