Compassion in the difficult times

I don t know about you, but I m finding it very easy to be judgmental these days. Late last week, a coworker told me on Slack that she was going to be offline for a bit while she greeted her babysitter, who was showing up any minute. My immediate thought was, That s not social distancing. For a split second I was mad at her. How could she let another person into her house at this time? Why isn t she doing her part to flatten the curve? 

My feelings soon morphed into guilt and then into sadness and grief. I didnt want to be annoyed with my coworker. So why was I

I ve heard from lots of friends that they ve had similar moments of tension with their colleagues over the past few weeks. It makes sense: Many of us are working in new and suboptimal conditions.

We re dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. And the future of our jobs, our companies, and the economy is uncertain.

All of this lays the groundwork for tension, ?anytime there s external tension it can manifest between coworkers. ?

Unfortunately, in stressful situations our compassion goes out the window,

?When we re under severe stress, we go back to coping patterns that are familiar and very hardened in us, and we have a hard time seeing that there s any other way to do what we re doing. We think we re right and others are wrong, ?

This isn t good for your interactions with your colleagues. ?We unwittingly break our relationships with coworkers, causing more suffering. ?

This is not a time to move away from kindness and caring, even if our brains nudge us in that direction.

?It s important to try to find ways to remain open to compassion, even when we re overtaxed.

 Compassion correlates with your own level of job satisfaction and the degree to which you find your work meaningful.

But how do you find and show empathy for coworkers when?your cognitive resources are depleted?

Remember this is an opportunity for connection.

As this crisis is global, almost everyone is affected in some way.

Coworkers ? some of whom I don t interact with very often ? have reached out to see how I m doing, and I, in turn, have done the same for others. That sense that we re in this together that can be uniting, even when ? or because ? we are under extreme duress.

Accept that we re all coping differently.

people often have different coping mechanisms.

 Some individuals like to take in as much information as possible, spending hours on Twitter or reading article after article. Others like to limit the amount of news they take in.

some colleagues may throw themselves into work, finding comfort in being busy, while others?struggle to keep up and stay focused.

There s also a difference in how optimistic or pessimistic people feel. I see this play out daily in virtual meetings when someone asks people how they re doing and one person says ?Great! ? and another mutters ?Meh. ? These are all valid responses, and we don t have to have the same ways of coping.

difference isn t just in coping approaches, but in circumstances as well.

?Colleagues aren t being affected by the crisis in the same ways. Some are?working at home with young children?and are now tasked with homeschooling. Others have parents or other older relatives who they are concerned about.

 For some, work has gotten more intense, while others workloads have lightened. Some  colleagues have regularly worked at home over the years and are well set up. Others don t have quiet places at home to take calls, never mind be on a video call.

Be generous in your interpretations.

one of the most important things you can do right now is to be generous in your interpretations of other people.

If you get a curt email, don t assume the person is annoyed or being rude. Instead, imagine that they are under time pressure and didn t have time for their usual niceties.

This is hard to do, explain. ?When we are in a crisis, we change the way we interpret things going around us. Our own pain and suffering tends to loom large, and we diminish that people are going through the same strain or more.

We are more easily overwhelmed by other s needs and suffering and may react by thinking, ?There s nothing I can do about that, or ?That s their problem and not mine. ?

By focusing on the dynamic and the circumstances, rather than the person, you re likely to get to the underlying issue without placing blame.

Acknowledge how you re feeling.

You can avoid miscommunication and hurt feelings by making clear what you re experiencing at the moment.

For example, you explain to your coworkers that you might need some space, especially if things are moving fast. You might say, ?There s a lot of?anxiety?and stress right now, so let me take some time to think about it. ?

And don t beat yourself up if you do say something you regret or inadvertently hurt a colleague.

The more you can have compassion for yourself and failings at being the person you want to be the more you can lower your stress, ? says Worline.

Accept that your coworkers home lives are now relevant to you.

Because we tend to distance ourselves from other s suffering when we re under stress, you may find yourself thinking that it s not your problem that your coworker has two kids and no childcare, for example.

?Their parenting situation wasn t necessarily relevant to your work and how they did their job a few weeks ago, ? But it sure is now.

?Recognize that the relevance has changed because of the situation we re in. ? Here she suggests another shift in thinking: ?People are essentially good and they re trying to do their best.

 how you might adjust the patterns of how you work together. How can you be more flexible so everyone can continue to get their work done?

Don t compare suffering.

comparison can be ?brutally diminishing. ? ?People mistakenly think they are giving some much-needed perspective. But it doesn t alleviate the distress, it just adds a level of judgment and guilt,

remind myself every day to conscientiously and deliberately lean into empathy and kindness.

My coworkers and I don t see the world in the exact same way and that s OK.

We have different ways of coping with uncertainty, grief, and stress.

They are under pressures that I don t always see and can t fully understand (and probably aren t entirely my business).

It s not helpful to me or to them to compare our challenges.

We are all doing the best we can.

It s not always easy to be patient and understanding, especially with everything going on. But I m going to keep trying because it s what my coworkers and I deserve.