Recently Jeff Weiner CEO at LinkedIn wrote a powerful essay about managing compassionately. In his article, he outlines three parts of managing compassionately. The first is to understand compassion is not empathy, but compassion is seeing and understanding another’s pain objectively allowing you to act or provide relief. The second aspect given is that although some of us are born with a tendency for compassion, it is possible for all of us to learn and expand our own compassion quotient. The final ingredient of managing compassionately according to Jeff is the need to have both compassion and wisdom.
Understanding the other, or using compassion not empathy, is a common tool I use with many of my business and personal clients. In many difficult or tense situations, there is a tendency to make it all about me. It becomes about what this person is doing or not doing to me. It is about how another’s actions are affecting me. It is about my personal stories and judgments created about the other person’s motivations. It becomes about my expectations of how others should act. In these situations, I like to twist the old breakup line, “It’s not you, it’s me,” to “It’s not me, it’s you.”
Whenever you are in a situation where you are beginning to take things personally or have strong thoughts about how another should be acting, stop. Take a deep breath. Release your beliefs about how people should act, release your personal values and preferences, and release your expectations of how the situation so go. Be sure to also release any thought that this is being done to you. Very few people actually intend to harm others. If harm is felt, first of all it is because we accept the harm. We choose to view it as an attack and to experience it that way. No one can do anything to you; you have to let them harm you. Second, the person who hurts others may be unaware of how they are affecting others (which is a great time to help them become aware in a compassionate caring manner) or they may be aware but their own fears or worries make them feel obligated to act like they are acting. Once we can step out of our own emotions, expectations, and stories, we can then see the issue from a truly objective manner. From this objectivity, solutions can be found. Without compassionate objectivity, we become caught in the unending loop of attack-pain-fear-attack.
When we can step out of our point of view, our emotions, and our expectations to see a situation from another’s point of view it is powerful. We now have a clearer idea of intent. We have an idea about what the other person is looking for or fearing might happen. We have the objective understanding of another’s pain and issues. And we now have the ability to work through the true issue, not the story we are making up about the issue. We become empowered by seeing and addressing the true issue and not our imagined scenario. The next time there is an issue at home or work try using compassionate objectivity and notice the difference in your experience and the results.