Compassion, are you making room for it in your daily business?
Compassion is having the ability to empathise with another’s suffering, accompanied by the desire to assist or alleviate their pain in some way. It differs from empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related. And, if you are like many people in business, it’s probably way down on your list of ‘to do’s’ at work – but there is a growing body of research that says cultivating a compassionate attitude gives you a clear advantage in the leadership stakes.
In our quest for better business, we can sometimes feel like it’s appropriate to switch off our softer, quieter emotions so we can get more done. There is, however, a case to be made for injecting a little more compassion into our days in the office.
The emotion comes naturally to many of us but is often left outside of the normal repertoire of work-related emotions, where, at times, drive, determination, and toughness come up trumps. If we do experience a feeling of compassion towards a colleague, we may feel too restricted by office politics, cultural norms or just the everyday demands of our work lives to act on that feeling in the moment.
But there are very sound reasons why cultivating more compassion can make for a better working environment for everyone.
Research by the Greater Good Science Centre shows that when we notice suffering in another person, deep neurological and biological responses are set off, and we experience a slow-down of our heart rate, an increase in the hormone oxytocin. Parts of the brain linked to empathy, bonding, caregiving and feelings of pleasure are activated and can result in our wanting to approach and care for those in need. There are sound reasons why this response is so natural for us, harking back to our tribal roots when the survival of as many individuals as possible was necessary for the tribe to continue to flourish.
But what about its place in today’s modern workplace tribes?
Compassion is a necessary emotion to show if you want your team to flourish. Those who feel noticed, listened to and cared for in their workplace, are more likely to experience positive emotion – leading to increased co-operation, stronger bonds with co-workers and a better experience for your customers.
Now, this is not about getting over emotional at work, or encouraging your team to sit around talking about their problems for hours on end – but it is about knowing your perceived value and strength as a leader will actually increase if you reach out to a team member in their moment of need. And the flow-on positive effects for that person will be considerable and long-lasting.
Are you ok?
It doesn’t need to be grand, organised or showy. In fact, compassion is best in the quiet safety of a shared coffee, a chat outside the office or a discussion in a private space. There is no magic formula or script to follow – just asking if someone is ok, listening with empathy, acting to assist in some small way or offering reassurance can be enough. Even just having someone to talk too can often be enough to ease the most pervasive emotional pain!
But whether the pain is work-related stress, or something from the world of family, relationships, kids, health or other issues, there’s one thing I know for sure – it will be affecting your team member at work.
That’s more than enough reason for you to give yourself permission to become a more compassionate leader, starting today.
Catherine Bell helps people discover their hidden talents and find more meaning, engagement, and fulfillment in their work. Applying the proven research and practice of Applied Positive Psychology and Lean Six Sigma Continuous Improvement, she helps leaders and teams in small and large businesses who are looking for new ways to drive success, engagement, and profit.
Catherine is a passionate businesswoman, a down-to-earth optimist, a no-nonsense trainer and transformational coach. She is also a closet psychology geek who loves reading the latest research about what makes people tick! More than anything, Catherine is a true believer in people – and their often unrealised potential.
Through Consulting Services, In-house, Public and Online Training and Coaching Programs, Bell Training Group ignite excellence in teams and strengthens businesses.