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How to Access Compassion in a Difficult Conversation

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” Paulo Coelho

Think Like a Mediator – From Judgement to Compassion

When we make judgements, we do it in two ways. We judge others and we judge ourselves. Now, the goal isn’t to stop judging but it’s to make sure that our judgements are sprinkled with some goodwill and compassion. But before thinking about being compassionate and having an understanding about the other person, you need to do a little bit of internal work on yourself.

Internal Compassion

Compassion for yourself is your starting point. This is about reassuring yourself that you are where you are from just trying to do your best with what you know.

This conversation is going to be a stretch and that’s ok, because even the hardiest most seasoned pro finds a difficult conversation a stretch.

The key is to normalise the way you’re feeling and remind yourself that learning from this conversation is a top priority.

Underlying Assumptions

Imagine the other person who you’re having the conversation with isn’t this big ugly threatening individual but rather an innocent child, not yet wise to the ways of the world. I’m not suggesting you act in a patronising way towards them. I’m suggesting your park judgements, put them on hold for a moment and see the other person as this human being with fallibilities and vulnerabilities just like you.

For me, at the heart of thinking compassionately is thinking that the other person for whatever reason is simply doing their best with what they know, which may not be very much but they’re just trying to look after themselves, do what they believe is right. So rather than seeing their behaviour as some deliberate act of malice, you see it as an expression of their integrity trying to pursue their own rights and beliefs.

When I’m suggesting you think this way, I’m not doing it with the view that you in any way let them off the hook, condone their behaviour or to sanitise the impact of their behaviour.

When you approach any difficult conversation and are rooted firmly in a place of compassion, you’re really stacking the deck in your favour. Accessing a state of compassion provides a blanket of safety for you because you’re just doing the best you can with honourable intent. Whereas compassion for the other person helps you to be open to their perspective and their experiences.

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