Empathy v Compassion

It was the great and hugely humble Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan people, that once described the difference between empathy and compassion. And he should know! He says “Empathy is to raise your consciousness of the other. Compassion is to work with that knowledge with positive intent”. In essence compassion is “empathy with positive action”. I like that. It sounds powerful and transformational. The application of compassion will transform teams, organisations, companies, communities and our society at large.

There are two aspects to compassion that are of equal importance.

The first is for us all to widen our peripheral vision to see the needs of others. The second is summed up in the Anglo-Irish statesman author, orator, political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke's splendid challenge to us all of “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing”.

Let me share with you an example that we can all relate to.

As I drive the roads of the UK, so I am constantly reminded of our insular and inward looking vision. In our self-focused drive to rush through our day, we ignore the needs of others. There is one particular road near me with a constant stream of traffic but with many side roads joining. The traffic is not moving fast, but it is endless and seamless with rare large gaps for other traffic to join. When I am one of the many, nose to tail, as I approach a side road, so I look ahead, slow down, flash my lights and make space for my fellow traveller to join. After all, they clearly have a need to get somewhere, and their need may well be more pressing than mine. But it is rare for drivers to look this far ahead, to “see” the needs of others and then to act on it. The reality is it will make not one jot of difference to the overall time of my journey. I have not materially slowed down. I will still have to wait at the next junction. My journey will be the same, but the difference is, I now also feel good. I smile as I am able to smooth the angst of another and maybe someday, when I am waiting for a gap in the traffic, the compassion that I spread will come back to serve me.

Empathy with Positive action.

We can completely transform travel in our immediate world. We can completely transform the culture of our surroundings. It is in our power to take away the frustrations and sooth the souls not just of others, but of ourselves too. By conscious thought and the simple acts we can, as Gandhi reminds us “Be the change we want to see in the world”.

To know something and not act is inexcusable.

Empathy is a good start, but it is not enough; we need to act.

A compassionate leader always acts positively on the understanding and empathy of the needs of others.

Sign up now to become a compassionate leader at www.cla-global.com and enjoy the journey!


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