“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.Advertising
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.Advertising
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.Advertising
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.comAdvertising
Last Updated on January 15, 2019
How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward
Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?
In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.
Step right up, don’t be shy!
Table of Contents
Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers
The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:
Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers
Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers. Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!
A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.
Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary
Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.
When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.
We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.
I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.
The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.
Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.
Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness
Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.
1. Broadens Your Network
After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.
2. Improves Your Communication Skills
I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.
Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.
3. Continually Learning
So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.
Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.
4. Increases Self Confidence
Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.
Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.
So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?
How to Talk to Strangers
Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.
1. Say Hello
Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.
Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.
Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.
2. Ask About Them
Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.
You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.
As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.
3. Just Do It
One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.
When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.
Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.
4. Don’t Take It Personal
One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.
When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.
5. Get a Chuckle If Possible
I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.
One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.
A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.
Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.
7. Share Your Stories
Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.
To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.
So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.
8. Give a Compliment
Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.
When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.
9. Relax Your Body Language
If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.
When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.
If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice
Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.
After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.
The Bottom Line
As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!
There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.
Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.
Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.
More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills
- How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home
- 12 Tactics to Negotiate Better and Not Be a Pushover
- 7 Most Important Communication Techniques to Master in the Workplace
- How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way
- How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected
- 13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships
Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com
|||^||Dev Psychobiol.: Adrenocortical responses to strangers in preschoolers: relations with parenting, temperament, and psychopathology.|
|||^||Psychology Today: Cortisol: Why the “Stress Hormone” Is Public Enemy No. 1|