#1000Speak for Compassion

#1000Speak for Compassion

Today is the day that over 1000 bloggers have answered the call to unite in dedicating a post to and voicing an awareness of the need for compassion. The call is to “flood the blogosphere with good”. I am adding my voice to the number.

In my most recent post Who cares anyway? I linked to a TED talk by Joan Halifax.

In her talk Halifax explains that compassion is good for us, it enlivens us and makes us resilient, it also develops our immunity. She asks “if compassion is so good for us, I have a question. Why don’t we train our children in compassion?

I think Halifax’s question is an excellent one. It has great appeal and interest to me as an educator. In this and one or two future posts I will explore and provide suggestions for developing compassion.

Early last year I introduced you to psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, in a post entitled The importance of emotional intelligence,

In this post I will share some Goleman’s thoughts about compassion from his TED talk “Why aren’t we more compassionate?

In the talk Daniel talks about a study into the reasons why, when we have many opportunities to help, we don’t always do so. He suggests that one reason is that we are not focused in the right direction. He says, “if we attend to the other person, we automatically empathize, we automatically feel with them.” He suggests that if we are focused on ourselves; our own needs and problems like time constraints; then we won’t be focused on the needs of the other, and are therefore less likely to help, less likely to be compassionate.

This issue of attention has been raised previously on my blog, including in the guest post written by Anne Goodwin Examining Praise which discussed the work of psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz.  Paying full attention to the other seems to be the best form of praise as it means really tuning in to the other. It is only by that tuning in, by attending to the other than any real understanding, and therefore compassion can be felt.

In his talk about compassion, Goleman says that the differences between focusing on self and focusing on the other can be subtle, but he urges us to be mindful of them. He talks about atrocities being done because the perpetrator was able to “turn off” the part of himself that would feel empathy. If that part had not been turned off, the actions would have been impossible.

He goes on to talk about “the possibilities of a compassionate consumerism”, pointing out that everything we buy has hidden consequences. He says that often “we’re oblivious to the ecological and public health and social and economic justice consequences of the things we buy and use.”

 

 

 

 

 

These hidden consequences are something that I am learning to be mindful of, but although I use my Shop ethical supermarket and Sustainable Seafood guides, I know that I still have a long way to go to be truly ethical and, as a consequence, compassionate in all my purchases.

He talks about “Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things” a book about sustainable living that “draws the reader’s attention to the domino effect of consumption and explores the possibility that “less stuff can mean more happiness. Hearing about that brought me to The Secret Life of Things website which is full of great information to help each of us make more informed choices.

Goleman raises a lot of interesting issues regarding compassion. I urge you to watch his entire video. There is sure to be at least one idea worthy of your further consideration. Goleman concludes the video saying that all it takes to get people to act compassionately is “that simple act of noticing, and so I’m optimistic.”

Goleman says that compassion is implicit to TED talks. There are many others about compassion. You can find a list of them here.

For me, Daniel’s talk highlights the fact that there are many ways of expressing compassion. Some are of those ways affect people who are near to us, and the effects are clearly visible. Others have a more lasting impact upon people we may never see, but for whom the effects can be just as, if not more, life changing.

Two important actions we can begin implementing immediately, and which we can model for children to implement, in order to become more compassionate are:

Pay attention

  • be more attentive to others
  • take notice of those around us
  • give our full attention to those we engage with by focusing on what they are saying rather than what we can say next

Consume ethically

become aware of hidden consequences:

  • to others who are engaged in the production processes
  • to the environment
  • to the long-time economy

 

In future posts I will explore further suggestions for developing compassion.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post. Please visit  #1000Speak for Compassion to read many more thoughts and suggestions about Compassion.

Use the ripple effect to spread compassion around.

 

 

33 thoughts on “#1000Speak for Compassion

  1. Pingback: Looking good, Billy Rae; Feeling good Louis… | TanGental

  2. Sarah Brentyn

    “Why don’t we train our children in compassion?” There is so much here, I can’t even begin. I’ve followed the old writing rule of “show don’t tell” because I believe holding the door for people, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, discussing things (and people) in a non-judgmental way, bringing my children to homeless shelters, safehouses, & schools, to donate items, etc. is more effective than wagging my finger at them and telling them they should be compassionate. I teach by way of example. Of course, if they have questions, I address them but, in general we just do these things so that, hopefully, it’s just normal for them as they grow up and go out into the world.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sarah. I was actually thinking of you when I wrote this post. You have shared, and we have discussed, similar views previously. I remember quite a conversation developed on your blog about (un)common acts of courtesy and kindness. Your children (and society in general) are very fortunate that you are determined to make such a positive impact by your own actions, and by modelling that kindness for others to emulate. 🙂

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  3. lorilschafer

    I really like the fact that you – and Geoff and Anne, too – wrote about the nature of compassion rather than giving examples of it. The concept of attention here I think is key, and not just on an individual, but on a societal basis. Most of the people in our society who need help are never even seen by those capable of giving it. The wealthy have no idea what the slums are like. The middle-class consumer can’t imagine sweatshop conditions. The average person can’t picture how much garbage is swimming around in our oceans – until you visit the Gulf of Mexico and see it washed up all along the shore. And historically, I think it’s these great moments of shock when these issues are brought to the attention of society at large that have produced the most significant social changes. Think of The Jungle, or Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Of course people knew that child labor and slavery existed. But few people were truly aware of what they were like – they were entirely outside their own realms of existence. It’s very easy to overlook or ignore everyday tragedies when they transpire outside your own neighborhood, and as your post suggests, there can be no compassion without a deep level of awareness.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Wow! Lori, thank you so much for popping over and adding your voice to the conversation. What you have said is so very true and so important. it is easy for us to stay focused on our own lives and situation and not give a thought beyond that. You have encouraged us to extend our attention/awareness beyond what is in our usual sight.

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  4. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I couldn’t listen to the videos unfortunately. I will have to do something about updating my player or the like. Despite that your post really made some excellent points. Why don’t we teach compassion? Although some people are probably born with it most aren’t and it would make a difference. I can remember when I was at school being taught things such as stand up for an old person, help needy people across the street and some other actions that one should think are instinctive but are sadly not so. These things don’t appear to be taught any longer if my observations are evidence. The other item I really liked was being aware and not sidetracked by your own desires when you are with other people. Compassionate consumerism is not something I have possibly given much thought to but now I have been prompted I will.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation, Irene. I like the things you have suggested as showing compassion, things we were taught at home and at school as being polite and respectful, like giving an older person a seat on a bus, letting someone go first, saying ‘sorry’ if bumping into someone, stopping to help etc. As Goleman says in his talk, if everyone is so focused on the self, there is no attention left for the other, so there is no opportunity for those niceties to be shown. The pace of everything has sped up since we were children, but it should never be too fast for manners which, as you say, are an aspect of showing compassion.
      I’m pleased I have prompted you to think of compassionate consumerism. Our actions can speak volumes and make changes happen.
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  5. writersideup

    Norah, I am a sucker for TED Talks (have so many piled up and waiting in my inbox), and I allowed myself to actually watch these. They are, as always, fantastic. You know, I do think compassion can be nurtured by being the example. If one has a compassionate parent(s), chances are they will witness that behavior and pick up on it. I do remember hearing/reading about schools that have, as part of their curriculum, doing some sort of public/compassionate service, like visiting nursing homes, etc.

    Something Mr. Goleman said brought to mind a conversation I had with my brother. He accused me of always doing things for other people because the driving force was that it made ME feel good. He said that’s how he saw it—he does things because it makes him feel good. I don’t like being told, by anyone, why I do something or how I feel. I quickly told him that, no, my first inclination, when I see someone in need (any kind of need) is always to think “how can I help?” or “I know I can help…” and then, in trying to help or succeeding at helping, I feel glad that I could. I know that when I say this, there will be some people who take offense, but I’ve noticed (in my experience) that many/most men are more likely to be the “self-absorbed” types and have to consciously try not to be, whereas more women (certainly not all) are more instinctively focused on others’ needs. That is a generalization, I know, and obviously we are all individuals, but that’s the inclination I’ve observed. What’s sad is, regardless of gender, compassion is on the decline : /

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for stopping by, Donna. I’m pleased you took the time to listen to both TED talks and that you enjoyed them. I haven’t listened to a TED talk yet that I didn’t enjoy or get a lot from. I wish I could listen to more.
      The discussion you had with your brother is certainly similar to some of the thoughts shared by Goleman. I am inclined to agree with your suggestion abut gender differences in general if not in specifics. I wonder what studies (I’m sure there must have been some) show in this regard. It is interesting too that your brother assumed your motivations would be the same as his. I often wonder about this with regards to empathy and how much of our own thoughts and feelings we try to attribute to the other, rather than truly trying to understand their thoughts and feelings.
      There is nothing wrong with feeling good about doing a kind act. If one didn’t feel good about it, then perhaps it was done for the wrong reason (e.g. expectation) and wasn’t really done with a kind intention.
      Thanks so much for sharing and extending the conversation. 🙂

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  6. TanGental

    so much and all good, Norah; I will have to come back for the vids as I seem to be overwhelmed today on various fronts but the thing that stuck (apart from all the useful stuff on consumption) was around the notion that our compassion response if dictated by our own sense of priority. If we break that cycle – the train to catch, the shopping to do – we are more likely to think about the person in need. Next time I sense I’m hurrying past I will remember that.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for stopping by and attending when you had so many other things to compete for your attention today. I hope you managed to achieve all you needed to. Daniel Goleman’s video has a good story for you that involves stopping rather than hurrying past. It’s worth thinking about.
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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      1. TanGental

        I seem to be having a day for spotting unfortunate word uses. In a flash challenge I do, one writer created a character ‘zob’. And Daniel uses ‘pizzle’ to describe the state of being when someone answers the phone while talking to you. Both a slang for a certain male appendage (zob being French and pizzle stemming from the Dutch) though I would guess neither realises. Outside of the schoolboy sniggering in the back, he makes some great points.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I’m pleased you enjoyed Goleman’s talk, Geoff. Funny the choice of words you came across. Is it really the choice of words, or just that there are so many different ways of referring to that particular piece of anatomy? From my Australian point of view, pizzle made me think of rain – halfway between drizzle and pissing down! Devoid of the reference which you made, I think it’s rather a nice-sounding word! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  7. Sherri

    Excellent post Norah. One thing I’ve had to train myself to do so carefully, as one who talks a lot, gesticulates and can be in a hurry to speak, I have had to train myself these many years to really stop and listen to what the other person is saying, and really listen. As you know, my daughter has Asperger’s syndrome which hinders the way she communicates. If she thinks I’m not really listening then she gets angry and walks off. I have not validated her. Strangely, I never really felt listened to either growing up, so I do know how this feels. By holding my tongue and listening, I can then answer in a calm, measured way. I have found this for myself, when I have so stressed and upset dealing with unhelpful ‘professionals’ who have no understand of ASD and who have only made things worse – when, at last, I have spoken to someone who really listens, I can’t tell you what a different that makes. Night and day. I think I will write about this in my compassion post…still haven’t decided, but reading here, the wealth of links and information you provide, is helping me form what I want to get off my chest! Thanks so much Norah…you have a beautiful and kind compassionate nature that is for sure 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you very much for the generosity of your comment, Sherri, and for sharing your thoughts. I’m pleased that my post has given you ideas of what to share in your post about compassion. I look forward to reading it.
      I know what you mean about being truly listened to. It does make a difference. I do try to be an attentive listener, and mostly I would say I am a good listener. I, mostly, tend to do more listening than talking. I’m not sure if others would agree with me, but I think they would. Sometimes though my mind goes off in tangents to something that has been said and I interrupt to share it. I can’t help it. I just have this silly sense of humour when things said conjure up really out-there or silly ideas, completely different from what was intended. One person in particular gets very upset by this so I do try to resist the urge but don’t always manage to do so. I knew just what you were talking about when you described your daughter’s response! It’s maybe not all attributable to ASD!
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        Oh Norah, I know just what you mean about going off in tangents, I do just the same and I know it can be annoying to some! Our whole family is like that so we are noisy bunch, but of course, my daughter hates it as she feels she is constantly interrupted. So we make sure to be careful. Having said that, she has a good a sense of humour as the rest of us so she gives as good as she gets!!! Being quick to listen and slow to speak is a wonderful thing…but not always easy!!! Have a wonderful weekend Norah 🙂

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  8. Annecdotist

    Fab post, so much in it as usual.
    I’m looking forward to the app to assist with ethical shopping, as all those data are quite hard to keep in one’s head. We have a clothes shop in the UK that I generally boycott because the clothes are dirt cheap (despite the fact that I love a bargain) but there’s no stigma in marching around with one of their carrier bags. However – long boring story based on being unable to find what I needed elsewhere – I bought something from them just this week. Like Daniel Goleman says, this was a case of selfish self-preoccupation: too lazy to continue my search for what I needed, too selfish to do without.
    A couple of things from Joan Halifax’s talk also connected me to what I’ve been writing about on my blog: firstly regarding carers in that compassion requires not been attached to the outcome, you do get super-crusading people who regard the recipient as ungrateful if they don’t get better; secondly regulating to attachment theory, people who are good at compassion are good at returning to baseline arousal afterwards, this can be more of a problem for people who are insecurely attached.
    I’m probably going to have to do most of my compassion joining in on 21st rather than today 20th, but look forward to lots of discussions across the various posts. Thanks for yours.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Anne, for your very thoughtful comment, the first part of which highlights concerns that I have also. Being informed about more ethical choices is one thing, but being able to source those ethically produced goods is another. I can stand looking at the supermarket shelves with my ethical shopping guide in my hand and not one of their recommended products in sight. Clothing is a completely different ball game. Bec often talks to me about clothing and I do avoid the ‘made in China’/’made in India’ labels where possible. But sometimes I can walk for miles and not find anything that may have been produced ethically. I then wonder about the jobs (bad as the conditions are) that the people have. If they didn’t have them, how would they make any sort of a living? As I just said in reply to Bec’s comment, the writers of the guide seem to be a little more compassionate to and forgiving of others than we may feel towards ourselves. They suggest prioritising values, knowing that there will have to be tradeoffs and say “Remember, your choices make a difference. For most of us, most of the time, cost and convenience are the main reasons for our shopping choices. These aren’t bad reasons, but they don’t reflect the true cost of our purchases to the environment and people.” As you said in your post, maybe we should be a little more compassionate towards ourselves and stop beating ourselves up every time our purchases fall short of our expectations. We do the best we can at the point of purchase each time.
      The points you make regarding Joan Halifax’s video are interesting too. I can’t imagine regarding the children I have “taught” as being “ungrateful” if they didn’t improve or learn what I was trying to teach them. For other carers to consider the recipients of their care ungrateful if they didn’t improve seems just as ludicrous! (What a clumsy sentence – sorry!) That return to baseline, as shown in the video in your post, is interesting too. I guess the ability to ‘let go’ is an important one. That reminds me of that lovely new song from the movie “Frozen”
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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      1. Annecdotist

        Yes, there is an argument about the people who make cheap clothes etc sometimes being grateful that they at least have a job although, as happened with the fire in the garment factory in Bangladesh referred to by Bec, employers are not generally very considerate of their health and safety.
        Regarding the outcome focus, or otherwise, I can’t imagine you not being patient with the children you teach and, if they weren’t learning, I’m sure you’d look to things you could do differently, rather than blaming them. Nevertheless, in care work, there are lots of areas where the recipients continually relapse in a way that can be very frustrating for carers, for example people with serious liver damage continuing to drink. Or in areas where carers aren’t supported and valued by management, they might look for satisfaction in achieving results.
        Thanks for the song! I was aware of this film but probably won’t have any excuse to see it until it comes on TV when I’m languishing in my care home.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks, Anne, for this further comment and elaboration. I understand now how the situations you mention with carers could foster those feelings if ill will and blame. I wasn’t thinking of those situations with my previous response. It must be very frustrating for carers when advice to improve one’s health is given but not acted upon.
          I don’t like the idea of you languishing in an aged care home, watching “Frozen” or not! 🙂

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  9. Charli Mills

    Consume ethically and pay attention. These are achievable. Sometimes I think people feel overwhelmed, but your two take-away points are thoughtful actions that anyone can apply. You are thorough in discussing the points made in the two Ted Talks and I’m excited for your commitment to further explore ways for developing compassion. Thank you for being a big part of the ripple effect!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli. It ‘feels good’ to be part of something bigger than self that aims to have a positive impact upon our world. As you say, small steps that are not too overwhelming is probably the way to go. 🙂

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  10. Bec

    Hi Nor, thanks for raising such an important issue. I am pleased to continue to learn from your thoughts on compassion after having have my thoughts provoked by your latest installment in Marnie’s story. I like that you have made consumer choices something relevant to compassion, I think that is a new perspective to me. I generally think of compassion as being something inter-personal, based on an assumption that there has to be a direct connection between people. So while compassion might be a reason for building up a ‘moral code’ for consumption, I hadn’t thought of it as being at the ‘point of sale’ so to speak. But it is so important in our globalised world to see compassion as being attached to things that we wouldn’t necessarily consider having a human face, and thank you for showing me that perspective.

    I always try to remember the people who died in the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-24/australian-clothing-retailers-yet-to-sign-factory-safety-accord/5408028) when I am faced with cheaply produced goods, and certainly it was feeling compassion for the people who suffered, and continue to suffer (there was a story about a man who wouldn’t give up looking for his wife in the rubble because her body was never found). But when I walk past K-Mart and the like, I feel anger at them for their role in the tragedy of Rana Plaza; I don’t think compassion is part of that when I am looking at the ‘perpetrators’. Maybe I will try to reframe the ways I think of consumer choices to be positive – moving toward compassionate purchasing – rather than my status quo which is negatively framed – moving away from evil purchasing. Thanks as always for the fascinating and insightful article. the #1000 speak for compassion project sounds very worthwhile, and it’s great to everyone really getting behind it!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Bec, once again for your thoughtful response. I am very surprised at it though as I have always considered the consumer you to be very compassionate with the choices you make. You are the one who is constantly thinking of the conditions in which workers work as well as the environmental impact of production practices and transportation. You have been educating me in that realm, introduced me to ethical supermarket shopping and to choosing sustainable seafood. Being futures oriented, making sure there is enough good stuff left for future generations, is surely being compassionate towards those recently born and still generations away from being born. I like the principles behind the ethical shopping guide and the respect it gives to individuals and the choices they make, while encouraging them to become better informed and to take on one issue at time to avoid being overwhelmed by too much change at once. They say, “There are no right or wrong purchasing decisions. What you value will determine the criteria you see as most important. Prioritise your values knowing you’ll have to make tradeoffs.” I think this last statement tells us also that we need to have compassion for other consumers who make choices perhaps not-as-informed as ours. They can do no better than they know how and I don’t believe that many people do less than the best they know. That the general public is less informed may (?) have something to do with the control that large companies may have over what is presented in the media. I think the horrific event in Bangladesh that you mentioned highlights this lack of information. I don’t think the general public doesn’t care. I think they don’t know. I would make better choices if I knew how.
      And I can’t take credit for raising the issue. It was raised for me by the #1000Speak for Compassion project and brought to my attention by Geoff Le Pard and Charli Mills.
      Thanks for joining in the conversation. There is more to come on this topic. I would love you to do a guest post about consumer choices some time if you ever feel so inclined and have a spare moment or two! I know you have discussed some issues a little on your blog There’s No Food, especially in your Food Resolutions series https://theresnofood.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/food-resolutions-for-2014/
      Once again, thank you for my ongoing education. 🙂

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