Practicing being compassionate requires getting in touch with genuine empathy for hardship or suffering that other people are experiencing and a desire to help them in some way.
There are many ways to practice being more compassionate to whomever you cross paths with in your life, whether they are a close family member or friend; a new patient or a colleague you only met once.
- Prepare to invest some of your time. Time is the most valuable currency in the world, giving someone a moment of your time with your attention towards them, is always the first step to compassion.
- Actively listen to others experiences. Sometimes it’s hard to feel compassion towards others when their reality and life experiences can be drastically different from our own. Volunteering and connecting with others that have different life experiences can not only open-up your understanding of the world, but can help you learn about yourself in the process.
- Communicate with them, whether verbally or non-verbally. Words that truly come from within the love that is in your heart are never wrong, so try not to worry about if what you say is the perfect thing to say and remember, words are not always necessary evening in meaningful communication.
- Eye contact is one of the most important steps in reaching a place of compassion with someone. Practicing looking people in the eyes, especially when they are talking to you. A little eye contact goes a long way, but adversely a bit of staring can make someone very uncomfortable or even end the conversation… So, also practice paying attention to where your eyes wonder and stare, if you need or want to break eye contact for a moment.
- Give them respect and privacy. Pay attention to their body language and if you feel like they might want a bit more personal space while you talk to them, then chances are, they probably do. Trust your senses and be respectful of the other person. Some people like to be very close when talking and others prefer some distance.
- Show kindness and care. Maybe the person you are practicing being compassionate with is trying to carry a large stack of books or is doing something when you approach them. See if you can put your compassion to use and show them that you truly do care. But ask them if they want help, not everyone always wants help.
- Compassionate touch (when appropriate) can also be a powerful way to practice being compassionate, but be sure physical contact is welcome. You can usually tell if a gentle pat on the shoulder or hand is something that their body language is open to or not. You can always ask them, “Would you like a hug?” or “May I hold your hand?”
- Practice empathy. Knowing empathetic things to say does not come naturally to all of us (or even most of us), so write down and practice some various things you can say to express your empathy towards their situation or experiences. It can be as simple as responding with how you think they felt during one of their experiences, like “That must have made you confused and sad.”
- Be mindful and consider your words. Words can be powerful and easy to be misunderstood. Try pausing a bit and try saying what you want to say to yourself quietly first and then after the brief pause, then speak the words to the person. And, as with many things, it takes practice to communicate the true meaning in your heart with the words that truly express what’s in your heart.
- You can start practicing with yourself. Yes, the best way to start practicing compassion is to start with yourself throughout your day, starting now! Forgive and let go of your mistakes, failures as you reflect on what you learned from the experiences. Focus on what’s next for yourself and builds your strengths and positive qualities.
Try it and see how it affects the quality of relationships with others and yourself.
Consider being an advocate of compassion and speak-up for others. Help teach people how to communicate their needs with assertiveness and confidence, especially in challenging situations where they may not be used to dealing with such a hectic or busy environment with more people around than they are used to.