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Building Compassion at Work

According to the Dalai Lama:

“Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.”

Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling sounds easy, right? Then why do we seem to find this so difficult?

Before we start trying to “fix” anyone else, we should begin by taking a look at ourselves. Leading expert on compassion, Dr Kristin Neff, has thankfully distilled self-compassion down to three key elements:

  1. Self-kindness vs. self-judgement
  2. Mindfulness vs. over-identification with thoughts
  3. Common humanity vs. isolation

If you’d like to learn more and join the debate, you can sign up for our next free webinar “Building Compassion: The secret ingredient of success” on Tuesday 20th September (10:00-11:00 am).

Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment

Adopting these attitudes leads to many rewards. By fostering self-kindness, we can move away from being too hard on ourselves and instead move towards a more helpful attitude, particularly in times when things aren’t going our way.

“We can’t always get what we want. We can’t always be who we want to be,” said Dr. Neff. “When this reality is denied or resisted, suffering arises in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism. When this reality is accepted with benevolence, however, we generate positive emotions of kindness and care that help us cope.”

Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification with Thoughts

Practicing mindfulness is shown to support us in growth and change; it can help to reduce the habit of worrying about problems and interrupts negative forms of thinking such as automatic negative thoughts (ANTs).

Practicing self-compassion, however, can help us avoid self-limiting beliefs or destructive thought processes like our harsh internal critic, that voice that diminishes our motivation or stops us from making progress. Dr Neff’s findings show that self-compassion can actually reduce anxiety and, in turn, help us to make real changes in our lives.

Common Humanity vs. Isolation

Finally, if we start viewing things with a sense of common humanity in mind, this can stop us from seeing ourselves from a victimized or narcissistic vantage point. More than that, we can accept the reality described by Dr Neff:

“All humans suffer. The very definition of being ‘human’ means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect. Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience — something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to ‘me’ alone.”

The Value of Compassion at Work

In the past, too many workplaces have not been compassionate and have tended to see compassion as an idealistic concept.

Compassion at work is valuable because it promotes genuine connections, facilitates problem-solving, and improves health and wellbeing. Compassion is basically about parking your judgement and confronting challenging situations.

“Organisational compassion exists when members of a system collectively notice, feel, and respond to pain experienced by members of that system.” (Kanov et al. 2004)

Support for compassion at work – and in society – has grown significantly, partly driven by the Pandemic. It has encouraged us to show more kindness and empathy to colleagues and friends.

A compassionate approach to life is vital to remain connected, mentally healthy, and productive while we battle through our challenges at work.

Compassion is the foundation for a humanistic approach in business, correctly putting your people front and centre. It involves responding to another’s suffering through positive action and requires emotional intelligence, good interpersonal skills and an individual approach. Compassion and compassionate leadership have many benefits for individuals and organisations.

But, the debate about compassion at work is still in its infancy, and it’s now more vital than ever.

If you’d like to learn more and join the debate on what compassion can do for you and those around you, please sign up for our next free webinar “Building Compassion: The secret ingredient of success” on Tuesday 20th September (10:00-11:00 am).