Compassionate Communication

“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there”

~ Rumi
hands almost touching with words of compassion written on them
Compassionate Communication is a quality of consciousness based on these assumptions:
  • Human beings are compassionate by nature.
  • Contribution is a powerful human need.
  • Human beings are interconnected.
  • All human beings have the same feelings and needs.

Goals of Compassionate Communication:
  • To enhance inner well being and increase the ability to meet one’s own needs.
  • To increase understanding, cooperation, and respect within relationships.

The consciousness of Compassionate Communication is based on the following Life-Serving Perspectives:
  • Just as leaves reach for the sun, everything that people do is reaching to meet universal, life-serving needs.
  • We are always and only reaching for life.
  • No matter what a person is expressing, it is their attempt to enrich their life.
  • All attacks, criticism, blaming are that individual’s tragic expression of needs.
  • What others to stimulates, but does not cause, our feelings. The source of our feelings is our needs.
For example:

When our needs are met/fulfilled we may feel:
glad, peaceful, tender rested, grateful, calm

When our needs are not met we may feel:
sad, afraid, angry, confused, tired, uneasy

Our own natural compassion is stimulated:
  • When our own needs are seen empathically – by ourselves and others.
  • When we feel heard, by ourselves and others.
  • When we are able to hear/recognize the other’s needs empathically.

It is then, that our natural desire to contribute to the other’s well being becomes energized.

In empathetic connection, we enter an internal place that knows:
  • The needs of the other are the same as our own.

Authentic expression is based on an honesty:
  • that is responsive to what is alive in oneself in the moment.
  • that has the intention of enriching life.
  • that has a commitment to a certain use of power.
  • that sees one’s own needs as a gift to others.
  • that chooses not to make choices “for others” out of guilt, fear, obligation, the desire to please, or to buy love.
Compassionate Communication raises our awareness:

of our desire for connection, as well as,
of our fear and our patterns of defending against it. Developing our skills in CC is a process of healing
and growth in which we bump up against our willingness:

•  to want to hear the needs of self and other, and
•  to reveal our own needs to others.
•  to embrace the conviction that connecting on a needs level is vital prior to any consideration of solution or strategy.

The inability to connect with self or other’s needs is usually prevented by one of four things:
  • Lack of resources of time or energy.
  • Attached to outcome.
  • A reactive or defensive mode.
  • Not aware of own feelings/needs.



Two types of requests:

Connecting requests:

For reflection,

“Would you tell me what you hear me say?”

For response,

“Would you be willing to…(strategy to meet everyone’s needs)?”

Observation vs Evaluation:


Observation vs judgment, diagnosis,
Moralistic interpretation,
right/wrong, good/bad

Feelings vs Thought:


Emotion, body sensation
vs beliefs, opinions, images, interpretations
“I feel like/that…”
“I feel rejected”
“You/I should…”


Need vs Strategy:


Living Energy
Independent of external
An inner experience
Characteristic of all humans
Sustain or enhance life
vs Specific actions
Ways of meeting needs
Specific behaviors


Request vs Demand:


Given freely/Power with
Clear, precise
Present action
vs Coersion/Power over
Vague wants
Guilt, obligation, duty
Use of fear, shame
Denial of choice:
have to, can’t, should, must



The above comments are based on the work of
Marshall Rosenbert, PhD.
founder of Nonviolent Communication,
as well as, the work of NVC trainers;
Jeff Brown, Robert Gonzales, John Kinyon, Kelly Bryson and Linnaea Marvel