“Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquillity and happiness we all seek.” ~ Dalai Lama
We can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion.
Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need.
So long as we practice these in our daily lives and have compassion for others and conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is no doubt we will be happier. Our world is in dire need of compassionate souls who are willing to selflessly help others. Lack of compassion in our world is a shared human reality. We can make the world a more compassionate place if we do our part to make ourselves more compassionate.
1. Self-Compassion Practice Comes First
Care and love towards others have its origins in care and love for oneself. You can only give to others what you have already cultivated within yourself. If you aren’t loving with yourself, you will certainly criticise and expect the worst in others.
Learning to have more compassion requires us to make the radical shift to assume the best in ourselves and others. Develop self-compassion by asking yourself this when you feel pain “This is a difficult for me right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?” Recognise all of us suffer, make mistakes and are imperfect, it’s part of the shared human experience. Who said the goal was for us to be perfect anyway?
2. Be Aware of the Suffering of Others
To be compassionate toward others, we need to notice the suffering around us. If we overlook our friends pain, ignore the homeless person on the street or think someone else will help those affected by atrocities around the world, we can’t feel compassionate for others. To be aware, we have to practice being present and opening our eyes and hearts to connect to people around us. Once we care for others` suffering, rather than mere pity, we will shift towards being more compassionate.
3. Feel the pain; but don’t get consumed
When we see someone in distress and our heart responds by feeling moved to lessen their pain, that is the essence of feeling another’ s pain. This comes from a place of empathy and desire to help without expectation. This differs from listening to someone vent about their challenges and absorbing their negativity. When you get sucked into their drama and feel their anger, you deplete your own energy and are of no benefit to the person you seek to help.
4. Build Genuine Human Connections
We lead private lives, choose what we share with others and numb our emotions to avoid feeling discomfort. No wonder we have no feelings of empathy towards strangers or people in our life. Building genuine connections requires us to find the common thread between all of us. Our life experiences are different, by being vulnerable and sharing our story with those who deserve to hear it, we feel connected to others.
5. Accept Others` Life Experiences
We aren’t here to fight the battles of others, change their life situation or lecture them about how they should live their life. Sometimes people share their story to be heard, not for our advice. In some situations the best thing to say is “ I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I want you to know you don’t have to go through this alone.” We have to recognise that people are exactly where they need to be in this moment. We are here to bring relief to their situation and respect each of our individual journeys.
6. Be Kind to All
Having compassion means you offer kindness regardless of others` attitudes or mistakes. The best way to practice this is by the loving kindness meditation. As you go about your day, silently bless the people you meet in your mind. “I send you love, happiness and peace in all areas of your life.” Kindness isn’t made up of grand gestures; it is a compilation of small acts of warmth. It’s a genuine smile, listening without judgement, a warm embrace or touch on a shoulder that can make another person feel your kindness and positive vibrations.
This is great personal advice but how can we be more compassionate at work?
People are growing tired of selfish self-serving leadership and are expecting a change. Although the driving, directive, coercive styles of leadership may move people and get results in the short-term, it can also create fear, anxiety and toxic relationships between colleagues in the long-term.
Leaders in business schools, organisations and in politics are taught to lead with their heads and not with their hearts. Leaders are expected to be strategic, rational, tough, bottom-line business-people who focus on results. Yet, recent research on successful leaders and the current turbulent economic and social times calls out for a different style of leader — one that exhibits compassion and empathy.
While skills such as encouraging involvement of others and recognising accomplishments are important, empathy often rises to the top as the most critical driver of overall performance, specifically, the ability to listen and respond with empathy. Empathy in the modern workplace is not just about being able to see things from another perspective. It’s the cornerstone of teamwork, good innovative design, and smart leadership. It’s about helping others feel heard and understood.
When we as leaders value the happiness of our people, they feel appreciated. They feel respected. And this makes them feel truly connected and engaged. It’s no accident that organizations with more compassionate leaders have stronger connections between people, better collaboration, more trust, stronger commitment to the organisation, and lower turnover.
An empathic leader is able to establish a connection with her teammates, encourage collaboration, and influence teammates to be more loyal to an organisation. Simon Sinek titled his 2014 book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t—a follow-up to his powerhouse Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
In Leaders Eat Last, Sinek proposes a concept of leadership that has little to do with authority, management acumen or even being in charge. True leadership, Sinek says, is about empowering others to achieve things they didn’t think possible. Exceptional organisations, he says, “prioritise the well-being of their people and, in return, their people give everything they’ve got to protect and advance the well-being of one another and the organisation.”
Top leaders with higher ethical sensitivity evoke virtuous behaviour in organisations. A compassionate leader initiates a cycle of positive change through;
creating meaning and
inspiring hope and fostering courage for action that leaves a positive impact on the community.
The road to becoming a compassionate leader requires self-reflection and personal transformation. Leaders who can evaluate their own strengths and weakness are better equipped to recognise and utilise the talents of others. They embrace employees as whole persons, discover human potential, create supportive teams, encourage positive engagement, and foster organisational growth and ethical membership in the community. There is a strong connection between compassionate leaders and ethical organisations: compassionate leaders act as catalysts.
The business world and workplace has, for far too long, been a transactional, and sometimes heartless and soulless place. Recruiting, training and promoting leaders who exhibit and practice empathy and compassion will do much to increase meaning in work and enhance well being.