Healthy relationships are central to our happiness. Full stop. It’s a basic human psychological need to have positive relationships in our lives to feel like we belong and have feelings of worthiness. In a sense, we all want the same things, because it’s in our DNA. Whether we like it or not, we all strive for love and connection with each other. So it only makes sense to have some strategies up our sleeves for when our relationships aren’t smooth sailing, and when we want more attention and productivity from the people around us. The secret is compassion, my friend.
Compassion means ‘to suffer with’ or ‘the act of suffering together’
When we are compassionate we feel closer and connect with each other, which is what we all need the most as humans. Practicing compassion is simply remembering the fact that whenever you meet another person, or are in conflict with another person, is that we are not separate. Think to yourself, ‘just like me, this person wants to be happy.’
For example, if you are struggling with a certain relationship, they aren’t giving you enough attention, they aren’t communicating with you the way you would like or they just don’t listen and understand you, it can help to practice compassion and see yourself and the other person as equal, before you start the blame game.
It is so powerful to look at others through the lens of compassion, and remembering that we are not separate and we all want the same things. What you are wanting in someone else, they are wanting the same thing from you.
We are all the same
It is a simple human truth that everyone, just like you, wants to be happy and avoid suffering. Just like you, everyone wants to have friends, to be accepted and loved, to be respected and valued for their unique qualities, to be healthy and to feel comfortable with themselves. Just like you, no one else wants to be friendless and alone, to be looked down upon by others, to be sick, to feel inadequate and depressed. / Pema Chodron.
How do I practice compassion?
1. Partial Agreement
You can’t resolve conflict unless you understand both sides equally well.
People have to know that you care about them, and when they do they are much more open to feedback and will see your side, just as you see theirs. But it starts with you. If you have something you want to say to someone else, how about beginning with them first. Instead of going in all guns blazing, start by asking how they are feeling. Listen to them with the intend to understand, not with the intent to respond. I like to call this ‘partial agreement’. Find something that you both agree on, ‘I understand how you feel’, or ‘I can see why you would think that.’ Give them the attention you are after and make them feel completely heard and understood. Then when you begin to express your side of the story, you can expect the same attention back. But, if you don’t get it, rethink the way you listened first. Perhaps you didn’t ask the right questions or it wasn’t clear to the other person how much you care about them. Always use this conflict as an opportunity to practice working on yourself.
2. Compassion Bubble Wrap
This can be difficult, but a trick of mine is to imagine in your mind that you have wrapped the other person in bubble wrap. This bubble wrap is love, and it means you have nothing but love for them. So when you speak, you don’t speak from anger or frustration that they just don’t get what you are saying, but from love and the desire to understand them and connect with them. It’s tough, but you will get there. And you will soon notice that when you act and speak from this place of pure love for the other person, what you give out will return to you multiplied and you will have all the attention in the world.
3. Start with them and understand what you need to work on first, then get to you and your feelings
Be patient, be kind, and take deep breaths when you need to. It always gets easier the more you practice. Sometimes, all you feel like doing is walking away, give the other person the silent treatment or slam all the doors on your dramatic exit to your bedroom. I am giving you full permission to do that! Just be sure that when your anger finishes and you take ownership for your behaviour again, muster all the strength you have to peel yourself off your bed and sit next to the person you love. Then ask them, ‘how are you feeling?’ It’s not always about you, and when you start with them you can learn and grow more than you thought you would, then you can give yourself a pat on the back for solving a problem in a healthy way.
Featured image via @saasha_burns
These strategies are also brilliant in the classroom with young people or at home. Compassion is the vehicle to being heard and listened to yourself. Because really, who listens to people that don’t listen to you? Nobody. So listen first, understand first, learn and grow as a person yourself before putting your two bobs in. Then you can be sure that your two bobs will be valued, just as you have valued others.
What you are looking for in others, chances are they are looking for that in you.