When you think of some of the most prominent figures of the last century—Mahatma Gandhi, Martin And while you may not be Gandhi, or Dr. Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa, for King, or Mother Teresa, practicing example—they all had something in common. It’s not a powerful way with words or a strong will, although they had those, too; it’s a deep- rooted sense of compassion, which drove them to stop at nothing to achieve their goals. And while you may not be Gandhi, or Dr. King, or Mother Teresa, practicing compassion every day can still lead you to becoming a better friend, neighbor, parent, coworker, and overall person. Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean volunteering every weekend or donating all your money to charity. All it takes are simple acts of kindness and understanding.

If you’re looking for ways to practice more compassion in your life, the following guide offers tips for how to do it, and highlights some the long-term benefits.

The Building Blocks of Compassion

If you’re like most people, you were probably taught the basics of compassion at a young age. Phrases like “Treat others the way you’d want to be treated,” “Sharing is caring,” and “Be kind” are about as straightforward as it gets—but these teachings are so fundamental to how we interact with others. Compassion involves recognizing another person’s pain, as well as sympathizing enough to want to take that pain away.


In practicing the true meaning of compassion, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost is recognizing when someone else may be suffering. If you don’t understand the circumstances around other people’s difficulties, it can be challenging to know how and when to express compassion. For example, if you have been bullied in the past, you’re more able to empathize with a child who is being bullied. But if you’ve never experienced the struggles of living in poverty, you might not be moved to give food or money to a person experiencing homelessness.


Compassion isn’t simply empathizing with individuals who have similar struggles to yours, though; it’s sympathizing with individuals who are experiencing any struggles—smaller or greater than your own. Looking outside your pain to recognize the pain of the people around you is so crucial on a societal level: it helps us to ensure that the needs of our family, friends, and neighbors are being met.

A Better World for You and Me

When it comes to practicing compassion, you might think that it only benefits others. However, imagine a world full of people who are wholly sympathetic and understanding anytime you’re going through something and who come to the rescue to alleviate your pain. When you practice compassion yourself and teach it to others, you are helping to make that world a little more possible.

Stop. Look. Listen.

In a fast-paced environment, especially one that can be as high stress as the workplace, it’s easy to lose your patience and pass judgment on coworkers. However, it’s important to put yourself in their shoes. We all know what it’s like to have a rough morning—maybe you spilled your coffee, traffic was at a standstill, or the corner café was out of your favorite bagel. If a coworker appears angry or is having a bad day, try to commiserate instead of mimicking his or her negative energy. Ask if there is anything you can do to help. Sometimes a sympathetic ear is all that person needs.

Similarly, we’ve all experienced a bit of sass from an unpleasant checkout clerk or frustration from restaurant service that took an eternity. Before jumping to asking for the manager or leaving a smaller tip, think about the circumstances that may have led to the behavior. Maybe he or she had to pick up an extra shift to make ends meet and is missing a friend’s birthday or had to get through a chaotic lunch rush with a short staff. Picture your sister, nephew, or cousin in the same situation. How would you want someone to treat them?

We all get angry. We all get frustrated. But we’re all capable of taking a moment to think about why someone may be acting the way they are.

Their fight is your fight.

Sometimes it’s not enough to sympathize—you may have to stand up for the person who is experiencing difficulties. Perhaps you’re in a higher position than someone who is being belittled at the office, or a parent in your playgroup is facing constant criticism from other moms and dads. In situations like this, once you’ve recognized that a person is suffering, you can be there to comfort them, but should also try to put an end to their problems by voicing your concern.

No one should feel like they are struggling alone, and if you’re in a position to remedy the situation, it’s a basic law of compassion to try to do so. You will make the environment better for everyone—not just the person you’re sticking up for.

When it comes to being compassionate, you might think that it requires a grand gesture or a lot of patience to make a difference. However, making simple changes to your mindset about the way you respond to other people’s emotions and struggles is something everyone should strive for. Acts of compassion on a small scale can help transform the mentality of an entire community, so the next time you know someone is suffering, reach out a hand—you never know how far it will go.