Hello everybody, welcome to episode 46 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we do QnA's on all of life's struggles. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.
Today, we’re taking a question that came in about compassion — the conception of compassion, if you will. There’s a lot of talk on here about to improve out lives in certain ways, but with something as pure as compassion, is there really a way to just start feeling it? Let’s find out and listen to what this viewer had to ask…
QUESTION: “Can you offer any advice on how I can become a more compassionate person? I admit that I do have less compassion for others than those around me seem to have. I love the show, but I even feel this way when listening to everybody’s questions each episode. But here I am. This isn’t something I lose a lot of sleep over, and I’m not so interested in going down the rabbit hole to discover where it came from. But are there any easy tricks for how to start being more compassionate?”
How dare you, sir. Not being more compassionate to our viewers like that, shame on you.
Just kidding. Everyone feels the way they feel for a reason and is entitled to those feelings.
I have suggestions, but compassion is a really genuine thing and it comes from an honest place, so it’s harder to muster something like that and have it be real just through easy tricks, if that makes sense. I’d say it’s probably more important to gain a different understanding of what compassion is rather than just getting tips streamlined to you.
So let’s talk about compassion a bit.
What is Compassion?
Compassion is something that much of the world is seeking more of.
In a time where virtually every group — whether it be a country, a political group or even a book club — is feeling under attack in their own way, even the toughest of the tough claim their innocence and frustratingly seek answers as to why others simply don’t “get” them or show them compassion.
There’s a weird dichotomy here, because in not understanding why others don’t understand us, in one fell swoop we’re both seeking compassion and failing to offer compassion. We’re too blinded by the lack of compassion we’re receiving to bother being compassionate enough to understand those who don’t show us compassion — which would be to show them compassion.
Stick with me. That’s a lot of compassion. I’ll say it again: We’re too blinded by the lack of compassion we’re receiving to bother being compassionate enough to understand those who don’t show us compassion — which would be to show them compassion.
That means we’re in double trouble a lot of the time. But that’s not necessarily bad news, because it gives us something to work on.
How Can I Show More Compassion?
It tells us that even though we aren’t receiving compassion, we can at least be the grown adults that we are and work on our own ability to be compassionate.
Though the childish part in us might not like being compassionate towards someone who doesn’t show us the same, the truth is, this is an exercise in becoming more mature, more loving and less dependent on the approval of others.
So how do you sir, or anyone else, take the high road, and create compassion first? Let’s take it from the top.
1. Forgive What Happened in Your Past
Generally speaking, our reactions to all things are based on the interactions we’ve had with those things in the past and how we’ve interpreted those interactions. Even if we’re reacting to something we’ve never directly interacted with before, our reaction will be dictated by what we’ve been told or taught to believe about that something.
In short, we’re always using our knowledge acquired in the past to navigate decisions that affect the future. The same is true of situations in which we find ourselves not being compassionate.
Many of the times we fail to show compassion to others is because we recognize their behavior in our memories of those who have hurt us. And I know you said you didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole about where this came from, but just entertain me for a second.
The amount of truth in just how similar these parties really are can vary, but more often than not, we are associating the same set of behavior to an entirely different set of circumstances and projecting our struggle onto others. Therefore, a great way to show compassion to these innocent bystanders is to practice forgiving similar people that have harmed us in the past, as lack of compassion can quite easily have more to do with us than it does the other person.
2. Isolate the Root Cause
And as you continue this self-work and gradually hone in on the reason you don’t have compassion for this person or persons, chances are you’ll find one singular trait or attribute that is causing you to feel a lack of compassion. Once you’re able to isolate this source of your friction, you can see that situation for what it is and not waste extra energy on blaming this person for things that really have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
It’s common to compound negative feelings for someone by looking for all of these other things they’re doing “wrong,” and such accusations are usually based not on fact, but on supporting the narrative we already have.
Once you’ve established exactly why you don’t have compassion for this person or persons, you can think about their unique story (if you even know any of it) and consider how it relates to their behavior that you’re inclined to not show compassion towards. Given what they’ve endured in the past (experiences, belief systems, etc), behaving in a way that’s maybe more aligned with how you feel you’d behave could be very difficult for them.
Be patient with their story, their circumstances and how they might be more fragile in ways that you aren’t.
3. Be Free of Judgment
A great way to do this is to simply listen to what they have to say — free of judgment.
And if you’re able to listen to them free of judgment, you might find yourself — if you can muster the sympathy — considering a time when you were in their shoes or close to it. There have likely been times that you or someone you love was exhibiting similar behavior to the one you’re having a hard time showing compassion towards.
It’s easy to want to shake these people because you see their missteps all too clearly.
Instead, harness that energy into understanding, and use your particular experience to, at the very least, be patient with them, and at the most, guide them in this difficult time rather than judge them.
4. Build a Sense of Connection
And what do you suppose this does? What do you suppose is the result of this patience; this understanding?
The result is connection.
As you reveal yourself as someone who cares, you will be seen as someone who cares — not to mention you’ll see how much these other people care.
This connection, this offering of compassion, better enables you to gain compassion from others. That double trouble from earlier easily snowballs into a double win, we all live in harmony, and everything is candy and kisses from here on out.
I hope this episode fit. Especially for the man who asked this question — I hope it was what you were looking for.
Any time we try to just add things into our lives, especially feelings that come from the heart, it’s important to understand that it’s a process, and our feelings that we have are there for a good, justifiable reason. It’s hard to snap our fingers and feel something new, but in working to understand that which we wish to feel a little bit more, we can start the process.
So I think that’s what we did today. Thank you listeners, thank you to the man who sent this question in.
If any of you have your own questions you’d like answered, by all means, email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for being here, guys. We appreciate all of you, and we hope you’ll stop in next time.