Those of you who have been following my articles know that, in 2019, I wrote a lot about compassionate communication. I shared my thoughts on the power of beautiful words, on the healing miracle that is the human voice, on the importance of silence to communicate first with ourselves, on appreciating communication as an act of generosity and finally about those difficult conversations that we all often face.
Looking back, I see that I have delved into several of the aspects that make up compassionate communication, but that until today I have not specifically entered into what compassion means or why we should bring it to the forefront and let it take charge of our communication.
The time has come to do it. As humanity, we live in times of great pain, fear and uncertainty. Not forgetting other more positive emotions that also coexist with all this, I now want to share the wonders of compassion and shed some light on how to communicate in moments of so much suffering in ourselves and others.
Let’s start with its Latin etymology, which makes it clear from the start: cum (together) and patior (suffer). Compassion is essentially the participation in the suffering of the other.
But let no one be frightened ahead of time: this is not a feeling of pity that goes top-down, as in “feeling sorry for someone you consider in some way inferior”. We are not talking about pity. Instead, we speak of an intimate and difficult communion with a pain that does not arise in myself but that, if accepted and traveled, leads me to a much deeper and pure unity than any other feeling that unites humans.
Compassion is thus the manifestation of an unconditional type of love that structurally cannot ask for anything in return. That is probably why it must be so difficult for us to experiment, accustomed as we are to seek the ROI in all our human interactions.
The third aspect that contains compassion, which I think is extremely important to share, is that it works as a key piece for an authentic communion not only in the suffering, but also, and above all, in the joy and enthusiasm for life.
I pause for a moment on this idea, because it is very relevant to the thread of compassionate communication.
I think that for most of us, associating suffering and joy will require a maturity that perhaps we have not yet conquered. I sense that it is right at this very complex intersection when we are asked to place a lot of confidence in life. And it is just fine to not get it yet: everything at its right time. Each one of us gets to the comprehension of this idea whenever it is possible.
Let me use the beautiful words of Thich Nhat Hanh to explain it better, because I think he tells it in a simple and beautiful way:
“We try to avoid suffering, but suffering is useful. We need to suffer. Let us listen to ourselves and understand that true compassion and love are born from our suffering. It is from there that love will be born, and soon we will suffer less. When we suffer less and feel compassion for ourselves, we more easily understand the suffering of another person and the world. If we know how to deal with suffering, we will know how to take care of happiness. Suffering and happiness always go hand in hand. To grow, the lotus flower must take root in the mud.”
What this great expert on the link between communication and happiness tells us is that unless we first listen to and accept our own suffering, we will be unable to help others. As you have heard many times, compassion begins with oneself.
Precisely here lies the key to the transformation towards compassionate communication that we so desperately need in these times of profound change. Because the magic is that, the moment we are able to connect with and understand our own suffering, our communication with ourselves will be transformed.
And then it will only be a matter of time before our communication with others will also be transformed: it will be based, above all, on the desire to understand the other, instead of focusing on the desire to demonstrate that we are right.
Do you really believe that today, spring 2020, knowing what we are ALL living, it makes any sense to pretend to be right?
When we communicate with each other out of true compassion, our only intention will be to help. You will agree with me that right now we need a lot of this spirit of help, from which fortunately we are already receiving great samples.
Now it is time to give each other support and understanding for the suffering of the other and, without any feeling of superiority, offering truly human communication that can connect us first, and, above all, from heart to heart.
Compassionate communication has more specific and interesting components that we can discover. I hope to share them in future articles.
For now, for those of you who want to delve into the great transformative power of compassionate communication, I recommend 3 resources that for me are a constant source of inspiration: Make Work More Human (initiative of Renée Smith), Awakening Compassion at Work (book and website with useful proposals for organizations) and of course, my dear Thich Nhat Hanh with his books and all his work.
Take good care of yourself and a warm hug to everyone!