You are responsible for managing 10 people in your team. You are aware of how the restrictions due to Corona have placed extra stress on your employees who are now working from home. You have an employee named Mina who has 2 children. Mina is often exhausted because she is a single mother who has to home school her children and manage her household without any help. You have empathy for her. But she has skipped many deadlines and her performance is going down. This is affecting the performance of the entire team. You need to have a talk with Mina, but you simply do not know how to communicate with her in a compassionate manner. You also have to ensure the smooth functioning of your team. You just do not know how to balance your empathy with your duties as a manager. Does this predicament sound familiar?
Study after study has shown that compassionate leadership is the kind of leadership that leads to results. Harvard Business Review surveyed 1000 leaders from 800 organisations and a whopping 91% recognised the importance of compassion in their leadership. However, 80% of them did not know how to translate this insight practically into their leadership activities.
Being compassionate does not mean being “nice” and allowing people to do whatever they want. On the contrary, being compassionate means giving tough feedback to employees when they need it. Truly compassionate leaders are aware of their employee’s feelings and needs and their own feelings and needs. They operate from a space where these feelings are acknowledged, and everyone’s needs are met for the benefit of the organisation.
According to a study by Roffeypark, compassionate leaders and organisations enjoy higher employee retention and engagement. Employees are also on average more productive and customers receive better service as a result. So, compassion benefits not only you as a person but also the bottom line.
According to a study conducted by Google called Project Oxygen , one of the eight qualities a good manager needs to have is good communication skills which they identified as “the ability to listen and share information”. We communicate all the time and it is through communication that we build and sustain relationships. We would like to present to you a radical way of communicating from your heart by being present to what is alive within you and the other person. This way of communicating from the heart is called non-violent or compassionate communication. It was taught by Marshall Rosenberg, whose goal was to teach people to communicate in a manner that helps them to get their needs met , while keeping their connection with other people alive. Practising this method of communication allows us to remain compassionate even when we are faced with challenges.
4 Steps to Practising Non-Violent Communication
Let us get back to the situation with Mina. Maybe you have a Mina that you need to manage in your organisation. Think about a recent interaction you had with this employee.
Step 1 -Observation: Simply observe from an objective viewpoint what happened in that interaction. What did Mina say and do? What did you say and do? Do not use any evaluations or judgements here.
Example: Mina told me that she would need a week’s extension on the deadline because her child was sick. This is way past the deadline the customer had given us. I told Mina that she could have the extension.
Step 2 -Feelings: In this step we become aware of our feelings, by going within and becoming aware of the sensations within our body and mind and what feelings they might be pointing at. In NVC the definition of feelings is slightly different from our normal understanding of feelings. In order to understand feelings you can refer to the list of feelings here. Feelings which we would normally use to point at blame towards others are not considered feelings in NVC. An example of this would be “I feel abandoned”. Expressing feelings in this manner is not encouraged in NVC because this makes us point fingers at someone. Refer to the feelings inventory and identify what feelings emerge for you as a result of this interaction. Most positive feelings such as proud, thankful, warm, delighted are usually the result of needs that are being met. When our needs are not met, we have feelings such as agony, furious, depressed etc.
Example: When Mina told me, she needed an extension again, I felt a pit of anxiety in my stomach. I felt worried about how the customer would react. I was also angry and frustrated.
Step 3 – Needs: In this step we identify what needs of ours are either being met or not being met by the feelings that arise within. Within NVC we identify needs as a basic universal need that are common to all humanity irrespective of our difference. You can refer to the NVC needs list here. According to Marshall Rosenberg , every negative feeling such as anger, frustration are very valuable to us. This is because they point us to the fact that there is an important need of ours, that is not being met within that interaction or circumstance. Every positive feeling like joy, happiness etc. point to a need that is being met.
Example: I feel angry and frustrated because my need for support and consistency is not being met. I feel anxious because my need for security and safety is not being met.
Step 4- Requests: Here we make a concrete request to the person that we are interacting with. The request has to be something doable, an action that the person can actually undertake, rather than something vague which is open to discussion. For example, “I would like you to be more efficient”, is not a request as everyone’s definition of “efficient” varies.
Example: This is how the boss could express his needs and feelings to Mina. “Mina, when you come to me at the last minute and ask for an extension on a project that has already been delayed 3 times, it makes me feel anxious because I am responsible for retaining customers. It also makes me angry and frustrated because I have a need for efficiency in my department. Would you be willing to share your ideas about how we can solve this problem so that it never happens again?
This is the 4-part NVC process that you can apply to any interaction in your life. It needs a lot of practise to change the mind-set many people have involving blaming and shaming others to meet their needs. As you practise this more often you will realise that NVC is much more than a communication tool. It is a change in awareness and mind-set that makes us more compassionate not only to our own self but also to others.
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