The Art of Empathy and Compassion

An excerpt from Savi Sharma’s new work that invites all to take control of their lives

GN Bureau | November 19, 2023

#Happiness   #Inspiration   #Literature  
(Imaging: Ashish Asthana)
(Imaging: Ashish Asthana)

The Happiness Story
By Savi Sharma
HarperCollins, 304 pages, Rs 299

Having enthralled millions of readers with her works of fiction, which have sold over 700,000 copies, she is back with her first self-help book that promises to help unlock the secrets to the most searchable question of our times - how to become happy?

Packed with moving stories drawn from the author’s life and those of others, this invaluable book will inspire readers to pursue their passions, fuel their ambitions and script their own destiny!

The Happiness Story is not just a book—it's an invitation to all of us to take control of our happiness and start our journey towards the path of ultimate joy, well-being, and fulfilment. As we inch closer to the end of 2023, this is the perfect book to end the year and begin the next one on a positive and energized note!

Here is an excerpt from the book:

The Art of Empathy and Compassion

Have you ever felt like you just can’t seem to connect with others or develop a deep bond? It’s a struggle that many of us face, but the key to overcoming it may be simpler than you think. The answer lies in cultivating empathy and compassion. And a little compassion stretches on and on.

These two qualities are often overlooked, but they have the power to transform your relationships and even make a positive impact on the world around you. So, let’s dive in and explore how we can develop these qualities and unlock a happier, more fulfilling life.

What’s the Difference?

Empathy and compassion are often used interchangeably, but there is a significant difference between the two. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, while compassion is the desire to alleviate their suffering.

As the Dalai Lama XIV said, ‘Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering.’ You understand. Together, they form a powerful combination that can improve our relationships and promote happiness and well-being.

When we practise empathy and compassion, we are more likely to connect with others on a deeper level. We can understand their perspective, validate their feelings and offer support when needed. We know how to look at other perspectives. This not only strengthens our relationships but also creates a sense of community and belonging.

Empathy and compassion can also help reduce conflicts and improve communication. When we take the time to understand someone’s point of view and show compassion for their struggles, we are more likely to find common ground and resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner.

‘Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.’
--Alfred Adler

My Story

When I had Ashvi, I was completely overwhelmed. As much as I loved her, I found myself struggling to adjust to the demands of parenthood. I was sleep-deprived, anxious and felt like I had no idea what I was doing. That’s when one of my closest friends stepped in. We’ll call her Vedika.

One day, Vedika showed up at my doorstep with a bag of groceries and a smile. She told me she was there to help in any way she could. She took my baby for a walk, while I took a much-needed nap, and she even helped with my chores. But it wasn’t just the practical help that made a difference. It was the way she listened to me and showed genuine empathy for what I was going through.

Vedika is a mother herself, so she understood the challenges and turbulent range of emotions that come with being one. She never judged me or made me feel like I was failing. Instead, she gave me a listening ear and words of encouragement. Though she hadn’t gone through postpartum depression herself, she could imagine the depths of its darkness. Her compassion and empathy made me feel seen and supported during one of the most vulnerable times in my life. Thanks to her kindness and understanding, I was able to navigate the challenges of new motherhood with more ease and confidence.

Through this experience, I learnt first-hand how powerful empathy and compassion can be. They can throw us a life raft when we feel like we’re drowning, and they remind us that we’re not alone in our struggles. So, if you’re going through a difficult time or know someone who is, remember the power of empathy and compassion. It can make all the difference in the world. It may not be easy, but it will be invaluable.

Practical Ways to Cultivate Empathy and Compassion

1. Listen Actively
When Vedika was helping me through my postpartum phase, the greatest thing she did for me was listen to me earnestly. Other friends and family members (who visited unannounced) ‘listened’ to give me advice. She really heard me.

One of the most important aspects of empathy is actively listening to others. This means giving your full attention to the person speaking, asking questions and showing that you care about their perspective. By doing this, you’ll be able to understand their feelings and experiences on a deeper level.

2. Offer Help
If you see someone in need, offer to help in any way that you can. This could be as simple as holding the elevator door open for someone who didn’t quite make it or offering a listening ear. It’s important to follow through on these offers, and not just use them to feel better about yourself.

‘Actions speak louder than words.’
--St Anthony of Padua

Try to imagine yourself in the other person’s position.

How would you feel if you were going through the same situation? What would you want someone to say or do for you? By putting yourself in their shoes, you can more clearly understand their perspective and respond with newfound empathy and compassion.

3. Show Kindness to Strangers
Something special happens when a stranger shows me courtesy. I glow. Then, I pay the gesture forward to someone else who will hopefully continue the trend. Smile at someone who looks like they might be having a bad day, hold the door open for someone or offer a kind word to a stranger. This behaviour can go a long way. A study at the University of Chicago revealed that random acts of kindness can have an enormous effect on the giver and the recipient. The giver walks away feeling lighter and cheerier while the recipient shimmers for the rest of the day.

[The excerpt reproduced with the permission of the publishers.]



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