Compassion is part of the first virtue of Daoism. I would like to explore this concept a little deeper. Compassion is an authentic sympathy for the suffering and hardship that other people experience.
The saying goes that you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself. First and foremost, it is important to learn to show compassion for yourself. You can start by complimenting yourself for your successes even if they are small. I know that I am too hard on myself and I don’t celebrate my successes, I just look at the next goal ahead and keep plowing through. By practicing this with yourself it will be easier to compliment and celebrate when someone close to you has reached a milestone.
The first step in practicing compassion is to not look at what makes us different from someone else but to look at what makes us similar. This practice will help you relate better to other people and understand what they are going through.
Another way of showing compassion is through nonverbal communication. Make eye contact with the person you are listening to, turn your body towards them and show them you are interested in what they are saying. You can also practice active listening which is paraphrasing back to them what they just said. This shows you are listening and you care.
Don’t try to fix them, or find solutions for them. Sometimes all they need is someone to listen to them. Let them know you understand what they are going through. It is ok to show your emotions, if you feel like crying or laughing that can also be a way to show them you are present, with them and they are being heard.
Compassion is also about taking time to consider your words. Think before you speak to be sure that wha you are saying is supportive to the other person’s needs.
Of course, if they don’t want to share they might just want company. Don’t be intrusive, just show that you care and you are there for them if they need to talk.
Some people might need you to advocate for them. You must be sure that this is what they want and you don’t advocate for something they don’t want. You need to be in touch with what they need and understand the situation enough to speak for them. Check in with yourself and you aren’t promoting your own wants and needs and you are promoting theirs.
When it is appropriate, physical touch can show someone that you care. It can be a hug or a pat on the hand. Physical touch can be very calming for someone who is distressed but make sure it is ok first. You could ask “Would you like a hug?”
Some people just need some encouragement. They need to believe that someone is on their side rooting for them. Positive reinforcement can sometimes be just the thing to help someone get out of their rut. Put a light on their talents and their capabilities and watch them shine as you cheer them on.
Kindness goes hand in hand with Compassion. Do small acts of kindness can make this world a better place. You can let someone pass in front of you in line at the supermarket or you can help and elderly cross the street. You can bring over cookies to your neighbor or call a friend who lives alone and be ready to listen to them and give your full attention. It is so easy to show kindness and not expect anything in return which is a key element to kindness.