As the Dalai Lama explains, if you are walking along a trail and come along a person who is being crushed by a boulder, an empathetic reaction would result in you feeling the same sense of crushing suffocation and render you unable to help. The compassionate reaction would put you in the sufferer's shoes, thinking this person must be experiencing horrible pain so you're going to do everything in your power to remove the boulder and alleviate their suffering. Put another way, compassion is a more objective form of empathy. This idea of seeing things clearly through another person's perspective can be invaluable when it comes to relating with others, particularly in tense work situations.
For example, when strongly disagreeing with another, most of us have a tendency to see things solely through our own world view. In those situations, some will immediately assume that the other person is ignorant and/or has nefarious intentions. Your mind immediately turns to the thought, "How could they possibly not agree with me?"
In these circumstances, it can be constructive to take a minute to understand why the other person has reached the conclusion that they have. For instance, what in their background has led them to take that position? Do they have the appropriate experience to be making optimal decisions? Are they fearful of a particular outcome that may not be obvious at surface level? Asking yourself these questions, and more importantly, asking the other person these questions, can take what would otherwise be a challenging situation and transform it into a coachable moment and truly collaborative experience.
Jeff Weiner is the CEO of Linked In. This is an excerpt from his article on 'Compassionate Management'.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to the notion of compassion being an objective form of empathy? Can you share a personal story of a time you were able to transform a challenging situation into a coachable moment? What practice helps you to get out of your world view and see other perspectives?
Compassion and Empathy are relatives for sure, yet for me compassion is not objectified empathy.
I see their relationship this very simplified way: ( I can offer more depth to those who want it)
antipathy: I don't like, I don't want, I feel for me
sympathy: I like, I want, I feel for you
compassion: I care, I have concern, my heart opens, I am compelled to action
empathy: you enter me, I enter you, I am authentically present, I embody right action, my mind is the servant of my thinking heart
Yes empathy is like "I feel your suffering inside of me too", but maybe with a period after it. Whereas compassion is also "and I am available to relieve your suffering as best I can."I see the suffering of all beings laboring under the illusion of "I' or beset by the endless thought stream for I see that in myself. When I am able to, I try to guide that person to see more light. That "I" is really an illusion and that thoughts cannot disturb one if one does not give them the power to.
Yes! Compassion for everyone, every day. Always in each encounter we have the opportunity to put ourselves in the other person's position to better understand where they are coming from, what do they bring into the conversation given their past experience, what blocks might they have or what might they have to teach us if we open our own hearts and minds more fully. This happens regularly in my life because of seeking to understand and seeking to learn more. Very very rarely does anyone come into an encounter with a negative intention; most often they and we come in with a view shaped by a lifetime of experiences. Here's to compassion!
The poet John Keates trained to be a Doctor and had such high levels of empathy that he could feel the patients pain during surgery and was unable to continue in this career. A lot of loss during his young life may have created his empathic nature. Compassion is a good thing but if you let it consume you it can get out of hand and your own functions can be affected and render you unable to cope. Once a person has experienced physical pain it should be a natural function for them to understand the pain of another person..........those who are lucky enough not to have experienced it can only imagine what another person is going through and can offer support.... but a deeper compassion and empathy comes from knowing. x
The way I understand it is:
Objective compassion is to share the pain, but not the suffering.
For pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. By not suffering ourselves, we open up the way for the other person to also treat their pain objectively.
I agree that there is a difference between empathy and compassion. I don't agree that compassion is an objective form of empathy. Compassion is empathy plus taking action to alleviate the problem -- I don't call that objective, I call it providing helpful action. I've helped to transform a challenging situation into a coachable moment with my children and clients, which are situations in which I am in the parent/teacher role by arrangement, and the arrangement helps make situations coachable moments. In a peer relationship especially, it takes both of us to transform the situation into a coachable moment -- one of us goes up in becoming coach and the other goes down in becoming student. I've been on both ends during such moments, and it is special and satisfying on both ends. I give the majority credit to the one who becomes coached for being open to it and allowing it. What helps me to see other perspectives is deeper realization that we are one which results in more care and compassion. It also helps for me to be open, not judgmental, listen closely to what the other is saying, and look for ways to be responsive to what is needed.[Hide Full Comment]
Subjective empathy is feeling the pain and suffering of another person. Objective empathy implies not only feeling the pain and suffering of another person but also understanding our own perspective on his suffering as well as remaining open to understand the other person's perspective. We need to have both head and heart to feel for the other person and have an empathic understanding of the person in relationship. I will add hand to head and heart. The hand stands for action.Compassion implies empathy and acts of kindness.
Practicing loving kindness has been very helpful to me in my everyday living.
Jagdish P Dave
It is not a personal story but has been a short and sweet life changing message from my guru, Dr. Stephan R. Covey.