6 ways to practice Compassion in the workplace

In last weeks blog post, My Compassion, Your Compassion, Organizational Compassion, I made a case for simply having more compassion. Forgiving yourself or having compassion for yourself is the starting point for having compassion for others. Next time, start a conversation looking through the lens of others because you only know your truth and the other person just knows their truth. It is in this understanding that provides the space to hold compassion for another. Thus encompassing the goal of looking through others lens, can create an organizational environment of compassion.

But how do you start looking through others lens? That is this week’s blog.

Practicing Compassion:

Arrives April 23rd

In my forthcoming book, The Crucible’s Gift: 5 Lessons from Authentic Leaders Who Thrive in Adversity, I turned to Elizabeth Pypus describes the simplicity and the complexity of being compassionate: “Compassion cannot be imposed on us from outside. It is something freely given from within. Both the freedom and the innerness of compassion as a response are essential elements in compassion which make us value it.” This may remind you of the difficulties change creates in general, and compassion creates specifically, in that we all have change or compassion inside us, but unless we are intrinsically motivated to be more compassionate, be more self-aware or increase our integrity, change will be only temporary.

Here is how you can work towards being a more compassionate leader, and thus just a little more authentic.

1. Practice compassionate meditation. Take a few minutes each day to recognize all of the stressors you are managing and to cultivate appreciation and compassion for this experience. This practice can help improve well-being through less extreme reactions to life events and less rumination about misgivings.

Note: UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, in collaboration with HopeLab, launched Greater Good in Action, which synthesizes all the best research and practices and provides great examples of how to practice compassion. The Greater Good in Action website can guide you on your compassionate meditation: http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/loving_kindness_meditation You can also check out this site: https://soundcloud.com/hachetteaudiouk/meditation-seven-befriending.

2. Listen empathically. This is the art of listening to your colleagues or family with intent. This is a skill that requires you not to worry about trying to fix someone’s problem and asks you to be present, listen with intent and refrain from judging. To practice this, turn off your email, silence your phone and move yourself to space free of distractions. This not only ensures your focus will be directed to the other person but lets the other person know that you care. They are more likely to open their hearts and be more open and present.

3. Be the ray of sunshine. Have you had one of those days, weeks, months or years where all you needed to get you through the day was a hug or a thoughtful text message? Take a minute and think of someone around you who is going through a difficult time and send them a handwritten note or text message, or go get them a coffee. Try to make this a weekly habit — you will be amazed at the boomerang effect.

4. Fix a stranger’s flat tire. Take the opportunity to open the door for someone carrying boxes or give up your seat on the bus to a person who needs it. When I lived in Japan, it was common so see men and women get up and give their seat to someone who was older or to a woman (regardless of age). It is these little gestures that remind you and those around you of humanity and our need to have more compassion for those less fortunate.

5. Put the gavel down. Look for an opportunity to go easy on someone who would be easy to judge (such as the slow driver who is inconveniencing you). Think about times you’ve been cut a break and see if you can cut someone else some slack. We never know what events are happening in others’ lives, so try starting from the position that “they could be having a bad day.” This can help you practice forgiveness.

6. Volunteer. I don’t need to elaborate here. It’s good for your soul, it helps those who need it, and it can remind you to be thankful for what you have, not focused on what you don’t have.

So, over the next week, take a minute, pick up someone else’s lens and have a look. You may be surprised by the role that compassion will play in your relationship.

James Kelley, PhD.

Authentic Leadership Model