Why Aren’t We More Compassionate?

What is Compassion?

It’s not surprising that compassion is often confused with empathy or altruism. Empathy is described as emotionally experiencing or mirroring another person’s feelings while Altruism is an action that benefits someone else. Although compassion may involve an empathetic response or altruistic behavior, it is generally defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help. (Source: Psychology Today)

Studies have shown that more often than not, the natural human response is to be helpful. Social neuroscience suggests that it is our default wiring to help, particularly if another person is suffering. When presented with this opportunity we are predisposed to offer assistance. Yet oftentimes, we don’t. Why?

Why Aren’t We More Compassionate?

In his TED Talk, “Why Aren’t We More Compassionate?”, Daniel Goleman explores the reasons behind why we aren’t always compassionate. He suggests that in many cases it can be as simple as how much of a hurry we are in. If our focus and attention is set in another direction, our tendency to behave compassionately is reduced. If we are focused on ourselves and where we need to be, that leaves very little room for us to fully notice the other. Daniel shares his personal experience of ‘shaking out of his urban trance’ to help a homeless man and it involved the simple act of noticing. It seems we go around quite oblivious to much that is happening around us.

Could it really be so simple that in order to be more compassionate we merely need to pay attention to our surroundings and the people in them?
There has actually been some research on the co-relation between mindfulness and compassion and the connection can be transformational. This research has consistently found that mindfulness increases empathy and compassion for others and for yourself. It starts with being mindful and cultivating kindness toward yourself. The practice of mindfulness strengthens our skills of compassion.

Have you considered adding mindfulness exercises to your own routine? Contact Manon Dulude for more information on how to get started.