Develop compassion and assertion skills in 2017

Learn strategies to improve empathy skills for better relationships in 2017.

Are you thinking of what your new year’s resolution will be or trying to keep positive while attending your holiday parties? This article is to help you elevate your compassion and assertion, so that 2017 can be a year worth remembering. Think of your relationships as being an airplane. If you want your airplane (relationships) to soar, you first have to get off the ground. In the book “Buddha’s Brain” by Rick Hanson, PH.D and Richard Mendius, MD, they describe having compassion and assertion as the two wings that get any relationship off the ground and keep it flying. They state that compassion widens the circle of “us”, while assertion protects and supports everyone inside the circle. In order to have compassion, you must feel something of what the other person is going through. You must have empathy.

The authors elegantly describe empathy as: The foundation of any meaningful relationship. It is respectful and soothing and usually evokes goodwill in return. Empathy is neither agreement nor approval. In a spiritual practice, empathy sees how we all are related to each other. It is virtue in action, the restraint of reactive patterns in order to stay present with another person. Empathy contains an inherent generosity: You give the willingness to be moved by another person. The book provides five strategies to adopt to become empathetic in your quest to become compassionate and assertive:

Set the stage

Bring conscious intention to being empathic. Relax your mind and body, and open to the other person as much as feels right to you. Keep paying attention to the other person; be with him. This form of sustained attention is uncommon, yet others appreciate it tremendously! In a way, empathy is a kind of mindfulness meditation focused on someone else’s inner world.

Notice actions of others

Notice their stance, gestures, and actions. Imagine doing these yourself. What would it feel like in your own body to do them? When appropriate, match some of their movements with your own and notice what it feels like.

Sense the feelings of others

Turn in to yourself. Sense your breathing, body, and emotions. Being in tune to your own inner feelings, primes you to sense the inner feelings of others. Watch the other person’s face and eyes closely. There is some biological truth to the old saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Lastly, stay relaxed so that to resonate with the other person’s emotions.

Track the thoughts of others

Actively imagine what the other person could be thinking and wanting. Consider what may be pulling them in different directions inside of them. Consider what you know about them, such as personality, personal history, childhood, temperament, “hot buttons”, recent events in their lives, and nature of relationship with you. Ask yourself what affect these might have. Ask yourself what might he be feeling deep down? What could be most important to him/her? What might he/her need from me? Be respectful, and don’t jump to conclusions: stay in “don’t know” mind.

Check back

As appropriate check with the other person to see if you’re on the right path. Ask mirroring questions, such as “sounds like you are feeling______ when__________, and that you want/need __________”

In order to elevate your compassion, remember you also have to be able to receive empathy yourself. In order to receive it you have to be approachable or “feelable”. Be open, present and honest in your interactions. Don’t be afraid to ask for empathy if you are in need of it too. Consider being more empathetic and see if you notice more compassion in your relationships in 2017. 

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