A SIMPLE QUESTION :
JUST HOW DO YOU USUALLY READ A SITUATION. . .
FROM THE TOP
D O W N
FROM THE DOWN
s i m p l e
A N S W E R. . .
Who Cares - What Matters
A SIMPLE QUESTION :
JUST HOW DO YOU USUALLY READ A SITUATION. . .
FROM THE TOP
D O W N
FROM THE DOWN
s i m p l e
A N S W E R. . .
IT’S A REAL KILLER. . .
In fact, go ahead
TRY NOT TO DO IT
B R E A T H I N G
I recently read an article, and not the first about
by Emma Seppälä, Christina Bradley, and Michael R. Goldstein
and maybe it wasn’t because of the first time I had heard this
but the FIRST TIME
I heard it
this way. . .
When U.S. Marine Corp Officer Jake D.’s vehicle drove over an explosive device in Afghanistan, he looked down to see his legs almost completely severed below the knee. At that moment, he remembered a breathing exercise he had learned in a book for young officers. Thanks to that exercise, he was able to stay calm enough to check on his men, give orders to call for help, tourniquet his own legs, and remember to prop them up before falling unconscious. Later, he was told that had he not done so, he would have bled to death.
If a simple breathing exercise could help Jake under such extreme duress, similar techniques can certainly help the rest of us with our more common workplace stresses. The combination of the Covid-19 pandemicand battles for social justice have only exacerbated the anxiety that many of us feel every day, and studies show that this stress is interfering with our ability to do our best work. But with the right breathing exercises, you can learn to handle your stress and manage negative emotions. . .
AND YOU HAVE WHAT TO LOSE BY TRYING IT
(aside from a little
HOT AIR. . . ?
In two recently published studies, several different techniques were explored and found that a breathing exercise was most effective for both immediate and long-term stress reduction.
In the first study run by a research team at Yale, the impact of three wellbeing interventions were evaluated
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the three programs or to a control group (no intervention). They found that the participants who practiced SKY Breath Meditation experienced the greatest mental health, social connectedness, positive emotions, stress levels, depression, and mindfulness benefits.
In a second study, conducted at the University of Arizona, SKY Breath Meditation was compared to a workshop that taught more conventional, cognitive strategies for stress-management (in other words, how to change your thoughts about stress). Both workshops were rated similarly by participants and they both produced significant increases in social connectedness. However, SKY Breathing was more beneficial in terms of immediate impact on stress, mood, and conscientiousness, and these effects were even stronger when measured three months later.
Before and after the workshops, participants underwent a stress task that simulated a high-pressure performance situation, akin to presenting at a business meeting. In anticipation of the stressful performance, the group that had completed the cognitive workshop showed elevated breathing and heart rates, as expected. In contrast, the SKY Breathing group held steady in terms of breathing and heart rate, suggesting the program had instilled in them a buffer against the anxiety typically associated with anticipating a stressful situation. This meant that they were not only in a more positive emotional state, but also that they were more able to think clearly and effectively perform the task at hand.
Similarly, in a study with veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who struggled with trauma, it was discovered that not only did SKY Breath Meditation normalize their anxiety levels after just one week, but they also continued to experience the mental health benefits a full year later.
So what makes breathing so effective? It’s very difficult to talk your way out of strong emotions like stress, anxiety, or anger. Just think about how ineffective it is when a colleague tells you to “calm down” in a moment of extreme stress. When we are in a highly stressed state, our prefrontal cortex — the part of our brain responsible for rational thinking — is impaired, so logic seldom helps to regain control. This can make it hard to think straight or be emotionally intelligent with your team. But with breathing techniques, it is possible to gain some mastery over your mind.
Research shows that different emotions are associated with different forms of breathing, and so changing how we breathe can change how we feel. For example, when you feel joy, your breathing will be regular, deep and slow. If you feel anxious or angry, your breathing will be irregular, short, fast, and shallow. When you follow breathing patterns associated with different emotions, you’ll actually begin to feel those corresponding emotions.
How does this work? Changing the rhythm of your breath can signal relaxation, slowing your heart rate and stimulating the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain stem to the abdomen, and is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” activities (in contrast to the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates many of our “fight or flight” responses). Triggering your parasympathetic nervous system helps you start to calm down. You feel better. And your ability to think rationally returns.
To get an idea of how breathing can calm you down, try changing the ratio of your inhale to exhale. This approach is one of several common practices that use breathing to reduce stress. When you inhale, your heart rate speeds up. When you exhale, it slows down. Breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of eight for just a few minutes can start to calm your nervous system. Remember: when you feel agitated, lengthen your exhales.
While a short breathing exercise like this can be effective in the moment, a comprehensive daily breathing protocol such as the SKY Breath Meditation technique will train your nervous system for resilience over the long run. These simple techniques can help you sustain greater wellbeing and lower your stress levels — at work and beyond.
TAKE A BREATH
or Three of Four
all you have to lose is a little
HOT AIR. . .
FAMILIAR. . . ?
Sometimes some of the worst care
is the lack we give
O U R S E L V E S. . .
Being A Caring Catalyst to Others
begins with being
A Caring Catalyst
IT IS THIS SIMPLE:
We do the best we can with what we know at the time. . .
It is VERY unloving to expect more;
We often were not given the knowledge
or the tools while we were young. . .
Life is about learning.
Sometimes that learning can be painful.
Our challenge is that once we have learned the lesson
that we do not continue to repeat it. . .
For many of us, however,
we may have to go around the track a few times
before we are able to count it as a
m i l e. . .
There is no finish line
There is no competition
Self forgiveness is necessary on a daily basis
and SELF-LOVE even more needed
in order to bring Compassion Care. . .
BEING A CARING CATALYST
YOU DID THE BEST YOU COULD
. . .Now let it go
Happy Memorial Day.
How can you assure it?
One simple word:
R E-M E M B E R I N G
–literally, by putting together the Pieces of your Life that have meaning and significance to you the Ones who make those Memories worth
RE-Membering–Putting back together. . .
The World will debate and argue, but the greatest forces in and out of this World
are our Memories and the Love that makes those memories
and always worth
observing and celebrating. . .
It’s easy to
J U S T
Limit these Memories to our Veterans
or for those who have recently died,
but any day we truly
that we actually put together those snipets of
Once Upon a Times
and ‘Remember When’s’
that put all those glorious colors to the
Tapestry of our Lives,
becomes a true Memorial Day.
Like any Holiday,
it really is celebrated most,
not so much on it’s Noted,
but when fully Recognized,
again and again and again with,
yes, that one single,
beautiful thing called
M e m o r y
So, on this Memorial Day,
R E – M E M B E R :
It’s not enough for us to just merely
but for us to just simply Re-Member one thought,
T r u l y:
Give thanks not so much for those who have died;
but for those who still fully live within us all. . .
F i v e W o r d s:
H a p p y M e m o r i a l D a y. . .
T H A N K
Y O U
Wouldn’t we all do it. . .
Book a Trip
Go to a Destination
Make a Pilgrimage
Escape on a Excursion
if we knew that the final landing spot was the
U N I V E R S E
KIRA M. NEWMAN a journalist with The Greater Good Magazine did a little exploring on this HAPPINESS PLACE issue with some interesting findings. . .
When a new psychology study comes out, its findings—gratitude makes people happy! meditating can boost your mood!—are often taken as truth about humanity as a whole. But in recent years, researchers have pointed out that much of psychology research involves participants who are WEIRD: Western, Educated, and from Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic countries.
Why is that a problem? Because it could be the case that the insights we’re learning about how to live happy, meaningful lives privilege one group’s experiences—and they may not be as useful to people from other cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.
A new study surveyed people in five regions around the world to see if the factors that influenced their happiness might be different. The discrepancies that the researchers found lend support to concerns that our current knowledge about well-being isn’t as universal as we might think.
“The implicit claim in previous research that ‘one size fits all’ is probably incorrect,” write Bruce Headey and his colleagues at the DIW Berlin research institute.
The study was based on the World Values Survey, which surveyed hundreds of thousands of people around the world from 1999 to 2014. The researchers decided to focus on five regions:
People in each region reported on their values and priorities in life—the things that matter most to them. These included:
The researchers then compared how people rated the importance of these values to how satisfied they felt about their lives.
The results suggest that some values may be more universally important to well-being than others. In all five regions, people who highly valued family, friendship/leisure, and prosociality tended to be more satisfied with life. But the results for materialism, politics, and religion were more complicated.
People with stronger political values were more satisfied with life in communist countries, where “good citizens are supposed to be politically active” within the limits laid out by the state, explains Headey. This was also true to a lesser extent in the West. Meanwhile, in ex-communist Russia and Eastern Europe, people who cared more deeply about politics were less happy. This may be due to the “disillusionment with politics” in those countries, after the fall of communism.
People who placed more importance on religion tended to be happier in the West, Latin America, and the Asian-Confucian countries. But they were less satisfied with life if they were living in the communist and ex-communist regions. As the researchers speculate, this may be because communist governments tend to be hostile to religion, and people in ex-communist countries may still be suffering the long-term effects of that.
Materialism, a value that’s long been assumed to make us unhappy, actually went hand in hand with life satisfaction in Eastern Europe. It was only in the wealthier Western and Asian-Confucian countries where materialists tended to be less satisfied. In Latin America and the Communist countries, being materialistic didn’t seem to matter to life satisfaction.
Why might some values be beneficial everywhere, whereas others only seem helpful in certain cultures?
The researchers suggest that people may be happier when their personal values align with the societal and governmental norms in their country. In other words, some values may benefit us not in and of themselves, but because they give us a sense of belonging and make it easier for us to navigate the world.
These findings also help make sense of a paradox in happiness research—the fact that some regions (like Latin America) are much happier than their gross domestic product (GDP) would predict, while others (like Eastern Europe) are much less happy.
Examining the values people hold could help explain these discrepancies. In Eastern Europe, for example, the researchers found that many people rated all the different values as relatively unimportant, a recipe for unhappiness. In Latin America, people’s strong family and religious ties seemed to bring them a great deal of satisfaction.
Though they aimed to be more inclusive, the researchers didn’t have access to surveys from sub-Saharan Africa or Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia—which means this picture of well-being is still incomplete. But it does point to a provocative idea: that the path to happiness isn’t the same everywhere, and what works for you may depend on the society and culture in which you live.
Amazing, stuff, huh. . .
To think that HAPPINESS IN A PLACE
instead of a PERSON
but then again, maybe that’s when it get’s really
W E I R D
(Western, Educated, and from Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic countries)
and it gets WEIRDER still
when Your WEIRD
gets my WEIRD
. . .now that’s some kind of
P L A C E
Sometimes the most important
S E E D S
ARE THE ONES WE DON’T SOW. . .
It’s one of my favorite parables by
hopefully it’ll take root in you, too. . .
“There was a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart and all sorts of good things, but she was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. She would read the newspapers and get depressed. One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she’d seen on holy cards and devotional pictures. She looked again and again at him, and finally she got up enough nerve and asked, ‘Excuse me, are you Jesus?’ ‘I am.’ ‘Do you work here?’ ‘No,’ Jesus said, ‘I own the store.’ ‘Oh, what do you sell in here?’ ‘Oh, just about anything!’ ‘Anything?’ ‘Yeah, anything you want. What do you want?’ She said, ‘I don’t know.’ Well,’ Jesus said, ‘feel free, walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is that you want, and then come back and we’ll see what we can do for you.’
“She did just that, walked up and down the aisles. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources. She wrote furiously. By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list. Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up and smiled, ‘No problem.’ And then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, stood up, and laid out the packets. She asked, ‘What are these?’ Jesus replied, ‘Seed packets. This is a catalog store.’ She said, ‘You mean I don’t get the finished product?’ ‘No, this is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.’ ‘Oh,’ she said. And she left the store without buying anything.”
Maybe we all need a trip to the
where DREAMS COME TRUE
with the biggest question not being
WHAT SEEDS ARE YOU SOWING
WHERE ARE YOU SOWING YOUR SEEDS
so much as
WHICH SEEDS ARE YOU REFUSING TO
but expect just the same to
R E A P
It’s kind of like
or a pineapple
and expecting it to taste like
Brownies. . .
A Dirty Hand
is no proof of a
and most certainly
grown or harvested. . .
Q U E S T I O N
How’s your Garden
(g r o w i n g)
See you at the
. . .I hear there’s a
S A L E
(if you’re interested)
The problem with
H A P P I N E S S
isn’t that we don’t have it to give
so much as that we just often
D O N ‘ T
. . .after nearly fifteen months of
we almost shrug with an overdramatic sigh
WHAT’S THE USE. . .
JILL SUTTIE, a journalist for Greater Good Magazine did a little more than pulling back the Happiness Curtain to show us what’s not so much hidden but in plain sight for us to SEE. BE. FREE in ourselves and others.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he assured Americans of their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This idea seems to lead many Americans to chase after new gadgets and hedonistic pleasures. But what if that approach is wrong? What if happiness comes from aiming to make others happy, instead of doing nice things for yourself?
That is exactly what a recent study found.
In the experiment, college students reported on their happiness and on their sense of autonomy, competence, and connection to others—all what researchers consider “basic psychological needs” for well-being. Then they were randomly tasked to do something to either make themselves happier, make another person happier, or socialize. (Assigning one group to socialize helped determine if seeking happiness for another had an effect above and beyond simply being in someone’s presence.)
Later that day, after doing their tasks, participants reported what they did, and then filled out their happiness and needs questionnaires again. Those who’d done something to make another person feel better were much happier themselves than participants in the other groups, and their greater happiness was tied to a stronger feeling of connection to that person.
This finding was not too surprising to lead researcher Milla Titova, who says that it fits in with prior research on happiness that found giving to others makes you happier than giving to yourself—and that pursuing happiness directly for yourself sometimes backfires.
“Making others happy is more meaningful for people than just socializing with them or doing something to improve our own happiness,” she says. “When we aim to make others happier, we feel connected to them—our relatedness needs are better met—which is important for us.”
In another part of the study, she and her colleague tried to rule out the possibility that making someone else happier makes you happier because of how emotions spread between people, which is known as the contagion effect. To do this, they repeated their experiment, but this time asked participants to identify the recipient of their kindness and to say how much happier that person appeared to be. Then, they contacted the recipient and measured their actual happiness levels.
The researchers found that a recipient’s happiness level did not seem to be related to the increased happiness of the person trying to make them happy, which suggests something beyond emotion contagion is going on. However, if the participant perceived that their efforts made a difference in another’s happiness, that made them happier.
“If we think another person is feeling pretty good, that’s enough for us to feel pretty good ourselves,” says Titova. “We’re just not always accurate about assessing other people’s feelings.”
She and her colleague also looked at how this effect might play out between strangers. People parked on a city street were approached by researchers and given two quarters for filling out surveys about their well-being. In some cases, they were simply given the quarters to keep or were given the quarters to feed their own meter before filling out the surveys. In other cases, they were told to feed another person’s meter, with some being asked to leave a note on the dashboard of the stranger’s car explaining what they’d done.
Afterward, the researchers compared the four groups’ happiness and how much their needs felt fulfilled. Those who’d put money in someone else’s meter were significantly happier than those who’d put money in their own meter or just kept the quarters. Leaving a note increased a person’s happiness even more.
Titova thinks this makes sense, given that making someone else happier makes us happier through increasing our relatedness to them. But it could also be that people like getting credit for a good deed, too—or that the note is actually another act of kindness, augmenting connection further.
Whatever the case, it appears that doing something kind for anyone is better for our happiness than getting something for ourselves.
“It doesn’t require you know the person you’re trying to make happy, nor does it require an actual physical interaction with that person,” she says. “It still works—even with a stranger.”
This is a preliminary study, mostly done with a limited population, and Titova cautions against applying the finding to other cultural contexts. This is wise, as studies have found not all happiness practices translate to other cultures.
Still, they do suggest that focusing on making others happy may be a key to happiness worth considering.
“It’s counterintuitive for some people, but if you’re not having the best day, you should think about doing something nice for your significant other or your roommates instead of concentrating on yourself,” she says. “That may not be what comes to mind naturally, but it’s probably more effective.”
It’s a shame
isn’t it that
once again the
has to be on an
but you being
A Caring Catalyst
just may depend on that
u n l e s s. . .
|Please Touch the Art|
|This compelling video tells the story of an artist, Andrew Myers, who is so moved by a blind man’s joy at “feeling” three dimensional art that he is inspired to create three dimensional portraits to be experienced by people who are blind or visually impaired. Why is touching artwork so taboo? According to the producers of the film, “Prior to the mid-1800s, tactile interaction was commonplace for visitors experiencing collections of art, but as museums of art evolved, rules forbidding touch became the norm.” In this film, Myers surprises George Wurtzel, a blind artisan working in wood, with a portrait. Wurtzel delights in sharing his portrait with his visually impaired students at Enchanted Hills Camp as he teaches them by example how to work as a blind artisan. Wurtzel’s philosophy that “your life is what you decide it will be” permeates the film.|
It is such a simple simple question with such a profound and almost on answerable reply:
WHAT MAKES YOUR LIFE MEANINGFUL?
Is your life ultimately what you decide you want to make it to be or what OTHERS decide they’d like to make you be?
We are all severely handicapped
We are blind
We are deaf
We are mute
And because of THAT
Know a darkness;
Know a stillness;
Know an utterlessness
that can’t be described only experienced
And sadly, often is
And even more sadly,
NEVER HAS TO BE
And The cure is when we remedy that
first of all and ourselves
we also heal it for others. . .
S E N S E
can ever achieve and the
Go full on artist
Be artisan enough
To share THAT with OTHERS
So that you become the
a r t
And not just simply the artist….
T H E Y
say you can’t win the
L O T T E R Y
if you don’t play. . .
I don’t let a lot of people know
I believe this is the first time I
O U T T E D
this little tidbit about one,
I WON THE LOTTERY
It was Friday night
and I had to do some one stop shopping on the way home
one of the items on my
TO GET LIST
was a Lottery Ticket
because it was creeping up to close to
which like everyone knows
could do a lot of damage to debt
and a lot remedy for good
so after buying all of the
I was making my way up to the cashier
when I passed the CARD section
and a little guy and his dad were buying some
MOTHER’S DAY cards
and he played a little game of
PEEK-A-BOO with me
. . .of course, I forgot one other thing on the list and so
I snatched it and up to the Check Out line I went,
right behind my PEEK-A-BOO Buddy and his dad
who was getting to ready to pay for his cards
only to discover he had forgotten his wallet. . .
“Your dad is so dumb he forgot his wallet,” he was telling his son and then the he told the cashier he’d be right back. . .
It was my turn to enter the stage and repeat the only lines I never had the time to memorize:
“I’ve got this.”
“No, no sir you don’t have to do that. Really, I just live around the corner and I’ll be right back.”
“Sir, please do me a good. Let me do this for you. I’ve taken my kids ‘Card Shopping’ and forgotten my wallet and remember SomeOne doing me a good. Please, let me be selfish enough to do this. I guarantee you’re doing me a favor. I’ll feel way better for this than you.”
He thanked me
. . .yes, yes, with the words,
but even more as he wheeled his son away in the cart
telling him just above a whisper,
“SEE, SON, I TOLD YOU THERE REALLY ARE GOOD PEOPLE IN THE WORLD YOU’LL NEVER HAVE TO LOOK FOR BECAUSE THEY’LL ALWAYS FIND YOU”
For a mere $7.55 I won the
L O T T E R Y
that covered more than a lot of debt
and remedied more than just a bit of good
T H E Y
say you can’t win the
L O T T E R Y
if you don’t play. . .
I’ve never been a big fan of
mostly because I
SUCK LIKE A STRAW
so when I heard about
well. . .
ELIZABETH SVOBODA, is a writer in San Jose, CA, and a regular contributor to Greater Good. She is the author of What Makes a Hero?: The Surprising Science of Selflessness. Her newest book, for kids, is The Life Heroic. And she took a TOUGH Look at TOUGH COMPASSION
“In the deeper traditions of compassion, like a lot of the Buddhist traditions, they have an idea of tough compassion—to step in and, in a good way, guide the person to a different form of behavior or out,” said Keltner.
The concept seems so at odds with the way most Americans, especially women, are socialized to think about compassion. The compassion-centered lifestyle sketched in breezy Insta posts involves attending idyllic retreats and practicing meditation. If compassion were a Pantone Color of the Year, it would be whispery rose quartz.
In short, our culture presents a clear picture of what compassion is supposed to look like. And giving someone else an honest piece of our minds isn’t it.
It might be time to paint a new picture of compassion. When it comes to reducing suffering in the world, an uncompromising approach to compassion often trumps a pastel-hued one—and it’s an approach you can try when other attempts to engage with difficult people fail.
“The Dalai Lama always had this greater good analysis,” Keltner later told me. “Like, ‘What does it bring about? Is being hard in the moment going to bring about greater well-being or kindness for a lot of people?’”
Tough compassion is gaining traction because the rose-quartz version is proving so unequal to the present moment, which has been defined by human failures to meet challenges posed by the pandemic, widespread inequality, and climate change.
Of course, there will always be a “soft” side to compassion. It’s always crucial to learn how to be a calm sounding board or comfort grieving loved ones. But warm and fuzzy compassion has little power to sway relatives who spout conspiracies, stop close friends from radicalizing online, or embarrass leaders who tout equality while harvesting the fruits of privilege.
In the Buddhist contemplative tradition, the goal of true compassion is to find ways to promote the least suffering for everyone. In this broader framing, nodding along with someone’s bigotry, bullying, or falsehoods for the sake of preserving that relationship is the opposite of compassion. It interferes with peace-building on a societal level, even though it might seem on the surface like a nonviolent act.
If you’re a parent, you probably practice small-scale tough compassion on a daily basis, vetoing pre-dinner snacks or enforcing homework time before kids go out. Larger-scale tough compassion flows from a similar source: the willingness to bear—and even inflict—some discomfort in the moment to promote longer-term well-being.
“You have this sense, and you’re in the position to assume, that this is a struggle they have to face,” Keltner says. “It’s good for them.”
The Dalai Lama has spoken of the importance of this kind of tough love. It means that if your aunt makes an offhand racist remark, or your work buddy insults a colleague, tough compassion involves speaking up—without rancor, but with conviction—if your goal is to promote less suffering for all.
“By withdrawing from the conversation, you don’t force the other person to really have to encounter a different set of values,” says Medical College of Wisconsin psychologist Zeno Franco, whose research focuses on community engagement.
In committing to tough compassion, you buy into a certain kind of risk-benefit calculus. You accept the discomfort involved in hopes that the other person will consider a different way of engaging, one that will carry over into her interactions with others, and perhaps even their interactions with those close to them.
“Our actions implicate a lot of people,” Keltner says. “You’ve got to step back and think about all the utilities and consequences downstream.”
It’s one thing to endorse the tough-compassion approach and quite another to try to make it work. What does it actually look like to show uncompromising compassion in the moment? And when someone in your life does something that’s actively harmful, what’s the best way to guide them without outright coercing or controlling?
In Franco’s view, tough compassion involves conveying that you value someone as a person while disagreeing openly with what they are doing.
When he calls loved ones out for hateful or harmful behavior, he’s not shy about saying what he thinks. But at the same time, “I try to remain accessible as a human being who can be vulnerable, who can be hurt, and who can appreciate the person,” he says. “Part of that is thinking about how to respond in a way that is not designed to escalate, but almost to reach past the ‘facts’ or points that they are making to where what they are saying impacts me at an emotional level.”
A powerful way to convey this emotional impact is through storytelling, says Juliana Tafur, a filmmaker and founder of the Listen Courageously project. If you want to hold a relative accountable for homophobic remarks, for instance, you can describe the effects of that kind of behavior on people close to you: “My good friend is gay, and she hears insults like that all the time. She’s also been attacked in public. Because of that, it’s hard for her to trust that people are going to respect her as a human being.”
With storytelling, you can take a tough stance and show the other person the results of their actions without launching a direct attack. When you do this, “you’re really communicating—in a way that is enveloped in compassion—your fundamental boundaries, what you can and cannot accept, and inviting the other person into that conversation,” says Tania Diaz, a psychologist at Albizu University. Studies show that this story-based approach can create significant change in people’s worldviews.
Even when you know you’ll create more lasting change through dialogue than exclusion, you may have to push past significant inner resistance to engage in these conversations. Showing any kind of compassion—even tough compassion—to a person who behaves harmfully can feel like a form of surrender, or like tacit acceptance of their behavior.
But from the broader perspective of reducing suffering, what might seem like fraternizing with the enemy can be a potent way to guide someone on to a less toxic path.
“A lot of people have this misunderstanding that, if I engage or listen, I am somehow going to be tainted, or I’m going to be influenced,” Diaz says. When she facilitates these conversations, she’s found that quite the opposite is true. “When you listen, truly understand, and get curious, it creates space for the person to think a little bit differently.”
To avoid shaming the other person into submission—a tactic studies show can backfire by making people withdraw from the situation—you can go on to explain how a change of course would be a win-win scenario, for the other person as well as for the world at large.
“I show them what life might be like after they change and explain the positives,” says Dian Grier, a licensed clinical social worker in Mojave, California. That might mean pointing out that your homophobic relative will have a much better relationship with gay nieces and nephews if he chooses to engage with them differently.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of practicing tough compassion is staying internally grounded while emotional storms rage. When you take a stand, other people may fire back with remarks that send your heart hammering. If you’re not prepared, that physical reaction can propel you straight into a “lizard brain,” fear-based mindset where you’re more likely to fall back on old, reactive rules of engagement.
Tough compassion, by contrast, is like an anchor pole that holds fast no matter how hard the rope tugs on it. “In those moments, I’m trying to be fully present and yet no longer upset,” Franco says. “The intent of every word is thought through to take the argument almost to a different place.”
To hone this kind of in-the-moment composure, it can help to write down some thoughts beforehand about what you want to say to someone or the kind of stories you want to tell. Then, once you’re up for it, schedule a real-life conversation or Zoom. This face-to-face connection often feels more humanizing than a long text thread, and deciding where and when it happens can help you feel more in control of the process.
But while tough-compassion conversations can be fertile ground for shifting others’ perspectives, your own well-being should always remain front and center. To steer clear of potentially traumatic encounters, “you need to know if the other person is in a position to be willing and able to engage in that conversation with you,” Tafur says. “And I think you’ll know that right off the bat.”
If someone ridicules your attempts at dialogue or continues to sling insults, “the tough-compassion act is to leave or disengage,” Keltner says. Exiting from a harmful situation can be its own form of uncompromising truth-telling.
In line with the Buddhist teaching of dropping attachment to results, the tough-compassion approach is simultaneously about holding fast and letting go. At its core, tough compassion is about “creating space for dialogue to unfold,” Diaz says. “Ultimately, that person decides if they’re going to shift.”
So. . .
are you a
Champion. . .
For the Good of ALL
it’s not just a mere Question
. . .it’s desperately in need of an
A N S W E R