Openness: Compassion Starts Here

My blog is all about how to engage conflict without casualties. I’ve written quite a bit about reframing our relationship with conflict and drama. In this post I suggested that compassion is the antidote to drama. Struggling with people instead of against them is a terrific way to harness the positive power of conflict. So how do you do it?

Three skills help us practice compassion. The first is Openness.

Openness is about emotional transparency. Whenever there’s a gap between what we want and what we are experiencing, people have an emotional response. The problem is, most often we don’t identify and name the energy. We rarely talk about it with our peers. Why? Because it feels vulnerable. In most relationships people shy away from emotional transparency because it is seen as weak, or people are afraid of being rejected. Yet that emotional energy is a huge driver of behavior, whether we acknowledge it or not.

Disclose – My feelings matter

Disclosure is about sharing your emotions and motivations. How are you feeling? What’s going on inside you? What do you really want? It sounds like:

“I am anxious about where things are going.”

“I feel angry right now.”

Validate – Your feelings matter

Openness is vulnerable. A great way to reduce another person’s concern is to affirm their feelings. You don’t have to condone their behavior, just validate the feeling. It sounds like:

“It’s OK to be angry.”

“Your feelings are important to me.”

Empathize – You aren’t alone

If you can relate to what another person is experiencing, why not share it? You don’t have to one-up them with your story, but at least you can send they message that they aren’t alone. It may sound something like:

“I remember feeling that way. It’s hard.”

“I can relate. You aren’t alone.”

The foundation for Compassion, struggling together instead of against each other, is Openness. Openness reinforces a safe environment where our feelings matter and we establish that we are in this together.

Why openness? Because how can you struggle with someone if you don’t know what they are struggling with?

Things to ponder:

  • What keeps you from being open with others?
  • What would have to change inside of you to be more open?
  • What could change in your relationships if you were more open?


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