Intentions & Conditions First
If you have been practicing Compassionate Communication, you know that it is a radically direct and self-responsible consciousness and set of skills. Unfortunately, when it comes to conflict, most people expect blame, accusations, and criticism. Regardless of how grounded you are in Compassionate Communication the other person may still receive your expression as an attack simply because that is what they expect. You are left feeling exasperated. You long to be seen for your intention and have your experience heard.
While you can't control the way someone else hears you, you can set up conditions that make it more likely that they will. When you want to share about how someone's behavior didn't meet your needs and connect around doing something differently in the future, start by clarifying your intention and setting up supportive conditions.
Because you likely also have conditioning around shame and blame, it's essential to check in with your intention before beginning a potentially difficult dialogue. From the framework of Compassionate Communication the intention is always to connect, whether just with yourself or with yourself and the other person. Take some time for honest reflection and notice if you are in shame or blame. If yes, take more time for self-empathy or receiving empathy from someone outside the situation. Unsticking yourself from shame and blame fundamentally requires a willingness and ability to be with the grief, fear, and/or pain that's alive for you in the current situation. Reaching out from the vulnerability of grief, fear, or pain requires a deep level of honor for yourself and the courage to stand in that.
It's simple, but easy to forget, how important it is to have a difficult conversation when both people are resourced. Choosing a time when you are both rested, fed, and can have a sense of spaciousness is primary. Secondarily, if you are able to create some connection before initiating the dialogue this helps you both move from a possible place of threat to a sense of security. For example, let's say you have spent a couple of hours preparing a special dinner for your partner and they show up twenty minutes late, if you attempt honest expression as your partner comes through the door, their own guilt and defensiveness may prevent them from hearing you. If you can take a half hour to settle in and focus on the good food you prepared first, then share your disappointment about the lateness, it's more likely you will be heard with empathy.
Compassionate Communication isn't a magic recipe for removing another's defensiveness. All you can do is be grounded in your intention, share that intention, and initiate a difficult conversation in supportive conditions. If you get caught up in the idea that "if I only I express myself in some certain way, I won't trigger my partner", you become exhausted and resentful. You are not responsible for your partner's reactivity. It is up to them to get the support they need, so that they can show up in a grounded empathic way.
PracticeTake a moment now to reflect on a difficult conversation that you have been wanting to have with someone. Check in with your intention and needs for empathy before you initiate that dialogue.