Compassionate Communication for the Relationship Win, 366 days of the year.


Awareness Days

Love them or hate them, “awareness” days help us to bring conscious focus to a specific topic. This then allows us to think more deeply about this topic, and perhaps look to ways we can improve or make changes in this area.


Love Awareness Day

So, as Valentine’s Day arrives (love awareness), and your focus turns to your romantic relationship(s), you may start to ask yourself questions.

How strong is(are) my romantic relationship(s)?

Does it/they need some love and attention?

What do I need to do more/less of to enhance the relationship(s)?

While the pushback to awareness days is that the topics highlighted are important all year round, not just on one day, with Valentine’s Day, I’d extend that, and encourage that the awareness be of relationships as a whole, not just romantic ones.

The questions we asked above of romantic relationships are really important for ALL your relationships.

And one of the biggest areas that can be overlooked in relationships (until problems arise of course) is communication.


Communication in Relationships

What is your relationship communication style?

Does it change depending on the relationship?

Do you talk to yourself the same way you talk to your partner, or friend or boss?

Susan Scott, author of the book ‘Fierce Conversations’ tells us that the conversation IS the relationship, and so the way we converse and communicate is key to the health and strength of the relationship.


Compassionate Communication

Compassionate Communication starts with the premise that all communication is aimed at enhancing life for everyone involved.

Life is enhanced when our needs are met, and in order to succeed in this aim, honest and vulnerable communication is key.


Love equals psychic ability

We often hear people say, “If (s)he really loved me (s)he’d just know; I wouldn’t have to ask or tell them”.

For some reason, when it comes to relationships, and especially romantic ones, we’ve all succumbed to the belief that love equals psychic ability.

Well, I’m here to call BS on that one!

It’s all too often the case that we want someone else to know us better than we know ourselves, psychically knowing what we want before we are even consciously aware of it ourselves.

Or we want the other person to know what we want so that we don’t have to be vulnerable and say it out loud.

After all, if we actually ask for a need to be met, then we open ourselves up. We are showing the other person who we really are and what we really want. And we are opening ourselves up for hurt and rejection if the other person says ‘No’ to our request, right?

Well, actually, wrong.


People want to help each other

Compassionate Communication teaches us that generally speaking, people want to help others.

They want to say ‘Yes’ as often as they can.

So, if we hear ‘No’ then that’s something to be celebrated!

It means that the other person is well enough attuned to their own needs that they know that if they say ‘Yes’ to your request, it would compromise their ability to fulfil one of their own needs.

This is such a cause for celebration because people pleasing, and saying ‘yes’ when you really don’t want to, is the fast track to frustration, embitterment and resentment – not exactly the feelings noted in healthy relationships!

Which brings us seamlessly onto boundaries.

Boundaries and free giving

Once you know what your needs are, boundaries become easy, because they are just the thing (action, thought pattern, routine etc) you put in place to ensure your needs are fulfilled.

They’re not an inflexible high fence or curtain wall, neither are they sharp hedgehog spikes, facing out to hurt anyone who comes too close. Boundaries are clear and honest communication and action, with yourself and others, to ensure the fulfilment of your needs.

And this is really important, because when my needs are fulfilled, then I can honestly say ‘yes’ to the requests of other people, helping them out.

Once my needs are fulfilled, I can give from a place of fullness, love and abundance. This isn’t ‘tit-for-tat’ giving, where I assume the other person will return in kind, and become frustrated and angry if they don’t.

This is free giving because I have the capacity to give because my needs are already met.

So hearing a ‘No’ to a request means that the conversation and relationship can now be deepened. Here’s the point where you get to know the other person a bit better, assuming they’re willing to be honest and vulnerable with you.

You could make a new request of them, “Would you be willing to tell me why you said no?”

In this way the conversation continues, and you get to learn what’s real and alive in the other person. You get to learn what needs of theirs are currently unfulfilled, and discover together if there are actions that can be taken to allow both of you to get your needs met (which is the ultimate goal after all).


Radical Responsibility

Once we start to take radical responsibility for the fulfilment of our own needs, we stop outsourcing our power, and we stop blaming others; two behaviours that are so prevalent in our society, as we learn them as we grow, and then perpetuate them, teaching them to the next generation.

How often have you heard/used the phrase “You make me so mad/angry/sad/upset!”?

This kind of statement tells me clearly that the other person is deeply entrenched in our society’s schooling of outsourcing power and blaming others. Here there is no radical responsibility because there is no understanding that nothing and no-one can MAKE you feel anything.


My feelings are my own

Feelings are internal, and they are not caused by anything outside of ourselves.

We know this, because if feeling were caused by an external event, then everyone who witnessed that external event would have the same emotional response – and we know this isn’t true.

Think of any celebrity/politician/TV programme and how you, your work colleagues, your family and your friends feel about them to confirm this truth for yourself!

External events can be a stimulus for an emotional response, but that emotional response is also majorly governed by your internal environment.

How stressed/hungry/tired you are will have a huge impact on your emotional response, meaning that you can experience the same external stimulus on 2 different occasions and have 2 different emotional responses.

So, in Compassionate Communication, when we talk about our feelings, we make sure that we are taking responsibility for them, and not blaming them on someone or something else.

This helps conversations enormously, because when the other person isn’t being blamed and attacked, then they don’t have to defend themselves, which means they actually have the capacity to listen to what you are saying.

And without listening, there really is no communication.

hand next to ear

Being able to hear what the other person is saying is key.

Read these 2 statements, and notice how you feel in response to them both.

“You make me so angry when you don’t stack the dishwasher.”

“When I noticed the dishwasher hadn’t been stacked, I felt angry.”

The 1st statement blames you for how I feel. It also apportions blame and responsibility to you for stacking the dishwasher.

The second statement still communicates that I feel angry, but this time I’m not saying that you are responsible for how I feel. And I’m also not blaming you for the dishwasher not being stacked.

Of these 2 statements, which one are you more likely to be able to hear?

Which one allows you to keep listening?

Which one forces you to stop listening so that you can construct your defense, and have it ready to deploy, just as soon as you get the chance?

For communication to work, it has to involve speaking AND listening.

It’s a 2-way, back-and-forth process.

Too often people talk AT each other, especially if they are upset about something.

When we talk AT each other we fail to actually hear what the other person is saying, and so never get the deep connection of relationship that comes with good communication.

Compassionate Communication teaches a scaffolding for constructing vulnerable and honest communication, which means that the difficult conversations are easier to have because the other person is more likely to be able to hear what is being said.


Repair is more important than rupture.

As with most things of worth, learning this new way of communicating, or rather, unlearning our society’s taught way of communicating, and relearning our inherent way of communicating, takes time and practice.

There will be frustrations and setbacks, and it’s important to remember that with relationships, the repair is much more important than the rupture.

As humans we make mistakes, and we learn through making mistakes.

Relationships are strengthened not by avoiding conflict or never messing up, but by the repair that happens after the rupture caused by conflict or mistakes.

Accepting that relationship rupture isn’t fatal to the relationship, but a way to get to know the other person better, and so strengthen the relationship, takes the pressure off. After all, no one can achieve perfection all the time.

Perfection is an entirely unrealistic and stress inducing goal, which makes us less resilient and less likely to repair after rupture.

And relationship rupture WITHOUT repair is very serious indeed – it could signal the end of the relationship.


Learn more about Compassionate Communication with The Serious Wellbeing Team.

Whether you’re thinking of your romantic relationship(s), family relationship(s) or platonic relationship(s), I hope you will consider looking more at Compassionate Communication, and how adopting its’ learnings can strengthen and deepen the relationships you enjoy with the people in your life.

For more information about Compassionate Communication Workshops, please contact Kate Brown, Serious Wellbeing Team.

Written by Kate Brown, Holistic Therapist and Life Coach, Serious Wellbeing Team Member