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Compassionate Communication in the Workplace: Exploring Processes of Noticing, Connecting, and Responding

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Abstract:

This research contributes to the growing body of literature exploring emotion and communication in the workplace by considering the workers in a variety of jobs that require "compassionate communication." Compassion is conceptualized as one form of emotional work and is theoretically developed through a model that highlights the subprocesses of noticing, feeling, and responding. Analyses of interviews with 23 workers in a wide range of human service jobs indicated a number of complexities in the communication of compassion in the workplace. Processes of "noticing" included both noticing the need for compassion and noticing details of clients' lives in order to communicate more successfully in compassionate ways. Processes of "connecting" included both emotional processes (empathy) and cognitive processes (perspective taking). Processes of "responding" included both nonverbal strategies, such as immediacy behaviors and environmental structuring, and verbal strategies for balancing the informational and emotional content of messages. These results are interpreted in the light of both contemporary and traditional communication theory, and practical implications are presented for human service workers and others involved in compassionate communication in the workplace.

Keywords: Compassion; Emotion; Empathy; Human Services

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00909880701434208

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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