Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators Book Study
JANUARY Topic: CULTIVATE COMPASSION (develops PERSPECTIVE)
Compassion for ourselves, as well as for others, helps us deal with the interpersonal challenges we face on a daily basis. Perspective allows us to recognize the complexity of a situation. Perspective allows us to empathize with others, see the long view, extricate ourselves from the drama of a moment, and identify a wider range of responses to an event.
Why Compassion? What does it offer?
When we exercise compassion for others, our heart softens, we strengthen relationships, our perspective broadens, and we see possibility. Just as we practice an instrument or hone a disposition such as optimism, we must cultivate and refine compassion. Compassion is empathy in action.
- Compassion makes us healthier and happier. When we are compassionate, our heart rate slows, our stress hormones decrease, and our immune response strengthens. It is literally preventive medicine.
- Compassion primes our minds for collaboration. Scientists have started to map the biological bias of compassion, showing that it is linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure.
- Compassion makes difficult relationships easier. Compassion offers a way to see a difficult person with more complexity and figure out how to work with them.
- Compassion strengthens communities. The word compassion literally means "suffering with". When we remind ourselves that our suffering is not separate from the suffering of others, we lessen our individual pain.
Pity, Sympathy, Empathy, or Compassion?
Pity: When you feel pity, you recognize someone's suffering from an emotional distance, it can be condescending and dehumanizing.
Sympathy: When you feel sympathy, you care for someone who is suffering, but maintain some emotional distance.
Empathy: When you feel empathy, you place yourself in someone else's shoes and feel their pain. When you feel empathy, there's no distance between you and the other person as you sense her emotions and imagine what she is thinking and feeling.
Compassion: When you feel compassion, you are moved to take action to relieve someone else's suffering. You may have experienced this suffering through your empathy. Action is what distinguishes compassion from empathy.
Compassion for others must begin with self-compassion. You cannot have true compassion for others if you do not have it for yourself. A few tips for practicing self-compassion include:
- Your self-love won't be reliable if it's dependent on what others think, because external judgment, criticism, praise, and appreciation come and go. Don't get too attached to praise, and don't crumble from criticism.
- Don't refrain from speaking your mind because you're attached to people liking you. On the flip side, know that that self-compassion isn't permission to lash out at others in the name of loving or defending yourself.
- As you practice self-acceptance and compassion, be open to hearing criticism that's useful and true; don't automatically reject it. Listen to criticism with an open mind in order to learn.
- Practice humility - it's liberating. You will never be perfect. When you don't expect perfection of yourself, you'll be less reactive to blame and judgment from others.
How to Deal with Difficult People
- Listen to their complaints, but without comment. be very careful that you're not feeding their negativity.
- Don't get hooked into their story lines or worked up about their attitude. Imagine you're watching stormy weather.
- Get curious about what's going on for them. Your curiosity can stay in your mind, or you can ask a truly curious question or two.
- Don't take other people's behavior personally. It is never about you.
- Cultivate awareness of common ground. It's there, somewhere. You might have to search, but find connections.
- Remind yourself that people can change. Make sure you're not holding on to a fixed mindset about their ability to grow.
- Say this to yourself: Just like me, this person has suffered in her life. Just like me, this person wants to belong. Just like me, this person wants to be happy.
- Stay clear about your own values. You can let go of anger (if you want), be compassionate, and stay true to values.
- Give yourself permission to step away. Draw boundaries.
- Ask for help. Turn to a colleague, a coach, or your supervisor, share what's going on , and ask for help in dealing with the person.