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Learn & Practice

Workplace Wednesday: Compassion for Co-Workers

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Workplace Wednesday how to extend compassion to co-workers.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Our relationships with our colleagues are different from our friends and family, but still extremely important. Imagine spending 40 hours (at least) a week with people, and not working on cultivating those relationships. Those are your colleagues – with whom you most likely interact with more than your friends and family. Shouldn’t they also be on the receiving end of your connection practice? The ripple effects of compassion can transform a workplace culture that is not supportive. Maybe you can be the first and put a culture of well-being in motion?

In today’s Workplace Wednesday, we help you practice compassion for your colleagues.

Compassion is a skill in the connection pillar of the Healthy Minds Framework for Well-Being, and starting by defining compassion can be helpful as you approach this practice.

Compassion is defined as ‘the feeling that arises in witnessing another’s suffering and that motivates a subsequent desire to help.’ What really sets compassion apart from related emotions like empathy and sympathy is the motivation. It’s not just that we recognize that someone is struggling, or even that we feel their pain. Compassion means we’re actually motivated to help. If we can, we want to do something.

Dr. Richard Davidson

That’s a really important distinction, especially as it comes to workplace relationships.

Compassion is the wish for someone to experience less suffering and distress. We naturally express this capacity in many ways, often without even noticing. In the following practice, we’ll guide you to use your relationships at work to strengthen this quality.

  • Step 1: Close your eyes and begin by trying to actively notice compassion in this moment. Gently bring your attention to a sensation in your body that feels unpleasant – maybe a slight itch or pain somewhere. Notice how your mind responds to this unpleasant sensation. There’s probably an impulse to adjust or change something to get that feeling to stop. That wish to be free from discomfort is compassion. Stay with this unpleasant sensation for a few more moments, and see if you can notice the innate compassion you have for yourself to be free from it.

  • Step 2: Now, bring to mind someone at work with whom you have a good connection. Take a moment to notice and appreciate that they have their own discomfort and stress, just like you.

  • Step 3: Sometimes it helps to repeat a phrase that expresses compassion. You might try extending compassion to this person by repeating something like “May you experience less stress” or some other phrase that you prefer. Take a few moments to repeat the phrase silently in your mind.

  • Step 4:  For the last few moments, slowly open your eyes and let your body and mind rest. Notice whatever thoughts and feelings naturally arise. If nothing is present, that’s okay, too.

Great job! In just a few moments you extended the skill of compassion to your colleagues! Now, before you jump into your next activity, set a clear intention to reconnect with compassion as much as you can throughout your work day and keep this practice consistent to stay connected to this feeling – even and especially during times of distress. Eventually, you could even extend this compassion to those with whom you have a more complicated relationship. Good luck!

Learn more about how the Healthy Minds Framework can support your workplace well-being with Healthy Minds @Work .

HM@Work Workplace Wednesdays