Why bother with speaking from a place of empathy?

A client, struggling to improve her communication with her Mother asked me: Why bother speaking with empathy? Good question.

In reality we are often judged and often harshly for identifying our needs and requesting that they be met. But if they remain unexpressed it as if these needs are not of importance to us. And if they are not important to you, they are unlikely to be important to others. So what happens? We erupt into demands, of “shoulds” and “deserves” which generally do not result in a compassionate response, but instead resistance.  And can make us angry, or entrenched. Neither is going to get you what you want in a way you don’t regret in the future.  A win-win is always better then a win-lose or lose-lose conversation. Here’s example:

Dana: “All day I have been running from one thing to an other, groceries, laundry, schlepping the kids around, Oh and going to work. Now how about you making dinner?”

Pat: “ No! You  are not the only one who’s a had hard day, let me tell you…”

Sound familiar?  Dana’s list of what I need in a day maybe true and it may be true that Pat has had a hard day.

What if..?

Dana: “I don’t know about you, but I have had a long day. I’m wiped out and would like to take some time to myself tonight. Would you be willing to make dinner if I wash up after?” Might that have moved the conversation towards a win-win outcome? Maybe Pat will whip up some thing tasty. Maybe they will deicide to order take out. But probably none will feel the sting of a “yea, but…” comment. There is less space for misinterpretation and consequently more space for finding common ground that holds good for both.

For more information see: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. or The Center for Nonviolent Communication

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