5 Ways to Practice More Compassion at Work

by Ayla Lewis

Do you dread going to work because of a difficult coworker? Are you frustrated by a lack of understanding and communication at work?

Research has found that our brains are wired to get along with each other. In fact, relatedness is one of our primary social needs—and when we don’t feel connected with our colleagues we tend to be more stressed out and less engaged at work.

A researched-based strategy for increasing relatedness in the workplace is to practice compassion for yourself and coworkers. According to a recent article published by Cornell University, compassion is defined as: an interpersonal process involving the noticing, feeling, sense-making, and acting that alleviates the suffering of another person.

To increase compassion in your workplace, apply the following Happy Brain Science research-based suggestions:

  • Express Specific Gratitude – Feel and express specific gratitude in a variety of ways to increase yours – and others’ – happiness and engagement at work. At Happy Brain Science we use a specific recipe for gratitude: state the specific behavior, the primary feeling it gave you, and the impact it made on the business.
  • Assume Positive Intent – Assuming positive intent means consciously choosing to think positively about your co-workers actions and abilities. Practicing this strategy changes your state of mind to be more open and aware, rather than defensive or restrictive, which can help you to be more compassionate and build better relationships at work.
  • Practice Kindness – Look for opportunities to perform random acts of kindness, such as leaving the change in a vending machine or buying a colleague coffee. Research suggests that random acts of kindness increase self-acceptance and social acceptance of others.
  • Think ‘We’ Instead of ‘Me’ – Think and say “we” instead of “I” or “me” in the vast majority of situations. Acting in this way boosts mindset and builds better relationships at work. Think right now: What are some ways you can think ‘we’ more often than ‘me’ in your workplace?
  • Forgive – Forgive someone who has wronged you at work. Frederic Luskin, a forgiveness research at Stanford University, says “When you don’t forgive you release all the chemicals of the stress response… those chemicals limit creativity, they limit problem-solving. Cortisol and norepinephrine cause your brain to enter what we call ‘the no- thinking zone,’ and over time, they lead you to feel helpless and like a victim. When you forgive, you wipe all of that clean.” The person who suffers most when you don’t forgive is you–if you can find it in yourself to forgive it is you who becomes happier and more compassionate.

How you do you–or are you going to–use research to revitalize your relationships at work? How could you apply one or two of the strategies from this post to be more compassionate to yourself and others at work?