compassionate accountability

Five Ways To Have Compassionate Covid Conversations

Have you struggled to have compassionate conversations about Covid? Are you torn between what you think/feel/believe is the right thing to do, and the nuances of a particular situation? Have you tried to have a conversation and it only made things worse? Or, did you stay silent when you really should have spoken up? Have these conversations strained relationships? (more…)

Read More

Safe Honesty vs. Real Honesty: And When It Matters Most

Have you ever been in a situation where a simple conflict escalated into finger pointing and blaming? Have you ever given someone feedback and they got defensive? Have you ever left a conversation realizing that good intentions resulted in unintended consequences?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may gotten tangled up in safe honesty when real honesty could have changed the outcome for the better.

When Honesty Matters Most

You might get by with safe honesty in some situations, but the difference between safe and real honesty matters most during conflict. I define conflict as a gap between what I want and what I am experiencing at any given point in time. Maybe I want to be at work at 8 AM and I am experiencing a really long line at the Starbucks drive through. Maybe I want to properly complete all my documentation paperwork for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan, and I am experiencing changing rules every time I call my accountant. That’s conflict.

Conflict is emotional. Everyone has emotional responses to conflict. I call it gap energy. Conflict is neither good nor bad, but how we spend gap energy can certainly make a big difference in how things turn out.

Safe Honesty

Safe honesty during conflict may sound something like this:

How I feel: I’m really disappointed.

What I’m experiencing: You’re late.

What I want: You need to be on time.

Let’s imagine I try safe honesty with my accountant about the PPP.

How I feel: I’m frustrated.

What I’m experiencing: They can’t get their act together.

What I want: I’ve got a business to run.

Safe honesty comes in four flavors: Facts, Opinions, Accusations, and Demands. Facts are descriptions of what you see, e.g. “You told an off-color joke.” Opinions are your evaluation of what you see, e.g. “That’s disrespectful.” Accusations are your assumptions or conclusions about someone or something, e.g. “You’re a racist.” Demands are about the behaviors or conditions you think will close the gap, e.g. “You need to apologize.”

What makes it safe?

Four things about safe honesty make it safe. First, it focuses on what’s happening, not how people are doing. Second, it comes from the head, not the heart, so it’s disconnected from the authentic emotional aspects of the situation. Third, it conceals our own vulnerability. Safe honesty avoids anything that would expose us. Fourth, the result of safe honesty is that the other person is more exposed afterwards. Even something as basic as telling your friend his zipper is down fits all four of these criteria of safe honesty.

Excuses we make

How do people justify their safe honesty? Here are some of the excuses we hear from leaders;

“I’m telling it like it is.”

“Someone needs to say it.”

“It’s my job.”

“Hey, I’m just being honest.”

“We need more radical candor around here.”

“At least you know where I stand.”

The Consequences of Safe Honesty

Safe honesty hurts relationships and workplaces in a variety of ways: interaction safety disappears, trust drops, people get defensive or shut down, false assumptions get amplified, and morale suffers. Above all, people begin to question each others’ motives and start to play it safe by withholding what’s most important.

Real Honesty During Conflict

Consider this type of response to a person arriving late to a meeting: “I’m feeling discouraged. I didn’t see you until 30 minutes into our meeting. I really want to feel confident we are on the same page.”

Or that call with my accountant: “I’m anxious. I want to feel secure I’m doing the paperwork right and I haven’t been able to get response to my first question.”

Real honesty takes things one step deeper by focusing on our emotions and emotional motives during conflict. When we are being really honest:

  • We identify and own our emotions about the gap without blaming anyone or implying that someone else caused our feelings. e.g. I’m feeling discouraged.”
  • We describe our own experience of what happened without pointing fingers, e.g. I didn’t see you until 30 minutes into our meeting.”
  • We disclose our emotional motives, e.g. “I really want to feel confident we are on the same page.”

Real honesty is different because it focuses on how you are doing instead of what happened or needs to happen; it comes from the heart, it reveals your own emotions and emotional motives, and it leaves you as exposed or more exposed compared to the other person.

Why Practice Real Honesty?

Real honesty builds trust and connection. It demonstrates personal responsibility for your emotions and reactions to a situation, it shows real courage to be fully authentic, it bypasses assumptions, reduces defensiveness, improves interaction safety, builds connection, levels the playing field, shows respect, and can open up connections between people they never knew they had.

Next time you recognize the gap of conflict, try practicing real honesty and make the first move to a build more safe, trusting, and collaborative workplace.


Seeing People Through by Nate Regier, Ph.D.This post was inspired by Chapter 3 of my book, Seeing People Through and originally published here. Get your copy today!

Read More

Compassion Is More Than A Feeling

Some people think that empathy and compassion are synonymous. They aren’t, because compassion is more than a feeling.

You have to actually do something to be compassionate. So others have suggested that compassion is “empathy in action.”

“Empathy in action” definition limits compassion

  • It makes compassion dependent on empathy.
  • It relies on a shared emotional experience.
  • It precludes other motivators of compassion.

What motivates you to show compassion?

While empathy is a great motivator for compassionate behavior, it’s not the only one.

Feelings?

The practice of compassion can be motivated by emotions, e.g. “I feel for her. I’ve been through something similar so I can relate.” This is what most people view as empathy, an emotional experience that connects people. In this case, compassion indeed is empathy in action.

Logic?

It can be motivated by logical analysis, e.g. “I have skills that could help. By serving on the Habitat for Humanity board, I could use those skills to help a family have a home.” This would redefine compassion as thoughts in action.

Values?

It can be motivated by principles and values, e.g. “I believe that every child deserves a stable adult role-model, so I will volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters.” Now compassion is equated with values in action.

Guilt?

It can be motivated by guilt, e.g. “I feel so badly that I have more than enough to eat while others are starving.” Here, compassion is simply a form of making things right.

Compassion without emotions?

“But how can you really be compassionate without an emotional component?” you might ask.

You can’t. Compassion isn’t possible without Openness, which means emotional transparency; valuing the emotional experience of our selves and others. Empathy is only one of three ways to do this.

Two more ways to be open

Validation, which is the act of affirming and valuing another person’s emotional motives and experiences. e.g. “Your feelings matter. It’s OK to be upset. I’m listening.”

Validation is not empathy. It does not rely on shared emotional experiences, although it needs to be sincere.

The third way to practice openness is disclosure, which is the act of sharing your own emotional motives and experiences, e.g. “I’m angry about what happened last night,” or “I want to feel safe in this relationship.” Disclosure is a self-ful act that also connects people. The vulnerability of disclosure sends the message that you care enough about yourself to let others know and ask for what you want, and it sends the message to others that it’s safe to share emotions. Disclosure in not empathy because it’s not about the other person.

Compassion can be motivated by more than empathy, so don’t limit it with the definition of “empathy in action”. Once motivated, compassion can be activated by Empathy, Validation, and Disclosure. Any of these can get the ball rolling for practicing real compassion.

Compassion is the practice of demonstrating that people are valuable, capable, and responsible in every interaction.

We are on a mission to bring more compassion to every workplace in the world. It starts with recognizing that compassion is accessible to anyone and it can be learned and practiced in every interaction.


Learn more about The Compassion Mindset, our enterprise program for bringing more compassion to your workplace.

Read More

Improve Your Life, In 30 Minutes, By Changing One Thing

I spent my entire formal education (and a ton of money) learning how to think and talk in complicated ways. I was convinced that it made me look smart and trustworthy and important.

When I graduated and began practicing clinical psychology I quickly learned that nobody really cares how smart you are if you can’t translate it into something they can use. I also learned that very few people care how much you know until the know how much you care. (more…)

Read More

What Does The Dalai Lama Know About Compassionate Leadership?

Daniel Goleman has spent the last 30 years researching and developing the science of Emotional Intelligence, and is a friend of the Dalai Lama. Recently he was asked to write a book about the Dalai Lama’s compassionate approach to addressing the world’s most intractable problems. Just published in June 2020, Force for Good, is both an exploration of the science and the power of compassion and a call to action. (more…)

Read More

How Compassion Cures Viruses

Viruses are invisible, but the impact isn’t. A friend of mine who had Coronavirus said that after the initial headaches and body aches subsided, the most distressing symptoms were loss of taste and tingling in various parts of her body. I’m grateful that she has recovered and is doing fine now. Some aren’t so lucky.

Then there are the relationship and cultural symptoms. Fear, denial, blaming, grief, discord within communities and agencies trying to determine the best next steps. Each of us is struggling with our own strategy for dealing with this invisible virus, and how to have conversations with other about those decisions.

My daughter is getting married in less than two weeks. I’m sure you can imagine the conversations we’ve been having!

How do we reconcile the raw human side of this with our personal and collective responsibility to each other in community? How do we honor the fear while helping empower? How do we maintain our boundaries when someone else has a different standard? How do we keep channels of communication open with people who have vastly different views about what’s going on?

I’m grateful for Compassionate Accountability and the tools we’ve developed at Next Element for just these types of situations. Jamie Remsberg wrote a terrific personal account of using our Compassion formula to engage our clients around tricky boundaries. I encourage you to take a look.

We will have a vaccine before long. And while that might cure the Coronavirus, it won’t cure drama. It won’t change the challenge of having productive, healthy conflict. It won’t change the fact that leaders must facilitate safe spaces where employees can come together and solve the biggest problems for the future.


We built The Compassion Mindset and Leading Out of Drama just for this. Give us a call to upgrade your compassion skills and cure the drama virus today!

Read More

Safe Doesn’t Mean Easy

I originally posted this article in 2017. Today, more than ever, we need to engage in difficult dialogue in safe ways. So I am revising and reposting my article for today’s challenges.

Is it reasonable to want a safe environment in which to live and work? Of course! Emotional, psychological, and physical safety are necessary if we want people to trust us, give their best and be transparent with us.

Don’t confuse safety with comfort, though. Safety isn’t always easy, especially during conflict.

It’s possible for me to be angry without threatening you.

I can disagree with you without undermining your dignity.

I can ask more of you without undermining your capability.

People can enforce boundaries without compromising safety.

When I disclose my pain you don’t have to take it on.

You can’t export your feelings to me. Neither can I export mine to you.

My feelings and behaviors and values are 100% my responsibility.

(more…)

Read More

Why Drama Is Your Greatest Threat During Crisis And How To Respond With Compassion

With the Coronavirus outbreak, the world is on high alert. People are anxious and afraid. It’s difficult to separate fact from fear and plain talk from politics. Drama is at an all-time high.

The real impact of this crisis on you your business depends on many factors that we can’t control. But the big question is whether our response will make us part of the problem or part of the solution.

Your response to crisis either makes you part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Here are three drama-based responses to uncertainty and crisis that only make things worse, and compassionate alternatives that help you be part of the solution.

Giving In

Do you shut down, believing you are helpless and avoid reality because you don’t want to face your feelings of anxiety or fear? This type of drama only magnifies irrational paranoia.

Compassionate Alternative

  • Get vulnerable with your own feelings. Let others know you are human too.
  • Empathize with others. People want to know they aren’t alone.
  • Validate other people’s feelings. People want to know it’s safe to talk about it.

Giving Unsolicited Advice

Do you swoop in trying to help everyone and masquerade as the expert? Do you feel more in control when you have advice and answers? This type of drama only creates resentment because it invites others to feel even less in control of their own destiny.

Compassionate Alternative

  • Get curious and ask permission before you offer help or information. People want to be included.
  • Ask people for ideas on creative solutions. People want to feel involved.
  • Leverage current opportunities and assets to adapt with purpose. People want to feel empowered.

Giving Ultimatums

Do broad generalizations, threats, and black or white statements help you feel powerful? When you blame and attack everyone else, do you feel more confident? Sadly, this type of drama only pushes people away, the very people whom you need most to find a way through the crisis.

Compassionate Alternative

  • Clarity the most important priorities, such as relationships, commitments, and safety. People want to know what to expect.
  • Focus on what you can control, especially your integrity and trustworthiness. People want to know they can count on you.
  • Apologize and make it right when you make a mistake or realize you need to adjust course. People want to know you will take responsibility.

By using compassion, humanity can overcome the negative pull of drama and rise to our best selves, especially in times of uncertainty and crisis.

Want help applying our compassion template to your crisis communication strategy? Call us for a free 30 minute consultation. +1 316 283 4200, email info@next-element.com 


Next Element offers Virtual Training for Leading Out of Drama and implementing The Compassion Mindset. In just a couple of hours and without leaving their offices, your leaders can get training on new communication, compassion and constructive conflict tools.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020
Read More

How To Communicate with Compassion During Crisis

I travel quite a bit, so I’ve been paying attention to how the airlines are responding to the coronavirus crisis. I’ve gotten emails from the three airlines I use most, Delta, American, and United. Crisis communication requires compassion, which was notably absent in these messages.

All of the notifications conveyed two basic messages;

  1. We know safety is important so here’s what we are doing about it. (Information)
  2. Here’s why you can still trust us. (Commitments)

Here are the opening and closing paragraphs for each email I received. I’ve left out the parts listing the specific actions each airline is taking since they are essentially identical. Information parts are coded Blue, and Commitments are in Purple.

Delta (Ed Bastain, CEO)

As a valued member of the Delta family, I appreciate the trust you place in us and our people worldwide when you travel.

In the current environment, it’s important for all of us to travel smarter and more consciously. That’s why I want to personally update you on the situation with COVID-19 (the coronavirus) and the steps we are taking to ensure your health and safety in your travels.

(Here they list all the steps they are taking)

I believe Delta’s mission of connecting the world and creating opportunities is never more important than at times like this.

Thank you for your continued trust in Delta, and I look forward to seeing you in my own travels throughout the year.

American (Kurt Stache, SVP, Customer Experience)

Your safety and well-being is always our top priority at American Airlines, but particularly in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Providing you with up-to-date information on what we are doing to respond to the issue is a critical step in giving you peace of mind when you travel. Here are a few highlights of our efforts:

(Here they list all the steps they are taking)

We are confident that our incredible team of more than 130,000 will care for you in the best possible way during your journey with us.

United (Oscar Munoz)

I consider you part of our United family and your safety remains our highest priority.

We are in the business of serving people and in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak it’s important that we give you as much flexibility as possible when planning your next trip. But it’s also important that we give you as much information as possible about the procedures we follow to clean our aircraft and maintain a sanitary environment once we’re in the air.

(Here they list all the steps they are taking)

I want you to know that you can continue to rely on us. So, the next time we have the privilege of welcoming you aboard our aircraft, you can know our commitment to you remains as steadfast as ever.

Lack of Compassion in Crisis Communication

What’s consistently missing in these crisis communication emails is openness, the foundation for compassion. None of these top leaders make an emotional connection with their constituents. There is no empathy for the feelings of anxiety and fear and no acknowledgment of the vulnerability we all feel. United and Delta make a broad statement about “family” but show no effort to connect at a personal level.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Compassionate communication requires transparent information exchange, and solid commitments to behavior, but first and foremost is an emotional connection that acknowledges the human connection we all have. Why? Because it is this connection that get us through the crisis together instead of falling apart.

The Compassion Cycle provides a framework for communicating during crisis while including all aspects of compassion.

Openness: Make an emotional connection. Most importantly during crisis is to name the anxiety and fear and connect personally with it so that people get the message, “You aren’t alone and you feelings matter.”

Resourcefulness: Active, informed problem-solving. All three airlines did a great job of this. Even better, give us travelers things we can do to lower our risk and partner with you in the solution. This helps us feel more in control during times of uncertainty.

Persistence: Be trustworthy. Be trustworthy. Be trustworthy. Be honest, be dependable, and be consistent. We all need to know what to expect from you.

Want help applying our compassion template to your crisis communication strategy? Call us for a free 30 minute consultation. +1 316 283 4200, email info@next-element.com 

Ideal compassionate communication from any airline would have read like this;

I can imagine that you are anxious and afraid about travel safety in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. This is perfectly normal and we are in this together. Our loved ones are also traveling. We are here for you because you are part of our family.

Here is the most up-to-date information we know, and these are the steps we are taking to ensure your continued safety and comfort.

Our mission is ___________. Our commitment to you is__________. You can count on us to uphold these values during this crisis.

I appreciate how difficult it is to communicate effectively in times of crisis and uncertainty. If you are struggling to find the right approach, use ORP (Open-Resourceful-Persistent) to do it with compassion. We are committed to teaching you effective communicating strategies so you can feel more confident during turbulent times.

If you need help, give us a call.

Mr. Munoz, Mr. Bastain, and Mr. Stache, the first consultation is on me!

Want help applying our compassion template to your crisis communication strategy? Call us for a free 30 minute consultation. +1 316 283 4200, email info@next-element.com

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020

Are travel restrictions are keeping you in your office? Take advantage of our VIRTUAL training, consulting and coaching programs.

Next Element’s training programs were built for RIGHT NOW. Never has the need for compassionate leadership and healthy conflict negotiation been more important.

  • No travel needed: Virtual instructor led via webinar
  • Quick: Two hour courses
  • Practical: Immediately applicable skills
  • Cost-Effective: Digital materials, volume discounts
  • Rapid Scaling: Virtual certification allows large-scale deployment within days or weeks.
Read More
Menu