Empathy is a gateway to compassion. It’s understanding how someone feels, and trying to imagine how that might feel for you — it’s a mode of relating. Compassion takes it further. It’s feeling what that person is feeling, holding it, accepting it, and taking some kind of action.
(quote from BigThink)
I like this article’s explanation of the difference between empathy and compassion – it’s something I’ve been puzzling over for a while. It now makes more sense to me why Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is also called Compassionate Communication.
In NVC, a very important step in the four-step process of communication is Requests. This can be a request to yourself (self-compassion) or a request expressed to another. This can be suggesting something that will meet the other person’s needs (e.g. a strategy to meet their need for support) or asking for something that will meet your own needs.
I’m also starting to understand what boundaries really are. I’ve always been uncomfortable when I’ve been told I need stronger boundaries. It seemed like disconnecting or separating myself from people. Now I’m understanding, boundaries are a key component of compassion.
Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.― Brené Brown,
As I get clearer about my own needs, it gets easier to ask for what I need and to say “no” when I’m not honouring my needs. And it’s so much easier if I can trust that my friends or family will honour their own needs and honestly say “yes” or “no” to my requests.
Honesty is a quality I really admire in my mother. She seems very good at self-connecting before agreeing to social engagements or when I ask her to help me with the kids or something. And because I know her “yes” really means “yes” and I can trust she will say “no” when she doesn’t feel up to doing something for or with me, it is so easy to ask her for support. She knows that my asking her is just one strategy and that she doesn’t have to be the only strategy to meet my needs. So I feel really supported and understood by her because I never want her to do anything for me with a sense of obligation or duty (otherwise I feel guilty and afraid to ask). It also means that I never feel obligated to her and I can be completely honest about what I do and don’t feel like doing.
So, after exploring this more assertive, honest aspect of Compassion, I’m feeling a lot of gratitude for my mother and her honesty and honouring of herself and me and comfort in knowing that her support of our family (which is a lot and enables me to do my NVC teaching and practice) is offered with unconditional love and generosity. Thank you to my mother, Christina Marigold Houen 🙂