Eight Steps to True Compassion – An Essential Quality for Both a Better World and a Better You

I once had a manager who was kind and compassionate in many ways. But there was someone within the organization that she despised. Her contempt was palpable. I know this other person. On the surface, he was gruff in many ways, but I also learned details about him that others did not know.

He had a tough childhood, one that no one could comprehend. Although he made many mistakes in his relationships with others, he silently worked very hard to overcome his faults. Most importantly, he never used his deplorable childhood as an excuse. He told only a few people.

While my manager prided herself on compassion, she fell short in many important ways. It’s easy to be compassionate for those we understand, but it isn’t easy to understand those we do not naturally have compassion for.

Genuine compassion means rising above prejudice and realizing that one can never know everything about another person. There is hope. The following are steps you can take to begin to practice genuine compassion.

Step One: Open Your Mind

Opening your mind may be the process’s most challenging but crucial part. It requires that you recognize your need to approach everyone with an open mind, free from preconceived notions or judgments. Our prejudice keeps us boxed into our perception. Your first step requires that you understand that everyone’s experiences, perspectives, and feelings are valid, even if they differ from your own.

Step Two: Listen With an Open Heart

Once your mind is open, you need to open your heart. When someone wants to talk to you about a hurt or pain in their life, give your full attention to that person. Avoid interrupting them or preparing any response you feel you need to provide. Just listen.

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Step Three: Employ your Empathy

Listen not only to the words but also to the emotions behind them. Put yourself in their skin, imagining how they might feel or what they might be going through. You may not necessarily agree with their perspective, but validating their emotions by accepting and acknowledging them is essential.

Step Four: Actively Seek Understanding from a Position of Nonjudgment

Listen genuinely to learn more about their thoughts, feelings, and needs. Ask clarifying questions to deepen your understanding of how they feel.

Cultivating a non-judgmental attitude will help you avoid making assumptions about that person or their life. Suspending judgment requires recognizing and challenging your biases and prejudices, anything that may influence your perceptions.

Step Five: Use Reflective Responses

After you have listened thoroughly and are confident that you understand precisely where they’re coming from, you may respond to them. Your responses should be thoughtful, reflecting on what you’ve heard them say. Allow them time so they may clarify any misunderstandings.

Do not overshadow or dismiss that person’s feelings. Make sure your responses are thoughtful. Share stories from your life or your perspective only if it benefits them.

Step Six: Show Care and Support

Offer encouraging words. Showing you care validates their position. Reassure them that you are supportive no matter what.

Step Seven: Take Action if Appropriate

Most of the time, people want someone to listen to them and validate their feelings. This concept is more important than you realize. But in those rare times when they need help beyond listening, offer your assistance or resources you may know of. Within a few days, follow up with that person to check on their well-being and continue to support them if needed.

Step Eight: Follow up on your actions

This step requires self-reflection. Consider your responses and interactions. Mull over how you can improve your ability to show compassion in the future. If there are areas where you fall short, identify them and commit yourself to learning and growing from that experience.

Don’t blow off this step. It’s essential for your growth.

If we wish to grow in our ability to show genuine compassion, it’s essential to show compassion when it is someone you despise. Those people we would much prefer to hate can strengthen our compassion in countless ways and may even change our minds about them.

Copyright 2024, Monica Nelson

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