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Opinion: It’s vital to communicate with compassion

19 Jan 2017 By Kavitha Chahel

Demonstrating compassion at work isn’t ‘hippyish’, writes Kavitha Chahel – it can have concrete benefits for employee motivation and retention

Given all the plates an HR professional has to juggle, it’s not surprising that the easiest thing to do when dealing with difficult situations, such as rising staff turnover or falling productivity levels, is to turn to a short-term solution.

But superficial fixes – in the form of Friday drinks, pizza lunches or ice creams on a hot day – will only boost employees’ moods for a finite period of time. The reasons for those underlying issues will still be there and need to be addressed.

Losing staff comes at a huge cost. According to a CIPD survey, the average cost of replacing a mid to senior-level employee is between £2,500 and £8,000. And this does not take into account the time it takes for them to get up to speed in their new job. So what can organisations do that doesn’t cost a thing but can have a huge impact on ROI and staff retention? Communicate with compassion.

Compassionate communication is not some hippy notion of togetherness. It is the practice of exercising your empathy muscles, remaining connected to humanity and staying mindful – even when there is a difficult message that needs to be expressed. It is an open, honest and deeply connected way of communicating, which challenges each of us to learn to be comfortable with our vulnerability.

Compassionate communication begins with:

·       Self-awareness

·       Acceptance

·       Mindfulness

·       Engagement

·       Deep listening skills

·       Learning to step into someone else’s shoes

When people communicate with one another in a pressured work environment, it is easy to forget that the person you are speaking to is just that – a person. Each of us is unique in how we see the world, our values and our expectations. Keeping each person’s humanity in mind when engaging with someone is crucial. The vital part of any interaction is to remain connected to your own humanity, and the humanity of the person you’re speaking with, even – or especially – when you disagree or don’t like each other very much.

Meditation and mindfulness are the foundations of compassionate communication; these practices help us to reduce our stress and create the space for us to take a break from the chatter in our minds. The better we become at turning the volume down on the chatter, the more effective our communication skills become. As we learn to remain grounded we reduce our habitual responses so that they are less ‘fight or flight’, and more mindful.

Any leader who wants to take their organisation from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’ must be willing and open to the idea of improving how they, and everyone in their business, communicate and relate with one another.

In the words of Sir Richard Branson: “Clients do not come first, employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”

Kavitha Chahel is the founder and MD of Compassionism

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