An Exercise of Compassion

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Summer Skill Series: Compassion

What is Compassion?

We know that empathy is the exact opposite of apathy. If apathy is to not concern ourselves with the feelings of another, then empathy is to care about their wellbeing because, instead of blatant disinterest, we feel what they are feeling. But we don’t have to be empaths to be compassionate. We don’t have to put ourselves in the shoes of another person to recognize a predicament they’re experiencing.

Understanding the feelings of those around us is just the first half of compassion. Understanding is followed by helping. It isn’t enough for us to just observe or feel for another’s predicament. That alone won’t benefit them or our relationship with them. We must go a step further and offer a helping hand.

Compassion is empathy put into action.

Why is Compassion Important?

The Ancient Roman poet Quintus Ennius wrote, “Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.” Or, known by its popular English proverb, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Practicing compassion for others–helping others–creates a sense of trust, which strengthens our relationships.

Various studies have discovered that we feel happier when we help others. It’s this same innate desire to assist that strengthens bonds, cements relationships, and creates successful teams. If we help our colleagues and friends, chances are that they will in turn help us.

Compassion is what keeps us afloat.

How to Practice Compassion:

  1. Consider others. While we might easily observe the personalities or the situations of those around us, practicing compassion also requires us to tailor our interactions with those personalities and situations in mind. If our colleague is having a particularly rough day, maybe speak softly around them, or assist them in their work. Consider how our words or tone might affect them and adjust in a way that achieves harmony.
  2. Don’t blame or argue. If we seek harmonious interactions and relationships, we must keep those relationships from becoming defensive. To do so, we should not mock someone for their particular predicament, or ridicule their feelings. Acting with consideration for another’s feelings does not express agreement, but it does express willingness to help.
  3. Look at the sunrise, not the sunset. For compassion to be expressed, we must emphasize areas of agreement instead of disagreement. Seek mutual ground with those we wish to have healthier relationships with. Focusing on the negative could sabotage our efforts, thus must we build on those areas of agreement.

Recommended Content:

A Secret Source of Connection, Hidden Brain

Awakening Compassion in the Workplace, The Psychology Podcast

Compassion and the True Meaning of Empathy, TED Talk

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