Compassionate Communication: Speaking and Listening with an Open Heart during Difficult Times

I’ve spent most of my adult life feeling as though I’m fairly enlightened. Considerate, peaceful, respectful of the rights and feelings of others – “woke,” I guess you could say. Until recently, if you asked anyone about me, my friends, family, even strangers in the supermarket, they’d probably tell you, “She’s calm, kind, – has something encouraging to say…a ‘peaceful’ person.” And I’d smile beatifically, so sure of my place in a benevolent Universe, in my ability to stay centered even when people and circumstances around me were difficult. I was patient with myself, with others, with challenging life circumstances. I handed out copies of Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements to family and friends, believed in “living in the now,” took nothing personally, and woke up most mornings feeling grateful and optimistic.

Lately though, I’ve struggled to maintain the “balance” I’ve counted on to navigate through life. I could probably give you an eloquent and “justifiable” list of “reasons” for this regrettable state of being, for this vaguely alarming sense that, despite my history as a peaceful, happy person, I have become decidedly off-balance.

Sure, this has been a tough year; no one will argue with me there. In a world in which at least a few core elements used to seem relatively certain – being close to family, counting on old friends for love and support, taking comfort in shared memories and experiences, hugging, joking, laughing, feeling like no matter what happened “out there,” we could still count on at least a few familiar rituals, experiences, and relationships to keep us looking forward to what tomorrow, next week, or next year might bring.

But all of a sudden, people I thought I knew very well were repeating fake news, ranting about how seemingly reliable media sources and public figures were “after them,” how a serious public health threat “wasn’t that bad” and how being asked to wear a face covering was “depriving them of their rights.” And if I didn’t agree with them, they declared, then I must be either “confused,” “misinformed” or just plain wrong.

“What’s wrong with them?” I asked myself disgustedly. “How can they say those things! Don’t they understand how negative/disrespectful/hurtful they sound?” I found myself gravitating towards others who were similarly stuck in loops of righteous negativity. As long as we agreed with each other about how wrong “they” were, then surely we were “right”? I was allowing the words of others to “make me” feel anxious, sad – even angry. I wasn’t listening, I was reacting. I wasn’t communicating, I was flinging words into the Universe with no regard to what effect those words were having – exactly what I was accusing other people of doing!

Then one day, I was on my treadmill, getting in my steps to Lady Gaga and Earth, Wind and Fire, when a sudden clarity came over me – not a lightning-bolt kind of clarity, but a sort of calming internal effusion of knowing that almost made me stumble. I slowed down the treadmill and settled into an amble to give my brain a chance to quiet the heck down and listen to my heart

I remembered a conversation I’d had recently with one of my close friends. She still refused to take the current public health crisis seriously, going on and on about how she just couldn’t breathe with a mask on, and how her rights were being violated by insisting that she either wear one or stay at home. Now, instead of reverting to the judgmental mindset I’d slipped into the last time I’d listened to her, I let myself recall the stark fear in her voice as she talked about the prospect of becoming ill, about how sad she was that she hadn’t seen her four grandchildren in more than a year, about her fear that one of her adult children, who’d lost his job and tended towards depression, would sink into despair.

Instead of listening with an open heart, listening to all of her words and the feelings behind them, I’d focused on my friend’s rant about face coverings and personal rights and decided that she was being unreasonable and illogical. By doing this, I was also locking myself into a negative space, unable to empathize with her or offer her comfort. I was also pushing my own sadness, fear and anxiety into a dark corner – never a good practice for someone who claimed to exude inner peace, balance and “wokeness”!

I finished my workout, eased into my recliner, and took a good long look at my recent attitude and how it was affecting my relationships with myself and others. Yes, these were indeed difficult times, but hadn’t I long ago learned that the words I allowed myself to use mattered? I’d let myself drift away from one of my core affirmations: “Today, let me practice compassionate communication”.

Sure, maybe the current state of the world could best be described as “super-mega-freefall-flux,”but that was no reason for me to abandon my commitment to listening with an open heart, and to using words to nurture and support myself and others, not create anxiety and perpetuate negativity.

The way I see it, there are two parallel paths of compassionate communication: the way I speak to and listen to others, and the way I choose to react to the way others speak to me. The first path has to do with being mindful, not only of the actual words I’m using, but also of their intent and impact. During stressful times, the mindfulness with which I usually choose my words might not activate in time to keep me from saying something unkind or thoughtless. It’s up to me to “think before I speak” and to choose my words carefully and kindly. It’s also up to me to listen compassionately, to remember that pain and fear may also be causing others to say things they might not mean. Of course, if I feel that someone is being deliberately hurtful or deceitful, then I can choose to end a conversation, as an act of compassion to myself.

The second path involves the way I react to what I am told. I’ve come to understand that “what I’m told” includes what I hear in the media, and to address this, I’ve had to curtail my consumption of words thrown at me by public figures who wield them to create anxiety, fear, and mistrust. This sort of communication is the polar opposite of compassionate because the speakers don’t care about the negative affect their words might have on others. And with difficult personal conversations, I have several choices: one, I can agree not to take what is being said personally and simply let it pass; or two, I can choose to express how someone’s words have hurt or upset me – as long as I’m not expecting a particular outcome from doing so.

The choices I make about the words I use affect not only my own well-being, but that of others. Compassionate communication, speaking and listening with an open heart, is a deliberate choice I can make to encourage myself and others to live more balanced, peaceful lives, even during difficult times. 

By Vicky Elabd

(Instagram: @vickyelabd)

 

 

Our Actions Teach

My mother taught me to smoke cigarettes.  Of course it was not her intent to do so. But each time she lit up I learned by her example that smoking was okay, even though she told me over and over to “do as she said rather than as she did.” 

The problem with “do as I say not as I do,” is that 80-90% of all communication is non-verbal. That means our behavior is vastly more influential in teaching than our words.   

One of the most important things for us to remember is that what to value and how to behave appropriately must be taught. You and I have the responsibility to be a positive example for others of how life works best, especially children, because they learn from watching us. So if we do not intentionally teach them how to behave and what to value they will learn on their own through television, video games, the internet, movies and their peers.

With something as important as values at stake, we do not want to leave their character to chance. One way to be a positive hands-on example is to remember it is our actions that teach.

RYS 134: When Self-first is Not Selfish

In this Episode:

 

You are an individual. So am I. As individuals it is only possible for us to be one half of the relationship we have with each other. Our goal in the relationship we have with each other is to be our best half. On the other hand, in the relationship we have with ourselves, you and I are the entire relationship. Our goal in the relationship we have with ourselves is to be whole by loving ourselves first, so we know how to love each other well.

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RYS 126: Listening to Our Whistleblowers

In this Episode:

You and I are impressed with people who bravely stand up to injustice. We consider those who blow the whistle on corruption, irresponsibility, neglect, abuse and practices that harm us, the environment and animals, to be superheroes. But often listening to our own personal whistleblowers is a completely different story. Our prideful and defensive ego is not eager to have people call us on our negative behavior.

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RYS 088: Embrace and Nurture the Little Wounded You

In this Episode:

 

There are two parts to each of us. The adult part that is responsible, kind, compassionate, and understanding. And a wounded child part that behaves like an irresponsible and emotionally immature brat.

• The wounded child part of us does not know better to do better.
• Our childlike side does not have the skills to create healthy adult relationships.
• Our adult side is totally capable of learning how to take the lead to create our best life.

 

Romancing Your Soul ™ is a show where Regina gives you the keys to create a joyful life. In a world filled with limitless challenges and stress, who can listeners count on for real-life solutions? Just check in with Regina Cates, acclaimed author, positivity junkie. Regina is a champion of heart whose common sense tips will make your relationships better, your communication clearer, and your boundaries healthier.

 

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To subscribe to the podcast, please use the links below:

 

Click Here to Subscribe Via iTunes

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Leave a Review for the Podcast

If you haven’t left a review I would greatly appreciate it if you would take a minute to leave a rating and review of my podcast on iTunes by clicking on the link below! It’s extremely helpful for the show and getting my positive words out worldwide.

As a ‘Thank you Gift’ for your review, please send a email with “I left a review” in the subject line to: Regina@RomancingYourSoul.com letting me know you left a review, and I will send you my pdf on “How-to Set Boundaries Out of Love for Yourself”.

To leave a review, click HERE. When you get to the next page, click the blue button “Listen in iTunes”, listen to an episode, and click on “Ratings and Reviews” across from my photo. I am grateful for your review!

To receive a FREE chapter of my book “Lead With Your Heart”. Fill in your name and email under…Join Our Heart Family and Receive a FREE Gift! Click HERE.

 

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RYS 087: How to Make a Relationship Last

In this Episode:

 

On June 2 my mom and dad celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary. Over their sixty seven years together they weathered betrayal, affairs, learning one of their daughters is gay, and financial challenges. How did they manage to make their relationship last?

• Begin with a solid foundation of shared values.
• Stay focused on the commitment.
• Let each other know they are wanted and valued.

 

Romancing Your Soul ™ is a show where Regina gives you the keys to create a joyful life. In a world filled with limitless challenges and stress, who can listeners count on for real-life solutions? Just check in with Regina Cates, acclaimed author, positivity junkie. Regina is a champion of heart whose common sense tips will make your relationships better, your communication clearer, and your boundaries healthier.

 

Regina PC cover 300x300

 

 

To subscribe to the podcast, please use the links below:

 

Click Here to Subscribe Via iTunes

Click Here to Subscribe Via Stitcher

 

Leave a Review for the Podcast

If you haven’t left a review I would greatly appreciate it if you would take a minute to leave a rating and review of my podcast on iTunes by clicking on the link below! It’s extremely helpful for the show and getting my positive words out worldwide.

As a ‘Thank you Gift’ for your review, please send a email with “I left a review” in the subject line to: Regina@RomancingYourSoul.com letting me know you left a review, and I will send you my pdf on “How-to Set Boundaries Out of Love for Yourself”.

To leave a review, click HERE. When you get to the next page, click the blue button “Listen in iTunes”, listen to an episode, and click on “Ratings and Reviews” across from my photo. I am grateful for your review!

To receive a FREE chapter of my book “Lead With Your Heart”. Fill in your name and email under…Join Our Heart Family and Receive a FREE Gift! Click HERE.

 

Follow us on Facebook HERE

 

Love is Acceptance

RYS-heart-v2-(07-09-2012)AI knew I was gay around age four or five. I can’t tell you how I knew but it is not uncommon for gay people to know at such an early age. As you can imagine it was a secret I kept as long as possible. I dared not tell anyone. I knew exactly what would happen because each time I entered church or went to school it was made very clear just how much my “kind” was hated.

At age eighteen I finally told my parents and yes, my worst nightmare did come true. I was sent to a physician who sexually molested me. Then I was locked in a psychiatric hospital because they thought I was depressed. I was despondent because I’d just been violated and the two people who were supposed to love me told me I was a business risk, I was going to hell, that I broke their hearts, and I should go live at the YWCA.

My parents were taught to despise gay people while also having to make sense of contradictory messages such as “thou shall not judge” and “love your neighbor as yourself” and “treat other people as you want to be treated.” Now faced with their worst nightmare too, they feared being shunned by their religious, social and business communities.

Their solution was for me to change so they sent me to a psychiatrist in another town. I’ll never forget the look on my parent’s face when the doctor told them he would not and could not change me since I was born this way. What he would help me do was learn to accept myself in a world that flat out did not.

Today, my parents are two of my biggest fans and best friends. They no longer fear being shunned or hated themselves because over thirty-five years ago they began bravely questioning their beliefs. When they did, they found love is stronger than fear. Acceptance more loving than judgment. And, what other people think of me is not as important as what they know to be true of me.

It turns out my parents always loved me. They just had no clue how to accept me while also following their religious beliefs. Apparently they made peace with that because the only thing I now feel from them is complete and unconditional love. The same as if Jesus himself were loving me.

LOVE = Listening Openly Via Empathy

Two of my neighbors have a long history of fighting with one another. Although they never get violent or even threaten each other physically, it still becomes uncomfortable for everyone in our small building when they start going at each other. Last night it happened again with door slamming and screaming. This morning one of them showed up at my door to vent. So I sat and listened.

In circumstances like this when we are involuntarily pulled into someone’s difficulties, we can offer support without verbally supporting a particular side by simply listening without comment. The simple act of allowing someone to be heard without judgment often allows them to move on without our having to become involved, or to gossip, or to try to fix something that does not need our trying to fix it.