Discover more from Super Sunday
Unpopular Opinion: Compassion Is Not A Soft Skill, It Is A Leadership Skill
Self compassion stems from self leadership
Hello friend! 👋
When it comes to leadership skills (of others or self) you rarely hear people talk about compassion.
In today’s world, compassion is, at best, seen as a soft skill that isn’t rewarded enough and, accordingly, isn’t pursued enough. I don’t think that’s doing us and our world any good.
Let’s unpack this together.
Compassion is a better motivator than punishment
Studies in positive psychology have shown that our default approach in dealing with mistakes is doing more harm than good.
Although it seems logical that pain is the best teacher, it is a concept that applies to only a few situations. In fact, it can be detrimental to many others. Especially when it comes to self-reflection and falling short of one’s expectations.
Recent studies have shown that compassion can provide a better motivation toward progress than punishment.
The reason for this is very logical; compassionate people are able to recover much faster and, accordingly, get back up to try again. At the same time, when you’re being compassionate with yourself (or others), you build trust - and trust is an intrinsic motivator for action.
Think of it, when people make a mistake and then shame and beat themselves up for it, what does that do to their self-image and esteem?
When you make a mistake in the future (and I guarantee you, you will just like all other humans), choose compassion instead of punishment to cultivate faster recovery and get back on track.
There’s a formula to practice self-compassion
You may wonder how to apply compassion to the last Life Application advice effectively.
Well, you’re in luck. Scientists have validated and empirically tested a framework for practicing compassion (being empirically validated means it can produce results consistently). The framework is three steps.
1️⃣ Practice Kindness:
Kindness is the opposite of self-judgment. When making a mistake, assume you’re talking to a dear friend who is already going through a tough time; what will be the tone of your voice and choice of your words?
2️⃣ Embrace Common Humanity
You’re not the first to make a mistake, and you sure won’t be the last. Having the wisdom to realize that we are imperfect beings living life in pursuit of (rather than IN) perfection can have a powerful impact. Remember that mistakes do and should happen as long as you challenge yourself.
3️⃣ Practice Mindfulness
At the core of mindfulness is the practice of non-judgment, which directly relates to the first point. However, when Dr. Kristin Neff introduced the framework almost two decades ago, she referred to this pillar as the practice of seeing things just as they are (nothing more or less).
When we make mistakes, we have the tendency to blow things out of proportion (literally).
Whether in reflecting on the incident and the impact it has on us or others or generalizing the event into a trait rather than an isolated incident.
This one’s simple, when making a mistake, follow the framework laid out by Dr. Neff.
It takes wisdom to choose compassion
Compassion, much like vulnerability, requires a lot of courage and wisdom.
Therefore, choosing compassion when time is tough is a true display of leadership (self or others). It is easy to get frustrated and be hurtful when our expectation is not met. However, choosing compassion is the hard right, and that requires more effort.
Compassion also builds confidence.
Take the example of making a mistake. As we said, when choosing compassion, you build trust with yourself (because you’re not shaming and beating yourself up). The word confidence literally comes from Latin Confidere, meaning Intense Trust.
The same thing applies when others make a mistake and you hold authority, like at work.
However, compassion is NOT complacency. Knowing that it is a better motivator than punishment and knowing that it builds trust, leaders benefit from using compassion than criticism to guide and support their teams.
As for personal mistakes - I’m not advocating for carelessness. Compassion here means once you’ve realized it is a mistake, it is time to correct course versus spending all your time beating yourself up way past any learning is achieved.
If you’re at work and your expectations are not being met, use compassion as a tool through which you can understand what are the obstacles in the way of your team and how you can support them to overcome it.
Being a recovering perfectionist who used to be very shackled by self-judgment, I can tell you it takes practice to create newly learned behaviors, but it isn’t impossible.
Mindfulness is the best tool to bring this practice to your daily rhythm and improve on a daily basis.
If you’re interested in exploring that further, I am offering an 8-week empirically validated training named MBSR this month. Click the link below to be added to the list.
For now, I wish you an awesome week ahead.
Have a Super Sunday! ⚡️
With much joy,
PS. This month, I will be running an 8-week empirically validated mindfulness program called MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) that was started by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn more than four decades ago. This program is the most researched mindfulness program in the world, deeply rooted in science, and has consistently been shown to deliver positive outcomes associated with increased self-awareness, as well as emotional and attentional regulation.
I studied this program at Brown University and then continued to the University of California San Diego, where I am currently teaching under mentorship.
If you’re interested in joining the program starting in July, click the link below to sign up for the orientation session and then decide if it is the right fit for you