Compassion is often linked with or confused with empathy and sympathy. But as with differences between empathy and sympathy, compassion is also different. Sympathy and empathy are feelings, but compassion is often an act. It is something you can only demonstrate by doing something. There is a difference between feeling bad for someone or understand how someone will feel because a relative died, which is what you would do demonstrating sympathy or empathy and helping them out. So, if you were the manager of an employee, giving them a week off work unofficially, when the official policy is that they can only take 2 days would be an act of compassion.
It benefits you
Compassion has two key benefits. The first of these is that it actually benefits you as an individual to be compassionate. Research shows that when we act in a compassionate way, it makes us feel good. There is a chemical reaction released in the brain that is similar to the feeling we get when we treat ourselves to a piece of chocolate. The feeling we get also impacts our physical health, with compassion being linked to slowing your heart rate down, which in turn can help reduce stress levels. Compassion is also good for your social standing and building and strengthening social relationships. Who are you more likely to want to socialise with or date? Someone who donates blood to help others or someone who leaves a puppy to starve to death?
It benefits society
You may have heard a quote or saying that is a version of “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.” In order for a society to continue to thrive it must look after the collective group. If a society is selfish in nature and everyone is only looking out for themselves, there is a limit on how far it can develop. There is an African proverb that describes this well it says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is why Scandinavian countries as a whole consistently rank as the happiest, healthiest, most progressive, and so on in the world. They understand that its about the collective and not the individual.
It benefits your career
Anyone who has people management responsibility must be able to feel compassion for those that they manage if they want to succeed within management. If you need someone to help you out at some point, do you think people are more likely to help you if you are seen as a nice person who gives a team member some time off to deal with a sick relative, or a horrible person who forced their employee to stay at work and complete tasks even though their grandmother was about to die? There is a reason that servant leadership is regarded as the most effective form of leadership and dictatorial command and control leadership the worst. Research also consistently shows that employees who feel they are treated with compassion are more engaged and committed at work.
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