Compassion sounds like a lovely thing. To be honest, it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling when I think about it. However, I also consider myself a naturally supportive person.
I mean… look at me. I was a teacher; then a leadership trainer facilitating breakthroughs; and now a professional coach. Yeah - compassion is my jam.
However, let’s be realistic.
In the workplace or at home, someone inevitably is on our last nerve; not paying attention; causing problems with a project or a plan; or downright just doesn’t vibe with us.
They may be your colleagues, but would you be their friend outside of the office? Nope.
They may be related to you, but do you relate to each other? No again.
Although compassion sounds great, I will confess I have had life moments when I’ve thought, “Do I really have to show compassion to everyone here?”
If this is a dilemma a “naturally supportive person” faces, like myself, then how is everyone else handling this? Do they just admit that they’re not a people-person and everyone green-lights them to remain disconnected and antisocial?
This is top of mind because a coaching client of mine shared with me recently that she isn't sure she’s a compassionate person. Even as a mother and someone in the top of her industry, while she cares about people, she doesn't necessarily feel compelled to show compassion to all of them.
She asked me on the call, “What is compassion anyway?”
I shared with her that one of the simplest ways I’ve heard it defined in recent years is, “Compassion is love in action.”
What I like about this definition is it opens up a number of ways we can show people love and care. Compassion doesn't have to require a person feeling warm fuzzies in every interaction you have with them
I also like that, as an individual, I can define and explore the exact way I want to show care or love toward people in my life. It can look different at home than at work; person-to-person, it's customizable.
So if compassion is really that simple and we have so much freedom to define how we show it, why do some people continue to reject it or say it's not for them or needed by them?
Here are some reasons I’ve come up as to why you may be rejecting compassion:
#1: You simply don’t know how to give it. Even if you can describe people or moments in your life that gave you that feeling of being loved and cared for, you may not have ever been taught or shown how to display this care toward others.
Or perhaps you may know how to show compassion in your personal life, yet in your professional life you’re concerned it will cross professional boundaries, so you opt-out altogether.
#2: You see compassion as being out of place in the office or organization. Some industries naturally allow compassion to show up thanks to the likes of patient care, bedside manner, or working with children or the elderly.
On the other hand, more industries are focused on product creation and development, and although the final product being profitable in the hands of the purchaser is important, that doesn't naturally lend itself to the idea of showing care to each other while developing said product. Industries such as manufacturing, automotive, financial and tech, for example, may not understand the value behind showing compassion because it does not seemingly and directly impact the bottom line or the goal at hand.
#3: You don’t feel others in your home or business are valuable to you or the environment you’re in. Yes, I know this is pretty harsh to put it this way… but let's be real.
It’s likely safe to assert we protect, defend, and stand for those we deem important. For example, our family members, our pets, and our best friends are presumably important to us because we value them. We value who they are and what they do as a contribution to our lives.
If in our organization we do not deem someone as valuable, it makes it very difficult for us to care for, bond with, or nurture that relationship.
This leads me to my final question: if you don’t show compassion to a particular person in your life, how can the situation be shifted to where you can see the value in them?
If your first thought was, “Well, they need to prove to me that they’re valuable,” I get that. I hear you. Old habits die hard.
Today I’ll invite you to try something new, though. Ask yourself, “What about their character is valuable to me?”
Sometimes a new way of showing compassion to others is to simply notice who they are instead of what they do.
At the end of the day, people want to feel seen, heard and understood, and that - in and of itself - is an act of love in action.