Openness

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.

Feelings?

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.

Logic?

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.

Values?

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.

Guilt?

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

Quizzing   

“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 . . .”

Placating 

“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!”

Educating

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

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

Analyzing

“This seems to happen to you a lot.”

“That probably means you….”

Consoling

“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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How To Communicate with Compassion During Crisis

I travel quite a bit, so I’ve been paying attention to how the airlines are responding to the coronavirus crisis. I’ve gotten emails from the three airlines I use most, Delta, American, and United. Crisis communication requires compassion, which was notably absent in these messages.

All of the notifications conveyed two basic messages;

  1. We know safety is important so here’s what we are doing about it. (Information)
  2. Here’s why you can still trust us. (Commitments)

Here are the opening and closing paragraphs for each email I received. I’ve left out the parts listing the specific actions each airline is taking since they are essentially identical. Information parts are coded Blue, and Commitments are in Purple.

Delta (Ed Bastain, CEO)

As a valued member of the Delta family, I appreciate the trust you place in us and our people worldwide when you travel.

In the current environment, it’s important for all of us to travel smarter and more consciously. That’s why I want to personally update you on the situation with COVID-19 (the coronavirus) and the steps we are taking to ensure your health and safety in your travels.

(Here they list all the steps they are taking)

I believe Delta’s mission of connecting the world and creating opportunities is never more important than at times like this.

Thank you for your continued trust in Delta, and I look forward to seeing you in my own travels throughout the year.

American (Kurt Stache, SVP, Customer Experience)

Your safety and well-being is always our top priority at American Airlines, but particularly in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Providing you with up-to-date information on what we are doing to respond to the issue is a critical step in giving you peace of mind when you travel. Here are a few highlights of our efforts:

(Here they list all the steps they are taking)

We are confident that our incredible team of more than 130,000 will care for you in the best possible way during your journey with us.

United (Oscar Munoz)

I consider you part of our United family and your safety remains our highest priority.

We are in the business of serving people and in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak it’s important that we give you as much flexibility as possible when planning your next trip. But it’s also important that we give you as much information as possible about the procedures we follow to clean our aircraft and maintain a sanitary environment once we’re in the air.

(Here they list all the steps they are taking)

I want you to know that you can continue to rely on us. So, the next time we have the privilege of welcoming you aboard our aircraft, you can know our commitment to you remains as steadfast as ever.

Lack of Compassion in Crisis Communication

What’s consistently missing in these crisis communication emails is openness, the foundation for compassion. None of these top leaders make an emotional connection with their constituents. There is no empathy for the feelings of anxiety and fear and no acknowledgment of the vulnerability we all feel. United and Delta make a broad statement about “family” but show no effort to connect at a personal level.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Compassionate communication requires transparent information exchange, and solid commitments to behavior, but first and foremost is an emotional connection that acknowledges the human connection we all have. Why? Because it is this connection that get us through the crisis together instead of falling apart.

The Compassion Cycle provides a framework for communicating during crisis while including all aspects of compassion.

Openness: Make an emotional connection. Most importantly during crisis is to name the anxiety and fear and connect personally with it so that people get the message, “You aren’t alone and you feelings matter.”

Resourcefulness: Active, informed problem-solving. All three airlines did a great job of this. Even better, give us travelers things we can do to lower our risk and partner with you in the solution. This helps us feel more in control during times of uncertainty.

Persistence: Be trustworthy. Be trustworthy. Be trustworthy. Be honest, be dependable, and be consistent. We all need to know what to expect from you.

Want help applying our compassion template to your crisis communication strategy? Call us for a free 30 minute consultation. +1 316 283 4200, email info@next-element.com 

Ideal compassionate communication from any airline would have read like this;

I can imagine that you are anxious and afraid about travel safety in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. This is perfectly normal and we are in this together. Our loved ones are also traveling. We are here for you because you are part of our family.

Here is the most up-to-date information we know, and these are the steps we are taking to ensure your continued safety and comfort.

Our mission is ___________. Our commitment to you is__________. You can count on us to uphold these values during this crisis.

I appreciate how difficult it is to communicate effectively in times of crisis and uncertainty. If you are struggling to find the right approach, use ORP (Open-Resourceful-Persistent) to do it with compassion. We are committed to teaching you effective communicating strategies so you can feel more confident during turbulent times.

If you need help, give us a call.

Mr. Munoz, Mr. Bastain, and Mr. Stache, the first consultation is on me!

Want help applying our compassion template to your crisis communication strategy? Call us for a free 30 minute consultation. +1 316 283 4200, email info@next-element.com

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020

Are travel restrictions are keeping you in your office? Take advantage of our VIRTUAL training, consulting and coaching programs.

Next Element’s training programs were built for RIGHT NOW. Never has the need for compassionate leadership and healthy conflict negotiation been more important.

  • No travel needed: Virtual instructor led via webinar
  • Quick: Two hour courses
  • Practical: Immediately applicable skills
  • Cost-Effective: Digital materials, volume discounts
  • Rapid Scaling: Virtual certification allows large-scale deployment within days or weeks.
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Drained or Tired?

Would you rather be drained or tired?

I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders who are heading towards burnout because they are drained so much of the time. Unlike being tired, being drained doesn’t go away with rest and refueling.

Being drained is perpetuated by three myths.

Be Nice

The Myth: Don’t make waves, don’t speak up, and avoid conflict because silence is a small price to pay to keep people happy.

The Drain: Energy wasted on things you can’t control while neglecting your own boundaries and needs.

The Compassionate Solution: Be Open. Share your real feelings without blaming anyone. It’s OK to own your stuff because you are worth it. You will be tired, but you will have self-respect.

Be Smart

The Myth: Give advice, fix problems, and show your expertise because we need to save people from their struggles.

The Drain: Energy is wasted on non-consensual helping which invites dependence and resentment, so you end up doing other people’s work for them. It’s a vicious cycle.

The Compassionate Solution: Be Resourceful. Get curious and meet people there they are at. Ask permission to help and treat people like they are capable. You will be tired from resisting your urge to help, and your people will begin solving their own problems.

Be Tough

The Myth: It’s okay to be the bad guy. Strength equals respect. Strong arm people if necessary because it’s your duty to get things done no matter what.

The Drain: Everything becomes a battle and collateral damage is the norm.

The Compassionate Solution: Be Persistent. Communicate what’s important. Be a role-model and ask people to step up. Follow through on commitments and consequences with dignity and respect. You will be tired and you will experience more ownership and loyalty.

Drained leaders spin their wheels and never recover. Tired leaders get results and sleep great. When you replace the drain of myths with compassion, it hurts so good.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2020
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The Difference Between Mindfulness And Compassion

I admire self-aware, centered people who just seem to have it all figured out. And, sometimes they drive me crazy when they don’t DO anything about it. They act like being mindful is enough, all by itself.

Mindfulness is a powerful practice to gain awareness, accept and manage emotions, and get centered. It helps you turn and face internal experiences with openness and curiosity instead of judgment. (more…)

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How to Cure Empathy Fatigue

Empathy fatigue is a phrase coined by Mark Stebnicki, a professor in the Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation at East Carolina University. He explains that, “empathy fatigue results from a state of psychological, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and occupational exhaustion that occurs as the counselors’ own wounds are continually revisited by their clients’ life stories of chronic illness, disability, trauma, grief and loss.”

Empathy fatigue is especially common in high-touch professions where empathy, care, concern, and emotional support are job duties. Although first recognized in the counseling field, empathy fatigue is gaining more recognition in corporate settings, especially in companies promoting a customer-centric and people-focused culture.

Losing our selves. Losing our soul.

Symptoms of Empathy fatigue are described in Lynne Shallcross’ article, “Who’s taking care of Superman.”

  • Feelings of powerlessness or helplessness
  • Skepticism
  • Irritability
  • Loss of meaning, purpose and hope
  • Lowered concentration
  • Impatience
  • Somatic complaints
  • Low morale or motivation
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety

How did we get here?

Empathy fatigue is caused by the relentless pursuit to serve the customer coupled with a distorted understanding of compassion.

On the way to perfecting our customer-first strategy we’ve forgotten that the customer is an agent in the equation. We have accepted that we are responsible for making everything better, so we listen more, care more, empathize more, and suffer more.; so that they will have a pleasant experience, stay engaged, and buy more.

Most people believe that compassion is synonymous with empathy, altruism and kindness. That’s wrong. 

How do we get out?

The obvious answer is self-care. It’s a good step, but it’s not the full solution. The solution is to practice compassion in its fullest sense. Compassion means “to struggle with,” not “to struggle instead of.” Here’s how compassion can help you solve empathy fatigue. 

Keep caring and giving

Don’t shut down your heart. People are hard-wired to care about each other. And, don’t forget to also protect your heart. Bleeding-hearts don’t last very long.

Engage others in the process

Stop solving problems for people. Get them involved to take ownership over the solution. Customers are much more loyal and engaged when they take an active role in the solution. When you are doing all the emotional (and physical) work, you are undermining their capability and dignity and creating dependence.

Set and enforce boundaries

Protect your soul by knowing your boundaries and investing in you. Without it, your tank will always be on empty. What keeps you healthy and balanced? Do it. What gives you joy? Do it. Recognize when saying “yes” means you are saying no to what keeps you healthy. You are worth as much as the person you are trying to help. When you are fatigued you aren’t helpful.

Solving empathy fatigue requires difficult conversations with yourself and with others. It’s not easy, and we have a solution.


Start your journey towards more energy and better relationships today with The Compassion Mindset course, offered regularly in a two-hour webinar format.

Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2019
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How To Correct Three Leadership Habits That Destroy Culture

These three leadership habits destroy culture because they support drama-based responses to conflict.

Hiding behind policies

How many policies do you have that were created in response to the behavior of a few people? Rather than confront the behavior with healthy conflict, some leaders hide behind the policy. This sends the the message that we don’t trust most people and we won’t deal directly with problem behavior.

Correction: (more…)

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