Sessions meet 1st and 3rd Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m.

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cookeville 31 West 1st St, Cookeville

The Compassionate Communication Practice Circle continues to meet.  We are practicing the technique together and welcome anyone who want to join us.   If there is sufficient interest we will host an introductory session in addition to the Practice Circle.  If you want to know a little about what Compassionate Communication is all about, please read the test of the first session below.  If you are interested in an introductory session please contact Ivan Cordrey


 Today we will explain what Compassionate Communication is, and why you want to learn it. In subsequent sessions we will learn the mechanics of how to do it, and engage in practice.


Compassionate communication is about learning to connect with the people in your life, learning to hear them and to be heard on a very deep level. It is about hearing, feeling and expressing emotions and needs, and finding solutions to problems big and small. It is about staying at peace in the face of judgment, criticism and anger. It is about speaking, thinking and listening in ways that inspire compassion and understanding. It is about breaking patterns of thinking that lead to stress, depression, guilt and shame, and discovering common ground with people.


For me, Susan Ford, it is about my spiritual journey. I am interested in Buddhist philosophy, and the Noble Eightfold Path calls for Right Speech. But whether this is part of your spiritual journey or not, it can help you discover what is alive in others, and delight in the sharing of that life. This is part of a peaceful, joyous existence.


I’d like to start by listening to a video clip by Marshall Rosenberg, the man who developed this communication system. He has used it in some demanding international situations that are pretty remarkable.


<video> (first 3:33 minutes)


Now we’re going to apply the system to a harder scenario – domestic life.   (The advanced stage is when you can apply it to your mother!)


One thing you’ll notice is that the system is NOT about finding a solution to a conflict. It is about connecting with another person. There are a couple of mysteries in the following scenario – pieces of information that are missing. By using the communication style that society teaches us, you’ll see that those mysteries remain covered, and therefore an acceptable solution is not possible.


We are going to perform a short skit, several times, with some changes each time. Because the purpose of our first meeting is to get your attention and convince you that this is valuable, we are going to start with violence – that always gets good ratings. To help you, the viewer, we will provide some signs:

<ouch> = a painful statement to the listener, a mark of violence is inflicting pain on another          

<I was heard> = person feels the other person actually heard them. This works to diffuse pain.

<I understand> = actual comprehension of the others feelings and needs

There are 4 things you’ll want to listen for in each skit:

  1. An observation
  2. An expression of feelings
  3. An expression of needs
  4. A request

These 4 steps can be done in a compassionate way, or in a violent way. Listen to the language used, and more importantly, how it makes you feel. These steps are the answers to the mysteries.

Sometimes the animals giraffe and jackal are used to represent language patterns. The giraffe is used for compassionate communication due to its big heart. The jackal is used to represent communication that is less loving.


SKIT 1 “2 jackals”

S – “When I got up this morning, the kitchen was a mess. You always leave the kitchen a mess. It makes me angry.”


I- <ouch> “It was a mess because I had to cook last night. Someone has to cook.”


S- <ouch> “Well, I want you to stop leaving it a mess.”


I- <ouch> “Fine, I’ll just never cook again.”

S- <ouch>


How did that feel?

A solution was found but was it a good solution?

How do we know if it was a good solution? Did it fulfill people’s needs?


SKIT 2 “How many giraffes does it take?”

S– “When I got up this morning, the kitchen was a mess. You always leave the kitchen a mess. It makes me angry.”


I- <ouch> “I hear you saying that you are angry about finding the kitchen in a mess this morning. Are you angry because you have a need to live in a house that isn’t so messy?”


S– “No, I’m not a neat freak. And really, I wasn’t so angry as I was scared.”


I– “Were you scared because you were afraid someone else would see a messy house?”


S– “No, I was scared I would be late to work because I had to make smoothies this morning.”


I – “OK, I’m hearing that you were scared about being late to work, because you had to clean up the kitchen before you could make your smoothies.”


S- <I was heard!> “Yes! That’s right!”


I– <I understand> “Would it help if I didn’t cook on nights before you have to go work?”


S– “Yes, It would! Thank you!”


One mystery has been solved – what Susan feels and her needs. If this conversation had gone on longer, we would have uncovered the second mystery. But I’m leaving that for the next skit…


SKIT 3 “Who is the giraffe?”

S – “Ivan, when I got up this morning, there were dirty dishes in the sink, the clean dishes had not been removed from the washer, and there were dirty pots and pans on the stove. I needed to make smoothies before going to work, and I was afraid that I would be late. I have a need to be punctual to my job because I don’t want to lose my job and I want to be a responsible employee. Could I request that you please clean up after cooking?”


I – “So I’m supposed to clean the kitchen now.”


S- <ouch> “I’m sensing that you feel my request is a demand.”


I – “Yea, Why do I always have to clean up the kitchen, I already do all the cooking?”


S – <ouch> “Are you feeling stressed by my request to clean up the kitchen?”


I – “Well Yea. I did the cooking. Can’t you do the cleanup?”


S – <ouch> “I am hearing that cleaning up the kitchen is causing you some stress, and I would like to understand your stress associated with cleaning up after cooking.”


I – “I was exhausted. Work is crushing me right now with long hours and very stressful stuff going on. I stayed up later than I should have to cook for you because I knew you needed some prepared food.”


S – “I hear that you are very tired and staying up later to clean the kitchen is adding to your stress level.”


I – “Yes. I am already pushed so hard. I’m doing the best I can. I trying to help you but you just pile more demands on me.”


S – <ouch> ”I hear that you are stressed by the demands placed on you by work and home.”


I – “Yea, I’m so tired I’m falling asleep at my desk in the afternoons and if someone catches me dosing I could lose my job.”


S – “I hear that you are scared of losing your job because you might fall asleep at work.”


I – <I was Heard> “Yea, I’ve tried drinking coffee but that just makes it harder to fall asleep when I finally do get in bed. I’ve got to get to bed earlier.”


S – “I am hearing that you need more sleep.”


I – <I was Heard> “Yea, I did not clean up the kitchen last night because I was desperate to get to bed and get some sleep so I don’t lose my job.”


S – “I am hearing that you need to shift some responsibility for the kitchen cleanup so you can get to bed sooner.”


I – <I was Heard> “Yea, that’s it.”


S –“ OK, may I request that we…..

Purchase prepared food when you’re tired

Have Ivan request Susan help with cooking or cleanup

Have Ivan cook on nights that Susan doesn’t work the next day”


Any number of solutions are now available, that meets both people’s needs.


But wait….. there’s more!


The second mystery is now uncovered – Ivan’s feelings and needs. Once the mysteries are uncovered, once the feelings and needs of both parties are verbalized and understood, the solution becomes more apparent.


SKIT 4 – “What if the world were made of giraffes?”

S– “Ivan, when I got up this morning, there were dirty dishes in the sink, the clean dishes had not been removed from the washer, and there were dirty pots and pans on the stove. I needed to make smoothies before going to work, and I was afraid that I would be late. I have a need to be punctual to my job because I don’t want to lose my job and I want to be a responsible employee. Could I request that you please clean up after cooking?”


I– “I hear you saying that you were afraid that you would not have time to clean the kitchen and get to work on time. {S – <I was heard>} However, I was really tired at work yesterday, and it was a struggle. I knew you needed food prepared, so I stayed up as late as I dared doing the cooking. I was concerned that if I stayed up any longer, my need for sleep would not be met and I could lose my job if I fell asleep at work. How about the next time I have to cook the night before you work, I ask for your help?”


S– “I didn’t realize how tired you have been. I understand why you chose to wait to clean things up. {I – <I was heard>}   I would be willing to help, unless I am unavailable at the time. If that happens, can I request you choose another night to cook, or that we purchase some prepared food?”


I– “Yes, those sound like reasonable requests. I will let you know next time I’m really tired. And when I cook, hopefully you can help me so we can both get to bed at a reasonable time.”



What makes this hard is that you have to get in touch with your own feelings, know your motivations, not react to the ouches, and keep looking for that connection with another.


This is not only a conflict resolution process. This is a process to communicate without causing the “ouches” along the way. So many of the patterns we are taught in this society are painful, and it is difficult to undo all that training. But the connections made with others, and the peace within yourself, is well worth the effort of continuously trying.


This system of communication seems easy – it’s still just English. But the system is devilishly hard to implement because the style is so different from what we have been taught all our lives by society. Because of this we need to study and practice. That’s where these Compassionate Communication sessions come in. We will read Rosenberg’s book a chapter at a time and practice the technique. We will do a lot of role playing like the 4 skits we just did. And we will be given scenarios to work through without a script.   We will learn these techniques and learn to implement them by practicing here where it is safe. And we will start to be more aware of all the speech we use outside the sessions and work to incorporate some of this training into our daily interactions with others who are not in the sessions. As the skits show, all it takes is one determined “giraffe” to make it work. And as the video at the beginning showed, when you are really good like Marshall Rosenberg, you can walk into a situation that is very angry and with determined compassionate communication cut through the anger to find what is alive in the other person. Once you do that you can then start to find a solution, or at least find a measure of peace that no longer makes the situation worse – you can really connect to the other person. And that will make you feel alive!


Compassionate Communication is not about finding a solution to an issue.  If you can communicate compassionately and connect with what is alive in the other person, connect with their feelings and needs, the possible solutions will flow naturally from the recognition of the needs of both parties.  If you try to solve the problem first, you don’t know what the needs are of the people involved.  You may agree to a solution but it could be a solution that no one really likes.  If you first connect to the feelings and then hear the expressed needs the BEST solution becomes possible – the solution that meets everyone’s needs, not just the solution that each can accept (grudgingly).


Also I want to make sure the “Non-Violent” part of this is understood.  The <OUCH> cards show the violence.  Violence is when we hurt someone else.  Often that violence is so small and common place that we don’t even recognize it consciously.  I don’t have to punch you to cause emotional pain, I just have to be disconnected enough from you that I don’t care how my words affect your emotional state. Marshall Rosenberg preferred the title “Non-Violent Communication”, and if you search the web this is what it is called. We have chosen to call this “Compassionate Communication” because it is more accessible as a term. We can all learn to be more compassionate. Many of us do not even recognize the low grade violence in our typical communication style, and thus might conclude that “Non-Violent Communication is not something I need – I’m not violent.” But as the skits demonstrated, if we learn this technique it can change ourselves, our relationships, our communities and even our world.


We will be working through the book “Nonviolent Communication” 2nd Edition by Marshall B. Rosenberg having a copy of the book will be very helpful. But the main purpose of the Compassionate Communication Circle is to practice the techniques so that we can learn to apply them. Please join us.

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