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Overlooked Difference Between Compassion and Sympathy in Business

Compassion is a massively misunderstood word. We hear it used by the “soft” types. With touchy-feely lets all just “get along” attitudes, dancing merrily around the oak tree with a yellow ribbon in hand.

But I want to see through this myth and get right to the heart of the matter. 

In fact, I want to take you, yes you, the reader, on a short exploration of what a difference a little more compassion can make in your professional and personal life.

Debunking the lies, and revealing the startling truth. Let me show you how compassion not only connects us but strengthens us.

Firstly though, I want to draw a distinction. A clear line in the sand between the very often overlooked difference between Compassion and Sympathy.

People who are dealing with a situation that requires one of the two approaches, i.e., with a distressed person of some description, in work we an irate customer, a colleague or member of staff who is needing some support.

Let’s take a look at how the two approaches unfold individually.

Sympathy:

Anita walks into the office of her manager Beth, Beth is busy but can see that Anita is upset. She thinks to herself “oh god not again” as she sits down. During the conversation, Anita expresses her problem. Beth is sympathetic, She listens and hears the pain through her own similar experiences. This leaves Beth no choice but to re-live those experiences as Anita continues to talk, taking her attention away and leaving Anita feeling disconnected. Anita sees Beth’s discomfort and lack of presence as she moves further into her thoughts. At the end of the conversation, Anita feels a little guilty for sharing so openly. Meanwhile, Beth feels drained. The effect of this low energy ripples out into the rest of her day.

Compassion:

This time everything stays the same except the level of Beth’s listening. She chooses to see the human pain and can understand this at from a higher perspective. Compassion on a human level enters in, as she sees the struggle of what it feels like to be wrestling with a problem severe enough to lead her into a state of despair. This time because Beth doesn’t go into her painful memories she can stay present, and give Anita the support she needs without getting caught up in the process. Anita leaves feeling understood, and Beth feels good about helping. Exhilarated by this act of kindness her energy ripples out into the rest of the day.

As you can see, this subtle distinction has a HUGE impact if considered on a global scale. Looking at the ripple effects of each event shows that compassion trumps sympathy every time.

 The main benefits: 

  • Less Stress
  • Improved Communication
  • Stronger Relationships
  • Increased Energy
  • Increased Resilience

So how can you bring more compassion to your day today

And how could Increased Compassion make a positive impact on your organisation?

If you like to know more about how this can impact your organisation, please contact me to find out more!