The Path to World Empathy: Try a One-Liner!

Learn a New Language! One-Liners Build a Better World

Heart-centered communication is not taught in school. Unfortunately, it’s rarely spoken even at home with beloved family or friends. This inability to share our feelings eventually leads to struggles with speaking our truth. We struggle to navigate difficult conversations hoping to avoid hurting or offending others.

Believe the world can change when we join at the heart!

Being human, we allow words to stick to our hearts and accumulate in the mind. How best to care for ourselves and others? In a world where words hurt, shame, bully and condemn, how can we learn to value our mutual humanity first and the ego second? Can we remove the layers of wounds, illusions and emotions that intertwine us, and are most likely to undermine difficult conversations? Is it possible to stop disguising what we genuinely feel while at the same time share fully and freely? Can our unvarnished truth be told unabashedly without trampling on others, while still being true to ourselves?

Conversations can be confusing and self-justifying because we permit ego to filter our thoughts, comments and actions. When we listen, we also combine these ego tactics with our senses to see what pops up on our internal radar and to gauge our response. Let’s stop to ask ourselves if these approaches are working. Can we improve communication to make ourselves and others feel more heard and less attacked?

Modern Day Conversations

Communication these days includes texting, emoticons and posting on social media. Although we spread more messages to more people in mere nano-seconds, we stumble nonetheless because we have not changed our understanding about how to share what is at the heart of the matter. We even stumble to quickly spit out our thoughts because of added pressure to win the race to deliver in ever smaller sound bites.

Our attention spans have shrunk. We delete, unfollow or ignore people when we don’t like what’s being said or how. Imagine how lack of attention and meaning impacts us beyond our bubbles! Poor communication spreads through our communities and circulates the globe like a bad virus.

Is there a cure?

Over many years I have collected and practiced one-liners. They serve as my trusty guide to navigate conversational muddy waters. Quick and easy, these prized sentences come in handy when establishing boundaries, managing uncomfortable situations, and dealing with difficult people. (Read here about telling your story.)

The key to one-liners is to deliver them with confidence. Fully believe your message and others will believe you. Feel free to combine different one-liners to match up with any situation.

Competent Communication

  • Communicate simply and directly.
  • Converse in shared space – eliminate the arena of competing egos.
  • Focus on a message’s most important aspects.
  • Speak truth fully to feel heard and be understood.
  • Drop over-explaining, defending, defaming, demanding and dodging.
  • Intend to establish understanding and harmony.

Life Scenarios

You are asked to participate on a work committee or a family member asks you to drive them around town. The idea of adding one more thing to your full plate turns your stomach in knots.

One liner: I’m not available.

One liner: I am free on such-and-such a day for an hour. If that doesn’t work for

you, it may be better to find another resource.

Your friend asks you to dinner and a movie on Friday. She is single and doesn’t get out much. You’ve had a hard work week, and have already set aside time to recover from the stress. Eliminate guilt and resentment against your friend by using an appropriate one-liner.

One liner: Can I get back to you?

One liner: I have an appointment I just confirmed. Can we schedule our date for another time?

Your mom asks you for help her to understand a medical bill. Turns out she also asked your brother. She has a habit of going back and forth between you and your brother, and it’s driving you crazy.

One liner: Help me understand, please. I’m confused.

One liner: I’m struggling with why you ask both of us for help with the same

thing. Is it because you don’t trust me?

Your teenager writes an angry post about one of her classmates on social media. The message goes viral. As a parent you’re unsure about the short/long-term consequences.

One-liner: I am uncomfortable. Help me understand why you made this choice.

One-liner: I need to understand why you made this choice.

One-liner: This makes me sad.

Your spouse is harshly reacting to your remark about how he does the laundry. He is raising his voice and you fear his blood pressure is rising. You need to diffuse the energy quickly and without emotion.

One-liner: Stop. Can you say it another way? I’m having a hard time understanding you.

One-liner: Sorry I wasn’t clear about my message. What I am trying to say is …

One-liner: Can we start over? What I mean to share with you is this…


World empathy starts and ends with each one of us joining in the fight for clear and open communication.. When we have the right tools in place, we can talk about anything. When we have our hearts in the right place we can re-write history from a loving place.

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