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Compassionate Communication in Business – My Five Key Takeaways from 22 TalkSHIFTS, by Krister Ungerböch

Jan 01, 2023

Let’s face it. We humans can be pretty terrible at communication. If you look at conflict — from the microcosm of your life, to the macrocosm of the world stage — you’re bound to find a communication breakdown. The world of entrepreneurship is no exception. Business is built on relationships and relationships require communication to work. As a self-love coach and business coach, I’m happy to report that a new trend is upon us: compassionate communication in business. What is compassionate communication and how can it transform your relationships and help you to achieve greater success in your business? Read on to learn more. 

My Experience 

When I first started out as an entrepreneur, I believed that to be successful, I had to be firm and uncompromising. I had to have a strong opinion and stick to it, or else people wouldn’t respect me. I had to convince others to see things my way, or the highway. For instance, I love to use Google Calendar to track all my appointments. I used to think that this was the only way to keep track of things. Anyone who wasn’t using Google Calendar wasn’t doing it right! 

But as I have gained experience in business and continued to learn and grow, I’ve seen that the opposite is true. There are many different methods to keeping track of appointments. Different things work for different people. It’s not about getting people to do things my way, as a leader. It’s about helping people to find what works for them so that they can be successful. 

Supporting others with compassion, sharing ideas, and keeping an open mind – that’s what makes me successful in business and as a leader. It begins with taking the ego out of communication, which is certainly easier said than done! One tool that has helped me so much in this area is a book called 22 TalkSHIFTS

22 TalkSHIFTS Book 

Those of you who know me know that I’m a huge bibliophile. I love to read! One book that really opened my mind around compassionate communication is 22 TalkSHIFTS by Krister Ungerböch. This book is basically a framework for learning the language of compassionate communication. 

A high-powered software CEO, Ungerböch realized one day that most people in his life thought he was a total jerk. (Ouch!) His traditional method of aggressive, assertive communication in business and in his personal life was destroying his relationships. His book is the product of this realization, along with interviewing and working with many communication experts to find alternative compassionate communication methods. 

While I don’t have the time to outline all 22 of Ungerböch’s TalkSHIFTS, I want to mention five key takeaways from the book that have been super helpful for me. Hopefully, they’ll resonate with you too. 

  1. TalkSHIFTS Assessment 

First, there’s the TalkSHIFTS assessment. This is a great starting place to gauge your current communication style. Ungerböch also suggests having team members, friends, and family members anonymously rate you on this assessment as well, because, as he wisely points out, many of us are “not as self aware as we think we are”. 

Quiz legend: (SA = Strongly Agree, A= Agree, N = Neutral, D = Disagree, and SD = Strongly Disagree.) An excellent score is over 63. Good is 53 to 63. Satisfactory is 48 to 53. Below 48 is bad news. You can also take the assessment online for the most up to date version: https://www.talkshift.com/assessment-optin-1604446557518

  1. Use The 1 – 10 Scale 

This simple strategy can work magic in communication. Instead of limiting questions to a yes or no answer, a 1 – 10 scale allows people to think more deeply and communicate more openly and honestly. For instance, you could ask team members Are you excited about this new project? And they’d say yes, or no. If you’re the boss, people might say yes, even if they aren’t excited. Even if they feel a big fat NO. Because they don’t want to upset or offend you. 

Using a 1 – 10 scale opens this same question up. If you ask how excited are you about this meeting from 1 – 10, with 10 being like a little kid on Christmas Eve, and 1 being a root canal? This allows people to find themselves on the spectrum. They might say 6, or 4, or 7. Then you can ask, why is that

Then you can ask, what can we change or do to bring you to a 9?

This is a powerful tool in democratizing your workplace and encouraging everyone to share their ideas and feelings. It helps to create a culture of open and honest communication. It can also be used in personal relationships, too. 

  1. Welcome Criticism 

Don’t ask for feedback if you can’t handle the honest, sometimes painful truth. As humans, when people criticize or say something negative about us, it is a common reflex to feel hurt and get defensive. Our ego doesn’t like it. Unless you’re the Dali Lama, of course. 


Ungerböch talks about the importance of being able to humble ourselves to receive criticism and not shoot the messenger. As a leader, your team or even your clients might be afraid to be honest with you and speak up. The same can happen in personal relationships. People need to feel safe to bring up difficult subjects. They won’t offer honest criticism if you bite their head off everytime. And how can you improve if you don’t ever hear what’s not working? 


This is a real opportunity to practice self-awareness and self-regulation. If you receive some criticism and you have a difficult emotional response, thank the person for sharing and then ask for some time to process what they’ve shared. Take space and cool down. Then, when you’re ready, give careful thought to what they have shared and follow up. 

  1. Listen for Needs 

I think this is such a wise suggestion. Ungerböch talks about how behind every request, there is a need. Psychologist and Author Marshall Rosenberg, who wrote the foundational book Nonviolent Communication laid out a “vocabulary of needs” which Ungerböch references. Understanding our basic needs as humans and listening for them when people talk to you can transform your relationships. It can help you to be a more compassionate leader, partner, parent, and friend. 

For instance, say your spouse asks you to go out on a date on Friday night. The need behind this request is connection. Or say one of your team members asks to create a system to keep the office more organized. The need behind this is peace. A disorganized space might make them feel crazy. The next time a team member, client, or family member asks for something, stop and ask yourself, what is the need behind this? Reference the vocabulary of needs, as needed.

  1. Watch Your Words 

“Change your words. Change your World.” — Krister Ungerböch

Words are powerful. Choosing which ones we use in communication can totally change the outcome and our relationships. Ungerböch suggests getting rid of the words like “should” and “must” and replacing them with “please” and “consider”. 

For instance, “You should dress more professionally.” is replaced with “Please consider dressing more professionally.”

By doing this, it gives people their autonomy back. It takes the shame and blame away. They get to decide. It’s a request, not an order. You can also try framing the request as a question. 

“How open are you to the possibility of dressing more professionally for our next event?” 

The Self-Love Connection 

The way that we communicate with the outside world is a reflection of the way we communicate in our inside world. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. How we treat others is far more magnified within ourselves. Starting with compassionate communication inside helps us to practice this outside in relationships with others. Any of the above concepts can be “reversed” as Ungerböch says and practiced internally with yourself. 

Watch the words you use with yourself and replace them with more kind and loving ones. Listen for your needs and seek new and different ways to fulfill them. Be willing to speak up and share criticism with others. Create a safe space within yourself to receive feedback from yourself without shaming or blaming. Make use of the 1 – 10 scale with yourself to learn more about where you stand on different issues and practice self-honesty. 

Want to take a deeper dive into compassionate communication in business? Sign up for my Master Class on Building Business with Soul and get the first 30 days free! Class meets for one hour on Fridays three times a month.

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