“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
You probably know several compassionate people. How come they act in such a loving, caring way towards others? What is their secret and can we get inside the mindset of a compassionate person? Here are 13 things they do without even thinking about it.
1. They do not think that money is so important
Studies show that the more money people make, the less compassionate and generous they become. They will always think twice about giving small change to a beggar. A compassionate person will do this spontaneously. It is interesting to note that the word ’get’ has always been used more in the written language than the word ‘give’ in America since 1800.
2. They expect nothing in return
“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” – Samuel Johnson
True acts of compassion mean that they will give a member of their family $50 without expecting any favors in return. Most people would immediately start thinking about how this could be repaid, even in kind. The great thing about showing compassion is that there is a sort of hidden bonus. Compassionate people experience a release of the hormone oxytocin when they do an act of kindness. They are usually rewarded with healthier and happier lives and it often costs nothing at all!
3. They are great listeners
They are prepared to listen and hear out a person even though they may not have a ready solution. The real compassion is allowing a person to vent their feelings, rage and frustration. Having a sympathetic ear is very important for them and helps to alleviate their suffering, rather than keeping it all bottled up inside. Being compassionate also means giving the person their full attention instead of waiting for a pause when they can jump in and air their own views. This is one of the challenges of being an active listener.
4. They are prepared to give negative feedback
Showing empathy and compassion also means being able to tell a person that they need to try harder or make a greater effort at work. Not an easy thing to do. The compassionate person can do this by asking questions which will help the person to discover what went wrong. A typical one would be, “What went wrong with the plan?” or “What were the difficulties you had not envisaged?” It is always a good idea to start with positive feedback which should outnumber the criticism by about 5 to 1.
5. They are able to find commonality with others
Experiments have actually shown that when people feel that they have more in common with each other, they become more compassionate. It could be thinking that the person you meet is seeking happiness and has known sadness, just like you. It could be more banal such as liking the same local restaurant, following the same football team or tapping to music with the same rhythm. Commonality increases compassion that people may feel for each other and helps them to reach out to help. David DeSteno of Northeastern University has conducted some interesting research on this.
6. They want to share their knowledge
They never keep their knowledge, experience and wisdom to themselves. They are prepared to teach others to learn from their expertise. That can empower people to do better, go further and develop, whether in the workplace or in the home. Truly sharing without expecting anything in return is a marvelous quality.
7. They are emotionally intelligent
When you have a high emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), you are able to picture and almost feel what another person is suffering or lacking. This is what we call emotional intelligence and is a key factor in almost every type of human relationship. Compassionate people have a high EQ because they are mainly more self-aware of their actions and can also empathize much more effectively. If you have a high EQ, you are able to navigate life much more successfully.
8. They notice people in need
In Daniel Goleman’s TED talk, he tells the story of how most people are so self absorbed that they live in an urban trance and fail to notice or act when people are in need. He was in the subway and noticed a man slumped on the steps. There were hundreds of people stepping over him. It was only when Goleman acted and offered to help the man, that many other people stopped too and offered food and help to this person who had fainted because of starvation. Compassionate people, like Goleman, will always be the first to act and lead the way.
9. They practice self-compassion first
Compassionate people are experts in accepting their own pain, suffering and loss. They are never too hard on themselves and hope that by accepting their own shortcomings and failures, they can be more serene. This is an essential element in self awareness too. Compassionate people learn to be more caring towards others when they practice it on themselves first. This is another great advantage of being compassionate.
10. They are hard wired to do good
There has been lots of debate about whether compassion is just a rather pedestrian emotion for the do gooders on this planet or whether it is innate. Fortunately, most research now supports the latter view. The philosopher Kant was not convinced though.
“Such benevolence is called soft-heartedness and should not occur at all among human beings.” – Emanuel Kant
It is well known that there are biological and physiological changes in the body systems when we actually do good or treat people kindly. Compassionate people are perfect examples of this and illustrate that they are the models to follow.
11. They know how to use touch
Research seems to now suggest that the use of touch can convey compassion when verbal cues are impossible. The warmth of touch to encourage, soothe and comfort a sick or grieving person are extremely important. It is also an evolved part of our human nature. Compassionate people use touch intelligently and they know that ‘touchy feely’ can be extremely effective and therapeutic.
12. They are even compassionate towards those who mistreat them
The truly compassionate person knows instinctively that when he or she is treated badly, they need to withdraw. Anger and other negative emotions are useless. This is extremely difficult to practice. They start to think instead of what the person was going through, what they were suffering and what mood they were in. Once they understand this, they can think of the times that they themselves mistreated somebody and reflect on how important it is not to react with anger but, rather, with compassion and kindness.
13. They will change the world
Now that we know that compassion is truly just another aspect of being human, let’s try and go out and make the world a much better place. Compassionate people will lead the way by making the workplaces, schools, hospitals and public offices more caring and compassionate places. Let’s get out there and just do it!
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama
Featured photo credit: Young attractive girl with her pet dog via shutterstock.com