Compassion is a feeling of understanding someone's pain or difficulties and wanting to help that person. Being compassionate toward your friends means putting aside your own concerns temporarily while you offer your friends the support that they need. Compassion starts with being aware of your friends' emotional states and includes trying to do something to relieve their suffering. You can be a more compassionate person by being warmer toward your friends and making them feel cared for at all times.
The first step in developing the ability to be compassionate is learning to pay attention to cues that let you know when friends are in trouble. You can train yourself to be more mindful of others' feelings by imagining what you would feel like in your friends' shoes. By observing how your friends look and act when they are feeling down, you can look for cues next time. Pay attention to facial expressions, energy levels and body posture. People in pain may be uncharacteristically quiet and withdrawn. They may draw their eyebrows together in a look of distress.
Show That You Understand
Once you have noticed that a friend is struggling, show that you care by mirroring his expressions. Slanting your own eyebrows and giving a concerned gaze show your friend that you feel his pain. Leaning toward your friend and patting or stroking his arm convey compassion and care. Maintain strong eye contact while he discusses his problems, and listen without interrupting. You can occasionally acknowledge his pain by making sympathetic noises, such as "mmm" and "ohh."
Offer practical help to solve your friend's problem, such as finding resources and information for her. Take other burdens off her by offering to run errands or helping her complete chores. What people really appreciate from their friends when they are going through a crisis is emotional support, notes the Mental Health Foundation. Let your friend know you will not judge her for her problems, and tell her she can call you whenever she needs to. Make time to visit her and text her regularly to see how she's coping.
There are lots of little ways to show a friend that you care about him and want to brighten his day. Sending a little gift, writing him an affectionate note or making a CD of his favorite tunes are all gestures that let someone know you are thinking of him. Being a person who listens attentively and readily offers hugs and encouragement can help your friends understand that they can turn to you for compassion in times of trouble.
- Cerebral Cortex: The Compassionate Brain: Humans Detect Intensity of Pain from Another’s Face
- Compassion as a Discrete Emotion: Its Form and Function; Jennifer Laurie Goetz
- Mental Health Foundation: Friendship and Mental Health
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