July 21, 2014

Integrating Reflection and Compassionate Communication into our Practices

As we grow up in the mainstream education system we are very rarely taught about the idea of self reflection and thinking about ways in which we can communicate with care and compassion. The systems that we operate in as a society constantly push us to fit into boxes, to compete with each other and to succeed in our chosen area of expertise. This idea of competition and success is so engrained that its creates a culture of blame and judgement, where we focus more on getting a task done, and considering less how it affects ourselves and others around us.

The notion of reflection is a key component to better communication and to be more aware of one’s needs. In the hustle and bustle of working, studying and socialising we vary rarely take this important time to consider ourselves. Often we go day to day internalizing our feelings and not taking the time to speak about how we are feeling, or even acknowledging it within ourselves. Taking the time to reflect can truly benefit everyone. Just take a few moments a day to think about what happened, how did that make you feel, what was good or bad about the experience and what will I do moving forward. This can be beneficial for your mental health, well being and productivity and can also affect your relationships in a positive way.

 Integrating reflection practices into your life also means that you are more aware of your communication. Often we are not mindful of how we speak to others, whether it be the tone, the delivery or even the impact of what we are saying. Making sure that you take the time to reflect on the intention behind every conversation can be helpful. We often use the phrase ‘think before you speak’ and it’s basically the same concept. Reflect on what you want to say, what your needs are, but what the other persons needs are. This is a much more compassionate way of communicating and can cause less conflict, especially in a work situation.

Shifting how you say something can be important, an example is ‘why are you always late?’ This can sound negative and blaming when we don’t know what that person has been experiencing or why they are late. Think about shifting this to ‘I noticed you are late today, is everything okay?’Also consider how you respond when you hear feedback that can come across as negative. Here are four common responses:

-Hearing blame and blaming back
-Hearing blame and self blaming
-Hearing your own feelings and needs but not the other persons
-Hearing the other person’s feelings and needs and respond to that

To communicate compassionately it is important to discard the first two responses and focus on the last two. Blaming yourself or someone else isn’t going to resolve the issue, but reflecting on how you feel and thinking about how the other person might be feeling means that you can create a more cohesive and compassionate dialogue. If we all practiced self reflection and compassion of others, conversations would be much more productive and also cause less stress and anxiety.

Within the anti violence field it is key to practise both of these ideologies. Self reflection means that you are evaluating your experience as a service provider and also considering how it is meeting the client’s needs. It can also be helpful for you to think about your role as an advocate and reflect on your job satisfaction. Reflection can also be vital to self care to stop the internalisation of difficult stories that we might hear from clients, which as a long term affect can counteract compassion fatigue/ vicarious traumatization.

Compassionate conversation skills are an inherent part of working with clients to evaluate their needs and to develop listening skills.

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