Thursday, August 15, 2019

Empathy and Compassion

Do you usually show sympathy, empathy or compassion? Empathy is an integral part of emotional intelligence (EQ). Even animals have empathy.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Many people are confident enough that they use empathy. However, most of us get lost with our own perception and judgement.
For example, if your spouse comes home saying he has lost a project that he was working very hard all these months. Would you understand his/her feelings? Would you say, come on! its ok. You will find another one, don’t worry. Does that sound like empathy? Again, at this point how do you really know that he/she needs you? How do you figure out, whether to sit and talk or just give them time and space to think through the situation? well some likes privacy when they are emotional. Also when the other person is emotionally vulnerable, do not be in a hurry to give your opnions just give a good listening to their say. If you listen to them, you would know how they are feeling at that moment. Listening is also showing empathy.
There are people who do not understand any of this. They do not have empathy. They do not relate to people and their emotions.
Because people with low emotional intelligence do not understand the emotions of others, they experience little empathy for other people. They do not get what others are feeling, so it is impossible for them to place themselves in another person's shoes.

According to Daniel Goleman, there are three types of Empathy; Emotional Empathy, Cognitive empathy, and Compassion empathy.
1. Emotional Empathy:
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position. Emotional empathy is the capacity not only to understand other person but also feel the persons pain.
However, in Emotional Empathy, you give a mirror reaction, if the person affected is crying, you might cry too. According to psychologists, Daniel Goleman in his book ‘Social Intelligence’, due to the mirror neuron system. However, in doing so, you miss out on what the other person needs in that situation.  For example, the person in grief, may be weeping and may not expect you to cry, but you cry as you can feel the emotions of the other person. Sometimes you go through emotional distress yourself. And when you are in distress yourself, you will not be able to help a person in such a situation. You might take emotional decisions yourself, sometimes, hasty decisions too (taking on too much responsibility which you might not be able to fulfill later) which is again a distressful for both the person at the receiving end and the person who is giver.

2. Cognitive Empathy:
Cognitive Empathy is more on an intellectual level than on an emotional level. Cognitive empathy is understanding and thinking. Well, some might even call them cold and detached however, such people can understand the situation and handle it tactfully by understanding the person in pain and the situation.
You might console a person by saying you have been to similar situation and that you understand what they are going through. According to Daniel Goleman, it is termed as perspective-taking. As you are applying your own perspective to what someone else is going through. This type of empathy can be positive as well as negative. For example, a pregnant women who has been through critical complications during her pregnancy in the past, may not be able to emotionally connect to the person in need who is complaining about the minor labor pain and has very less complications in pregnancy. The women with very critical complications might end up saying, I understand your situation, this is nothing what you are going through, you should hear what I have been through during my pregnancy. Anyways, I can help you with the dishes today. Well that definitely does not sound like empathy.
3. Compassion Empathy: 
Compassion is not the same as empathy, though the concepts are related. While empathy is our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.
We all grow to learn to be compassionate. Compassion is beyond empathy; it not only understands and feels other people’s feelings; it also has the ability to take action to help in whichever possible way.
Compassionate empathy is initiating action to help. You might help a friend suffering from cancer to provide a meal to her kids, you could offer to help do some chores around the house, pick up the children, or watch them for a while.
Compassion also comes without any returns. Many people are reluctant to help as they do not get acknowledged and do not get any recognition of it. Compassion is all about helping people without expecting any gratitude or return. Well, that’s how it works, in Hinduism, they say you do good deed/karma and you will get blessing and peace. It is true, when you do good to people, you do get blessings.
These are just different ways you can show compassion not only in critical situation but also in day to day interaction with people you deal with. Even with strangers. Do not miss any opportunity to be kind and empathetic to another person. 

Buddhist Conceptions of Compassion

Compassion is a wish-fulfilling jewel that can alleviate all suffering. In Tibetan Buddhism, compassion is the key and central training within their religion. Enlightened Compassion is personified by the deity, Chenrezig, who holds a jewel that grants all wishes to those who possess it. That jewel is compassion. Mahayana Buddhists believe love and compassion can overcome all obstacles, awaken the mind to enlightenment and bring enormous benefit to yourself and others. (The power of Compassion).

How to use empathy and compassion in our day to day life:
Everyone of us experience crisis in our lives, either our own life or someone close to us. It is somewhat difficult to show empathy to someone in very critical situation. However, it is far easier to start with day to day empathy to other people. As the saying goes, small things make big difference. As the saying goes, "The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones". Lets start showing empathy on a day to day basis.

1. Self-Compassion:
The best way to practice compassion is Self-Compassion. Respect and listen to your-self. The best way for being compassionate with self is meditation. Meditation brings closer to your-self, it dissolves your ego, it shows you a path to your higher self.
Once you know how to forgive yourself for your mistakes, you will be able to forgive others and be empathetic with them with open heart.

2. Express Gratitude:
When handling emotions of your loved ones, you can begin by giving them positive strokes, by appreciating them for their contribution towards you and your family. Appreciating them on how they handled difficult situations in the past and that you are thankful for their contributions.

3. Be Kind:
Be kind with people around you. It spreads positive vibes, creates a positive aura. Kindness is very powerful. However, do not expect anything in return, just be good to everyone around you. With the current technology world where people maintain relations through apps., break that trend and be kind and polite when interacting face to face. 

4. Show your Support:
When in crucial situations, when a person is held responsible for something which he/she is not done. We need to support this person; think about it we can also be in difficult situation. When you know that the person is right, then its easier for you to put yourself in their position. You can speak up for the person and defend for the rights of that person by showing your support.

5. Show Appreciation:
Compassion is not just about showing compassion in crucial situations. We can show compassion in someone’s achievement. Celebrating with coworker for his/her achievements, appreciating their efforts and leaving a small note of appreciation, encourages them, shows positive feelings, shows that you care for others achievements too.

6. Donate to the needy:
Donating funds for the victims of natural calamity or someone who is sick and helpless also goes a long way. Even the small contributions leads to bigger amounts with the overall donations. Donations are another way of showing compassion towards people who are in urgent need. 

The practice of compassion increases our capacity to care. It reinforces charity, empathy and sympathy. Compassion is very good for your heart. Sometimes, there may be hurdles on your way in the form of racism, sexism, classism, and any other hurdles, these all are on the basis of other peoples opinions and judgement. Do not let other people's opinion affect you. Be compassionate. 

Compassion is very contagious, once you show compassion for others, others will also show compassion to you, you will feel happy and content. It is a happy feeling. The Dalai Lama famously said in the book The Art of Happiness, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

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