Flex your strength of compassion
Are you compassionate enough? For some of us, expressing compassion and kindness comes very naturally. For others, it requires more focus and effort. But for all of us, compassion is fundamental for building quality relationships at work and home.
As highly social beings, humans need social connection for healthy adjustment – this affects our wellbeing, even at a physiological level (Seppala, Rossomando & James, 2013).
What is compassion?
Compassion is our willingness to understand suffering and to offer help and support. We can express compassion to ourselves and others.
An often-misunderstood term – compassion is different to empathy. Empathy involves understanding and sharing in the feelings of others. When we're empathetic and share the less positive emotions of others, it can naturally lead to emotional fatigue or a sense of being ‘drained’. However, when you show compassion, you are expressing a willingness to understand and help, but you are less personally involved in sharing the other person’s feelings. This allows you to be engaged with others while maintaining your own emotional reserves, or your resilience.
Compassion can also be incorrectly perceived as a light, soft and fluffy emotion. At The Oranges Toolkit, we believe compassion is a powerful tool that we can all build to support healthy relationships. It’s a strength that we can dial up and down according to the situation we are in. We can demonstrate this in the way we ask questions, listen and pay attention to others. Our training programs offer a range of practical ways you can apply compassion in the workplace to strengthen relationships and leadership.
Give yourself a break, too
We’re often our own worst critics. Many of us will chastise ourselves for mistakes that we would readily forgive others for. But showing compassion to ourselves is important for our own wellbeing. In fact, self-compassion has been reported as more beneficial than self-esteem because it enhances our resilience without the potentially negative correlations seen with self-esteem, like ego-defensiveness (Neff, 2011).
Professor Neff sums it up really well when she says: “You will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, and fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition.” When we forgive ourselves and others, we can boost our own health and wellbeing.
Showing compassion, even when you disagree
In the workplace, we often are required to engage with other people who we may not necessarily choose to be with, if given the choice. Demonstrating compassion can be particularly challenging when we disagree, or when have a weaker connection, with the other person.
However, demonstrating compassion with people we may not connect strongly with, or may not even like, can be quite a powerful tool – it can help to disarm tension and minimise conflict. It can also open up potential for positive thinking and a solution focus. When we express compassion towards someone we don’t get along with, we can be calmer in our interactions and support our own wellbeing at work.
Now, demonstrate compassion
How might you demonstrate self-compassion? Perhaps you can accept that you may not be able to achieve everything on your to-do list today, or spend some time focusing on your strengths and achievements rather than your mistakes.
Now, if you’re up for a challenge, think of someone whom you do not have a strong connection with, or someone you have a personal dislike for. This person could be at work or in your personal life, or even a celebrity. Take a moment to reflect on the following:
- Why do you think they behave the way that they do?
- How could you better understand their point of view?
- What else might be going on for them in their life?
- What strengths are they displaying right now?
- What can they teach you about what you value in life?
- How can you help?
Now, with this positive and open mindset, show kindness and compassion towards them.
You may wish to do this thinking on your own and shift your mindset in preparation for your next interaction with them. Or, take a leap and ask questions and express kindness or forgiveness directly to the person. Notice how you feel afterwards and what changes. You may notice a shift in the way you feel, and potentially improve your connection with that person.
Want more practical tips and training?
We offer various training solutions to support healthy workplace relationships, productivity and employee wellbeing by improving the emotional intelligence of staff. All programs feature a mix of the latest science and practical tools that can be implemented immediately to drive change. Our ‘Leading through a crisis’ or ‘Cultivating hope and optimism’ interactive webinars could be ideal entry points to strengthen compassion in your workplace. Get in touch with us to find out more about how we could support your organisation to build compassionate behaviour, productive relationships and wellbeing in the workplace.
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