In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own frailties.


In this video, Dr Brown explains the difference between empathy and sympathy and how empathy drives connection whereas sympathy drives disconnection. She shares that empathy is actually a vulnerable choice, and forces you to connect with something within yourself in order to connect with another person. She shares that typically, as humans, we want to try to make things better which in itself can drive disconnection from another person. As you go deeper into spiritual accompaniment this year, you’ll explore more about not falling into the trap of wanting to fix others.


In Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication book, he explores the ways in which individuals have used NVC to strengthen their ability to connect empathically with others. He shares, ‘The more we empathise with the other party, the safer we feel.’ In empathising with another person, we become more in touch with their humanness and realise the connections we have with one another.


In the video below, Maria Engels talks about the ways in which empathy and vulnerability are connected to Rosenberg’s framework of Nonviolent Communication:

The Heart of Nonviolent Communication

If you have access to a copy, please read chapter 1 of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. 


In this chapter, Rosenberg begins by sharing the questions he had asked himself throughout his life;

  • What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violent and exploitatively?
  • What allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?

Rosenberg was interested in exploring what affects our ability to remain compassionate. He goes on to explain he sought to develop an approach to communication (both speaking and listening) ‘that leads us to give from the heart’ which in turn allows us to connect with ourselves and others in a compassionate way. This approach is Nonviolent Communication (NVC). 


He explains that the way we talk could indeed be described as violent as the words we use may cause harm or pain, both for others and ourselves. When speaking of nonviolence, Rosenberg is referring to it the way Gandhi used it; humans have a natural state of compassion. The framework of NVC helps us to remain in our natural state of compassion.


‘When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion.’ 


The NVC Process

  1. Observations: We observe what is happening in a situation and articulate this without judgment or evaluation
  2. Feelings: We state how we are feeling when we observe what is happening in a situation
  3. Needs: We express what needs we have connected to the feelings we have shared
  4. Requests: We state we we want from the other person that would enrich our lives



‘When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver.’ 


In your journals, please spend some time reflecting on the following questions:

  1. What does the word compassion bring up for you?
  2. Write about a time you were treated with compassion, what affect did this have on you?
  3. What does it mean to you to give from the heart?
  4. Write about a time where you have given from the heart, what did you learn from this experience?
  5. Write about a time where maybe you didn’t give from the heart, what did you learn from this experience?