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The Art of Compassionate Communication
for Elder Caregivers

By: Jill Sarah Moscowitz

(Page (2 of 3)

2. Speaking with Clarity
We all have many years of experience in speaking, but may not have skills in expressing ourselves with clarity. Here are some suggestions: 

Use “I” statements. Probably the easiest tip for compassionate communications is to use “I” statements. These statements begin with the word “I” and they clearly express something about our own view, not something about the other person. For example “I am finding it hard to believe what you are saying” Notice the difference between the “I” statement and the following “You” statement. “You are lying!” When we start sentences with the word “You” we tend to put the other person on the defensive. 

Use observations, not evaluations. An observation is a statement of fact, similar to what might be recorded on a video camera. For example, the statement “Aunt Ann has been talking on the phone for one hour”. An evaluation is a statement of fact with an added value (a judgment of good or bad). The statement “Aunt Ann talks too much on the phone” is an evaluation.

Speak Authentically. There are times when we choose to protect those we love from the truth about our feelings. We are the best judges of the impact of such non-disclosures. It’s possible that when we choose not to share our feelings, an opportunity for distance not closeness is created. Although it may feel very risky, the loving and heart-centered sharing of your feelings may be a beginning to more open communications. Sharing of feelings could begin with a sentence like “When you said [insert the Observation], I felt [insert the feeling].” See Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D, ( for more tools for authentic speaking.

Know many realities exist. If a group of five people go to the same movie and each is asked the question “what happened in the movie”, we would get five each different stories. Each person’s story is based on the unique backdrop of each person’s perceptions. Many times our perceptions are based on our values or experiences. Remember, your reality belongs to you. Another person’s reality belongs to them. Neither reality is “right” or “wrong.” We simply perceive and interpret things based on our own values. 

3. Listening with Openness and Attention
Many communication breakdowns occur because of difficulties in listening.

Waiting is not Listening. So often in our conversations we are “waiting to speak” while the other person is talking. We are formulating our ideas in response to what is being said. We become engaged in our own thoughts and their importance. Anxiously waiting for the other person to stop talking, we find that we are not listening. 

Avoid Unspoken Stories. Another pitfall in listening is when we interpret rather than listen. While the other person is speaking, we create a story about what is being said. For example, a simple statement like “I think you look very nice today” can be incorrectly interpreted to mean, “Today, unlike any other day, you look very nice.” So, you can see how easy it is to create your own a story about someone’s communication. 

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