10 Ways of Showing Compassion
Updated By Staff Writer on August 12, 2020
Compassion is a genuine sympathy for hardship or suffering other people are experiencing, and a desire to ease that pain. There are many different ways to show compassion for others, but the important thing to remember is that it comes from your heart.
Practice showing compassion by first ignoring differences and finding commonalities, which will help you relate to what someone else is going through. Whether you're interacting with a friend, colleague, peer, patient, or family member, here are some tips on how to show compassion.
1. START WITH YOURSELF
The best way to learn how to be compassionate toward others is to be compassionate with yourself. As they say: you can’t learn to truly love others until you learn to love yourself. So how do you show compassion to yourself?
To start, you can praise yourself for your successes (even with small things like making your bed in the morning) and forgive yourself for your mistakes. You can also focus on your strengths and positive qualities rather than dwell on your weaknesses. By giving yourself this type of compassion, you’ll radiate the same love and goodness to others. You’ll also have more patience and room in your heart to serve those around you.
This can certainly be a difficult skill to master if you haven’t had practice, but learning how to be compassionate to yourself will be well worth the effort.
2. COMMUNICATE VERBALLY AND NONVERBALLY
We often focus on what to say when we think about how to communicate with others. But communication goes way beyond our words. One of the best ways of showing compassion is to use nonverbal cues to communicate that you care.
Make eye contact, keep your body turned toward the person speaking, and listen quietly. You’ll likely be surprised at the power that comes from these small actions. The other person will feel your interest, and you’ll naturally benefit by feeling more connected to one another.
You might also practice active listening, which involves paraphrasing what you’ve just heard, and asking open-ended questions. This will send the message that you’re ready to hear more and show the speaker that you understand what they’re saying.
3. TOUCH (IF APPROPRIATE)
A gentle touch goes a long way. In fact, there is a wealth of research showing that physical touch (like a hug or pat on the hand) activates a part of our brain and can influence our reactions, thoughts, and physical responses. Touch is calming and is a great way to show someone you care. But it’s also important to get consent from the other person before you overstep your boundaries.
To be sure touch is welcome, ask first. Try “Would you like a hug?” or “May I touch your shoulder?” Gentle touch assists in balancing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. A soft touch to the hand or shoulder during the conversation helps demonstrate your genuine care and concern.
4. ENCOURAGE OTHERS
Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement to show someone what they’re capable of. If someone you know is feeling down, one of the best ways of showing compassion is by offering encouraging words.
When we praise and encourage others, we can sometimes kick-start a positive spiral of behavior in that person. Positive reinforcement is always helpful to a person who is thinking they are either stuck or will never get out of the circumstances they are in at that moment.
Not sure what to say? Try highlighting some of the strengths and talents you see in the other person, or expressing your belief in them and their abilities. Offer support and comfort, letting them know you’ll be there for them even in the toughest times.
5. EXPRESS YOURSELF
Many people need a listening ear when they’re going through something difficult. In these situations, it’s important to let the other person express themselves without imposing your beliefs or trying to fix their troubles for them.
But don’t let that stop you from expressing your own emotions, too. Though the other person probably wants to vent, they also want to connect. And one of the best ways of connecting is by showing your emotions.
Show how you feel through your facial expressions and body language to let another person know you understand what they are going through. A sincere smile often works wonders. It is also okay to show sadness by crying or to laugh without reservation. A good laugh can be incredibly healing.
6. SHOW KINDNESS
Whether you’re wondering how to show compassion in a relationship or in the workplace, one of the best things you can do is to show kindness. So go ahead: give your kindness away without expecting anything back. Kindness is contagious, and your kindness can spread in ways you’d never expect. The person you are being kind to benefits from your help, and you'll feel good for having helped someone. The world is made better through your kindness.
If you’re not sure how to show kindness, start small. Leave someone an anonymous note, or give a stranger a compliment. Pay for the drink of the person behind you in line at the coffee shop, or drop off cookies to someone who is having a hard day.
7. RESPECT PRIVACY
How do you develop compassion for others who don’t seem to want your help? Sometimes, the best thing you can do is respect the privacy of others. Offering your support is oftentimes all you need to do to show you care. And if someone does decide to confide in you, be sure to shut the door, pull the curtain, and don’t gossip.
Remember that sometimes people just need to go for a walk or see a movie with a friend. Be ready to listen when they want to talk, but also offer a different kind of interaction if they don’t want to talk about the hard stuff.
8. LEARN HOW TO ADVOCATE
An advocate is a person who speaks up for and defends the rights of another person, helping them communicate their needs in a challenging situation. Many of your friends, family, and community members could be in need of an advocate, whether they’re too weak to get to a hospital visit, or too afraid to speak up to someone who has wronged them.
To effectively advocate, you must actively listen to what your friend needs. Don’t march into a situation and try to fix something the person doesn’t want you to fix. Make sure to be respectful, articulate, and polite in all of your communication. Be aware of challenges and educate yourself on the issues you want to advocate for. Incorrect information can hurt your cause.
One of the best ways to cultivate compassion is through volunteer service. Volunteering connects you to others, giving you the opportunity to make new friends and increase your social skills. Spending time helping people is good for your body, mind, and soul.
No matter who you are or where you live, there are sure to be many chances to volunteer in your community. Consider the causes you are most passionate about, then contact local nonprofit groups to find out what you can do to help. Once you get the ball rolling, you’re sure to run into volunteer opportunities all around you.
10. CONSIDER YOUR WORDS
When you’re looking for ways to show compassion, always remember to think before you speak. It’s easy to start rambling and say things you might regret. But at its heart, compassion is about paying attention to the present moment with a loving attitude.
Sometimes no words are necessary at all. Instead, simple things like turning off your cell phone during a personal encounter or sending a thank-you note to someone who has supported you can go a long way.
Show Compassion Today
Compassion is defined by your actions. The simple act of showing compassion can make a world of difference in someone’s day (and in yours!). And if you’re interested in a job that allows you to practice compassion every day, consider a career in healthcare. From medical assisting to nursing, healthcare jobs give you the opportunity to make a difference in the world and serve those who need it most. Learn more about Independence University healthcare degrees today.