Overcome Five Misconceptions About Compassion For A Better 2021

Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.”

I disagree.

Here’s what I believe. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over knowing you’ll get the same results, but wishing for something different. Humans are creatures of habit. We do the same things over and over because deep down we want the same results. We want things to be predictable because that doesn’t require us to take risks and be brave.

Yet we wish for more. We crave better relationships, more meaningful work, a purposeful life, inclusion, and the satisfaction of contributing. We can wish for something different, but until we adopt a new mindset and skills, we would be insane to expect anything different.

The answer to end the insanity is compassion. To be human is to have compassion. Compassion is what connects us and gets us back on track when we lose our way. Compassion is the key to our survival. Compassion is how we make diversity our greatest strength.

Unfortunately, as humans we’ve developed some misconceptions about compassion that are holding us back, even though we wish for more and often have good intentions.

Most people equate compassion with empathy

Wrong. Compassion is much more than a feeling. It’s also about creative problem-solving and advocacy for justice.

Most people believe that compassion is a soft skill

Wrong. Compassion is a life skill. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Most people believe that compassion is just for self-less servant leaders.

Wrong. Compassion honors our own needs and boundaries too. Did you know that practicing compassion stimulates the reward centers of the brain?

Most people believe that compassion is something that comes naturally; you either have it or you don’t.

Wrong. Compassion can be learned and doesn’t require a touchy-feely personality.

Most people believe that compassion is about alleviating suffering.

Wrong. Compassion is about suffering alongside to enhance people’s value, capability, and responsibility. We are in this together.

It’s time to re-imagine compassion.

Here’s how we define compassion:

Compassion is the practice of demonstrating that we are valuable, capable, and responsible in every interaction.

Compassion is a habit, a way of life that is cultivated daily and manifested through our behavior, in every interaction.

Because we are valuable, everyone deserves to be heard, affirmed, safe, invited, and included.

Because we are capable, everyone deserves the invitation to contribute, participate, take ownership, and be part of the solution.

Because we are responsible, everyone is accountable for their feelings, thoughts, and actions. Not just one of these, but all three. All the time. In every interaction. And it applies to you too.

How would you act differently if you believed that everyone, including you, was valuable, capable, and responsible?

Einstein also said this, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Change the way you look at compassion and your world can change in 2021.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2021
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A One Track Heart

I’ve shared before about my struggle with attention. I am able to focus so well (on my own thoughts and activities) that I miss what’s going on around me. Sometimes that happens in the middle of a conversation. I guess you could say I have a one-track mind. It often takes a jolt from the outside to get my attention.

Hearts are similar. Are you the kind of person whose heart flows outward to everyone else? Are you good at offering support, affirmation and validation to others. Would your friends and colleagues say you are a great listener and they feel safe around you? That’s terrific! You are a gift.

Does your heart flow the other way? How comfortable are you sharing your own feelings? Do you ask for help from others and lean on them for support? Do you show your vulnerability and trust others to validate you?

Just like minds, hearts beat strongest when they are able to give, and receive love.

Do you have a one-track heart? What’s getting in the way of you allowing the flow of love in both directions?

You aren’t alone. Most leaders we work with are much more comfortable giving than receiving. Receiving from another’s heart means accepting that you are human, vulnerable, valuable and interdependent. It means giving up the need to be seen in a certain way, and embracing the unknown risks of opening up.

Compassion is about struggling with each other in a spirit of dignity.

How can anyone struggle with you if they don’t know what you are struggling with. 

This season, I want to encourage you to relish the joy of giving, because so many people need what you have to offer. And, I want to give you permission to embrace the gift of asking for help and receiving love from others. You are worth it.

Happy Holidays from our Next Element family to yours!

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020
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Hope Is In The Grey

Extremes are not who we are, it’s how we behave when we are afraid, sad, anxious, angry, desperate, lonely, and disconnected. When we go to extremes, division is inevitable. It’s tragic since this is when we most need to feel heard and seen.

It can feel hopeless staring into the divide, wondering how we will go forward as a family, a community or a nation when we feel so far apart.

Division is an opportunity to invite dialogue. Not about our extreme positions or dogmas, because all that does is fuel our cover-up selves. Instead, we can dialogue about our cravings for connection and impact.

How do you want to be seen?

What gives you hope?

What are you most afraid of?

What connections and activities are most life-giving for you?

What have you lost that was significant? 

Compassion helps us have curious dialogue that invites people into the grey areas between us. In the grey there are no black and white positions, no swords to fall on, and no judgment. In the grey we are open and curious, seeking to understand and validate the human behind the extremes.

In the grey there is hope.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020
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Five Ways To Have Compassionate Covid Conversations

Have you struggled to have compassionate conversations about Covid? Are you torn between what you think/feel/believe is the right thing to do, and the nuances of a particular situation? Have you tried to have a conversation and it only made things worse? Or, did you stay silent when you really should have spoken up? Have these conversations strained relationships? (more…)

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For Leaders, Every Day Is Election Day

Nearly 160 million people voted in the 2020 United States presidential election. That’s 20 million more than four years ago. 66.4% of eligible voters turned out, which is the highest since 1900. We showed up!

  • We are passionate.
  • The issues we are facing are significant and impact us personally.
  • Those seeking election worked their tails off to earn our vote.

I’m proud of my country for this. (more…)

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Compassion Is More Than A Feeling

Some people think that empathy and compassion are synonymous. They aren’t, because compassion is more than a feeling.

You have to actually do something to be compassionate. So others have suggested that compassion is “empathy in action.”

“Empathy in action” definition limits compassion

  • It makes compassion dependent on empathy.
  • It relies on a shared emotional experience.
  • It precludes other motivators of compassion.

What motivates you to show compassion?

While empathy is a great motivator for compassionate behavior, it’s not the only one.


The practice of compassion can be motivated by emotions, e.g. “I feel for her. I’ve been through something similar so I can relate.” This is what most people view as empathy, an emotional experience that connects people. In this case, compassion indeed is empathy in action.


It can be motivated by logical analysis, e.g. “I have skills that could help. By serving on the Habitat for Humanity board, I could use those skills to help a family have a home.” This would redefine compassion as thoughts in action.


It can be motivated by principles and values, e.g. “I believe that every child deserves a stable adult role-model, so I will volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters.” Now compassion is equated with values in action.


It can be motivated by guilt, e.g. “I feel so badly that I have more than enough to eat while others are starving.” Here, compassion is simply a form of making things right.

Compassion without emotions?

“But how can you really be compassionate without an emotional component?” you might ask.

You can’t. Compassion isn’t possible without Openness, which means emotional transparency; valuing the emotional experience of our selves and others. Empathy is only one of three ways to do this.

Two more ways to be open

Validation, which is the act of affirming and valuing another person’s emotional motives and experiences. e.g. “Your feelings matter. It’s OK to be upset. I’m listening.”

Validation is not empathy. It does not rely on shared emotional experiences, although it needs to be sincere.

The third way to practice openness is disclosure, which is the act of sharing your own emotional motives and experiences, e.g. “I’m angry about what happened last night,” or “I want to feel safe in this relationship.” Disclosure is a self-ful act that also connects people. The vulnerability of disclosure sends the message that you care enough about yourself to let others know and ask for what you want, and it sends the message to others that it’s safe to share emotions. Disclosure in not empathy because it’s not about the other person.

Compassion can be motivated by more than empathy, so don’t limit it with the definition of “empathy in action”. Once motivated, compassion can be activated by Empathy, Validation, and Disclosure. Any of these can get the ball rolling for practicing real compassion.

Compassion is the practice of demonstrating that people are valuable, capable, and responsible in every interaction.

We are on a mission to bring more compassion to every workplace in the world. It starts with recognizing that compassion is accessible to anyone and it can be learned and practiced in every interaction.

Learn more about The Compassion Mindset, our enterprise program for bringing more compassion to your workplace.

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Empathy Blockers

Empathy is in high demand right now. Leaders who cultivate their empathy skills have more cohesive teams and engaged employees. Whether you fancy yourself an empathy expert, or need to develop your empathy skills, here are some fantastic tips on what NOT to do from the International Listening Association.

What Empathy is NOT


“Did you do what I told you to do?”

“Did you take the medicine when you were supposed to?

Judging or Guilting

“Why did you do that?”

“That doesn’t seem worth worrying about.”

Well, that was a dumb thing to do.

“I can’t believe you did that!”

“I told you this is what would happen.”

Advising or Fixing

“You shouldn’t have said that.”

“You should have taken the medicine like you were supposed to.

“Maybe you should . . .”


“Oh, well, tomorrow is a new day.”

“That’s not so bad.”

Denying or Discounting 

“I can’t believe you’re upset about that.”

“That’s nothing!”

“Shouldn’t you just be glad that you have a job?”

One-upping or Kidnapping the Empathy

“If you think that’s bad . . .”

“You should hear what happened to me!”


“There’s a good book you should read about that.”

“I’ve got some resources that will help.”


“This seems to happen to you a lot.”

“That probably means you….”


“That’s too bad.  I’m sure tomorrow things will go better.”

“It could be worse. Imagine if…”

Compassion (I added this one)

It’s true, empathy is not the same as compassion. Here’s the scoop.

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Improve Your Life, In 30 Minutes, By Changing One Thing

I spent my entire formal education (and a ton of money) learning how to think and talk in complicated ways. I was convinced that it made me look smart and trustworthy and important.

When I graduated and began practicing clinical psychology I quickly learned that nobody really cares how smart you are if you can’t translate it into something they can use. I also learned that very few people care how much you know until the know how much you care. (more…)

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What Does The Dalai Lama Know About Compassionate Leadership?

Daniel Goleman has spent the last 30 years researching and developing the science of Emotional Intelligence, and is a friend of the Dalai Lama. Recently he was asked to write a book about the Dalai Lama’s compassionate approach to addressing the world’s most intractable problems. Just published in June 2020, Force for Good, is both an exploration of the science and the power of compassion and a call to action. (more…)

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Personality And Compassion

How compassionate are you? What are your compassion strengths and weaknesses? How does your personality impact your ability to practice compassion?

If you’ve ever completed a personality or strengths assessment, now’s the time to fetch your results and identify your signature strengths (and weaknesses).

Compassion requires three skills; openness, resourcefulness, and persistence. Openness creates a safe space where the real issues can be surfaced. Resourcefulness creates a curious space where creative problem-solving can happen. Persistence creates a consistent space where boundaries and principles are honored.

Each skill if necessary but not sufficient for full compassion. Our Compassion Cycle shows how these three skills work together, in order, to practice full compassion.

Here’s a list of typical personality-based strengths that correspond to each compassion skill.


  • Sensitive
  • Warm
  • Reflective
  • Calm
  • Spontaneous
  • Playful


  • Creative
  • Organized
  • Logical
  • Observant
  • Adaptable
  • Charming
  • Imaginative


  • Dedicated
  • Conscientious
  • Responsible
  • Persuasive

Comparing results from your own assessment, where is the most alignment? Where is the least alignment? What areas do you need to develop to practice fuller compassion?

The good news is that any personality type can start somewhere with their strengths. The bad news is that no personality type is singularly equipped for full compassion. So we all need to stretch ourselves and learn new skills if we want to grow in compassion.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020

Start building out your compassion skills with The Compassion Mindset online course.

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