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A little (self) kindness goes a long way.

by | May 26, 2020 | Change, Coaching, Emotional intelligence, Empathy

Are you compassionate at work? To yourself first and others?

Over the past weeks the word compassion had popped up – in my reading, in conversations with others and with clients in my coaching practice. I have been writing about empathy recently – but what is the difference between empathy and compassion? How does it relate to self compassion?

Listening to a conversation with Sharon Salzburg and Dr Shauna Shapiro talking about mindfulness and compassion Shauna explained the difference as she saw it. She described empathy as us feeling with someone, compassion for someone. Both are important of course. Yet at the moment maybe feeling with people a lot can lead to us being tired and drained. If many of our team members and colleagues are struggling and we are feeling with them it may be overwhelming. Many of us are also worried about family members and being empathic with them. So what would compassion look like as different to empathy?

I started reading Kristin Neff’s book Self Compassion and exploring what was meant by this. She describes self compassion as having 3 key components

  1. Self kindness – feeling warm towards ourselves and not listening to our inner critic.
  2. Seeing our common humanity – seeing that hard things happen to everyone and not just me.
  3. Mindfulness – taking a non-judgemental approach to our situation and how we are reacting to it. Allowing feelings to arise and letting them be – both good and uncomfortable feelings. 

It is hard to be compassionate towards others if we are not compassionate towards ourselves. For me the starting place is here. Thanks to Kristin I am taking more time to be kind to myself, let go of the impossible standards I hold myself to, and to be aware that at times I am finding this situation hard.

I think her 3 components are both relevant and helpful for thinking about compassion to others. We can show kindness to colleagues, allow space for us all to share our common humanity and take time to talk about how we feel without judgement. In our teams we can talk about how to be compassionate towards each other – always remembering that each person will approach it differently and to be compassionate to this as well!

By sitting together showing kindness, accepting that this is hard at times and letting all our emotions be we can lighten the load for each other and be together in our humanity.

I highly recommend Kristen Neff if you are exploring how you can be more compassionate towards yourself and others during this challenging time. 

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