One act of compassion can change a life – no make that three lives.
I was listening to an interesting TEDx talk: Emma Seppala’s TEDx Hayward 2013 on Social Connection, Compassion and Happiness. Seppala talks extensively about compassion and the scientific benefits of compassion. I was intrigued by a story of a student who had listened to Ms. Seppalla‘s lecture. The student knew of someone who appeared withdrawn and seemingly angry, never smiling. The student decided to simply smiled at the other person every time she saw her. Despite the lack of a return smile, she kept at it.
After about a month, the withdrawn student approached the smiling student to say “Thank you for seeing me.” The acknowledgement that she had been receiving over the past month had made a difference. Something as small as a smile can give recognition and show compassion. This compassion gives us such a feeling of well-being and euphoria that we must share it. Research shows that we pass along this compassion to at least three other people.
How many times have we passed a stranger not giving them a second glance, let alone a smile? Are we less social and less compassionate in today’s society of social networking? Are we too reliant on these platforms that have replaced common courtesies once commonplace? It amazes me that we could grow into such a singular society, not reaping the benefits of interacting with others. It is happening, and by consciously making the decision to be social, we all benefit.
Recently, I made an attempt to positively acknowledge different people I encounter as I navigate through my day. I didn’t expect too much response and certainly didn’t expect any change in myself. Amazingly, I felt the positive effects of my compassion almost immediately. I may be giving this theory too much credit but I believe this is what has prompted my attitude shift. I have gained new friends, new information and new prospects that I wouldn’t have found if I had continued to keep to myself, just mindlessly stumbling through life as I had been doing.
I’d love to hear about an experience you had that prompted you to pass along the compassion that you felt. Leave me a comment.
Side note: For those of you unfamiliar with TED talks, I highly recommend them. They are truly “ideas worth spreading.”