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There are several keys to showing compassion

Columnist Harvey Mackay says listening, encouraging, forgiveness and kindness are the ingredients you need.

Harvey Mackay column sig
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Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he had been asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a 4-year-old child whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy joined the old gentleman in his garden, climbed onto his lap and sat there.

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When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing. I just helped him cry."

Compassion is at the heart of every little thing we do. It is the dearest quality we possess. Yet all too often, it can be cast aside, with consequences too tragic to speak of. To lose our compassion, we lose what it is to be human.

Although compassion seems to be a waning art these days, there are many ways we can show compassion to others.

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One way is through kindness. Kindness should not be confused with weakness. Quite the opposite, kindness demonstrates basic decency and respect that reflect a willingness to get along with someone, even when you disagree with them. You've all heard the old saying that nice guys finish last; not true – nice people can and often do finish first.

No one wants to work with or do business with someone who treats them rudely or disrespectfully. The smallest act of kindness can have a significant impact on a person's life. It's a funny thing about kindness: The more it's used, the more you have.

We can also show compassion simply by listening carefully and without judgment. If you want people to listen to you, you need to listen to them. Listening can be hard work, and some people are more challenging to listen to than others. But when you find yourself tuning out what someone is saying, you should ask yourself why. Are you tuning them out because what they're saying is irrelevant or boring? Or are you tuning them out because you don't want to hear what they're saying?

Encouraging other people is another form of compassion. Offering compliments based on a person's character or actions inspires them to perform in such a manner that it invites additional praise. People tend to live up to the recognition they receive. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. It gives people a natural high.

Forgiveness is another key to compassion. Forgiving someone ultimately makes you stronger. A nationwide Gallup poll found that 94% of those surveyed said it was important to forgive. Yet in the same survey, only 48% said they usually tried to forgive others.

I don't think a single person can escape life without being hurt by another person. That's as true in business as in every other phase of life. Everyone, and I mean everyone, messes up, hurts others, finds fault, misjudges and acts emotionally and improperly from time to time at the expense of others. It is far better to forgive and forget than to resent and remember.

Showing respect is another way to show compassion. I like to say, "Be respectful or be regretful." Involve people. Ask for their opinions on matters. And listen.

Expressing gratitude and appreciation is compassion. Saying thank you – and meaning it – is never a bad idea. It appeals to a basic human need to be appreciated. It sets the stage for the next pleasant encounter. And it helps keep in perspective the importance of receiving and giving help. An attitude of gratitude should have wide latitude.

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Being patient is another form of compassion. The world today is testing everyone's patience. And we have never needed it more. Patience is an invaluable virtue, but it takes some work. We live in a world where we are used to getting things quickly, including information or products. This impatient attitude can cause a lot of harm – unproductive time, stress, poor decisions and more.

Research shows that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows and we secrete the bonding hormone oxytocin, which results in people wanting to care for other people.

Maybe that's why compassionate people live longer. Who doesn't want that?

Mackay's Moral: Helping someone up won't pull you down.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached at www.harveymackay.com , by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

Related Topics: HARVEY MACKAY
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