Balanced Leadership-2: How do you … develop compassion?

WEEK, I’m welcoming a colleague, Dr. Rob Pasick, an author and leadership coach
among Fortune 500 companies. Come back each day to discover insights Rob can offer us. Here’s a link to Rob’s own Web site. And — here’s Rob’s thought for today …

verwhelmed by stories of suffering? I know how you feel.
    I opened my soon-to-close Ann Arbor News and found Jo Mathis’ story about a newspaper carrier who has lost her job — and now fears she will lose her house. “I don’t know what people are going to do,” the carrier said. “It’s just awful.”
    Of course, we feel compassion. But I wonder if we are reaching a ceiling on how much compassion we can feel. Is there a compassion limit? Are we reaching compassion fatigue? Soon, we begin to ask: What is this thing we used to call compassion?
    The two parts of the word mean “together” (com) and “suffering” (passion) from roots in Latin. But do we actually need to suffer together to help alleviate suffering?
    My experience running men’s groups and executive groups over the past 25 years has taught me that we do not need to suffer to be compassionate. Often it is enough to convey to others that we understand how they feel. People who are suffering feel much better if they are understood by someone else.
    I remember a man in one of my groups extolling how great he felt by what he calls “getting got.” He said that the best part about participating in a group with peers who listen to him is when he feels he’s understood by others — “getting got.”
    So how do we develop the capacity for compassion? I believe it starts with the ability to deeply listen to others. To listen with your full attention, turning off the TV, putting down the newspaper, not checking the cell phone. Just leaning forward and attending to what someone is saying. Or as it says in the Lotus Sutra, “looking with the eyes of compassion and listening deeply into the cries of the world.”
    Listening deeply to one person for a few minutes is a great gift to that person. And, if you listen closely to one person — you may find you are listening to the cries of the world.

    Today make an effort to listen deeply to someone else. Share with us that experience, will you?
    Also, think of a time when someone listened deeply to you. What was that like and how did it make you feel?
    Perhaps compassion is overwhelming, but what if we started with one person listening fully and attentively to another person?
    Might we start a compassion revolution?

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