8 Ways To Tell If You're
A Truly Compassionate Person
With so many self-help tools and research aimed at helping us be more joyful, it's pretty obvious that the pursuit of happiness is in vogue -- but what's the best way to get there?
The Dalai Lama once said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." His remarks capture a simple truth: Despite popular belief that happiness depends solely on you, the way to achieve it may not lie just within yourself, but in your relationships and interactions with others.
"When we have feelings of caring or love for other people, we feel better," clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., tells The Huffington Post. "We all think we want to be loved, but what actually feels good to us is feeling loving -- and part of what makes us feel more love for other people is doing kind, compassionate things for them."
The good news is, if you don't normally identify as someone who is overly empathetic, studies show it's a habit that can be cultivated. So how can you tell if you are or not? Below, find eight signs you're a truly compassionate person.
You find commonalities with other people.
Compassionate people know what it's like to be down on their luck, and they keep those experiences in mind to develop a more empathetic nature, whether through volunteering or just simply networking. "Compassionate people are very outward-focused because they think and feel about other people," Firestone says. "They have that ability to feel others' feelings, so they're very socially connected."
And turns out, there's science behind why we feel compassion toward people who have been in our same boat. In one small study, researchers found that humans' sense of compassion actually increases when there's a common connection with the other person. "What these results suggest is that the compassion we feel for others is not solely a function of what befalls them: if our minds draw an association between a victim and ourselves -- even a relatively trivial one -- the compassion we feel for his or her suffering is amplified greatly," study researcher and Northeastern University psychology professor David DeSteno, Ph.D., wrote in The New York Times.
You don't put emphasis on money.
If money doesn't buy happiness, then according to studies from the University of California, Berkeley, it doesn't buy compassion, either. In one study, researchers found that as someone grew in social class, his or her compassion for others declined. The findings support previous research that showed that a higher social class also negatively influences a person's ability to pay attention in interactions wither other people, Scientific American reported.
You act on your empathy.
Firestone says a major component of compassion is giving back, even in the smallest ways. "When we take actions that are caring and loving, we feel more love in return," she explains. This is why compassionate people act on their kindness, whether it's through volunteering or just being a shoulder to lean on -- and overall they're much happier for it. "If you're going after happiness, you don't get as happy as you would if you're going after generosity," she says. "A hedonistic way of pursuing happiness really doesn't work for most people."
You're kind to yourself.
"Self-compassion is actually really, really key to becoming a more compassionate person overall," Firestone explains. "It's hard to feel for other people something we don't feel for ourselves."
Practicing self-love, which Firestone says is a little different than self-esteem, is also crucial to beating bad habits in other aspects of our lives. "We often think the way to change bad behaviors is to beat ourselves up," Firestone says. "But self-compassion is actually the first step in changing any behavior you want to change." And there's science to back it up: According to a study from the University of California, Berkeley, those who practice self-compassion are more motivated to improve themselves and go for their goals.
You teach others.
Compassionate people don't want to just keep their gifts to themselves, they want to impart their knowledge onto other people. As motivational speaker and author Jen Groover notes, it's this desire that lies in the root of all empathetic habits. "True compassion exists when you give your strength, guidance and wisdom to empower another so that you can see who you really are and live in a greater capacity and expect nothing in return," she wrote. "True grace exists when the 'teachers' realize that the gift was really theirs -- to be able to teach another."
When you're exercising compassion, you're putting yourself in the moment. Compassionate people aren't listening and checking their smartphones at the same time -- they're present, offering their empathetic response to the story right in front of them.
This awareness is crucial to compassion because it allows you to really focus on others rather than your own reflections. "Mindfulness allows us to develop a different relationship to our feelings," Firestone explains. "Feelings or thoughts may come up, but with mindfulness we can sort of see them as clouds floating by. Not getting caught up in our thoughts is really helpful."
You have high emotional intelligence.
Individuals who are tapped into their own compassion also seem to be tapped into their own emotions. "It's partly ... being able to see what's going on in your mind and other people's minds," Firestone explains. "I think when we can do that we have more compassion toward other people."
When you're emotionally intelligent, you also have a greater sense of morality and you genuinely try to help others -- which are all crucial components of empathy. Compassionate people "understand that other people have a sovereign mind that sees the world differently than you do -- and one isn't right and one isn't wrong," Firestone says.
You express gratitude.
"Doing things that light us up and make us feel good -- people think of that as being selfish, but often that leads us to better behavior toward other people," Firestone says. One way to do that is to count the positives.
Whether or not you've committed a lot of compassionate acts in your life, chances are you've been on the receiving end at least once or twice. Empathetic individuals not only acknowledge those acts of kindness done unto them, they actively express gratitude for them. "Just thinking about our gratitude for other people makes us feel happy," Firestone says. "And it's slowing down and expressing those types of things that makes us more caring and loving."
7 Ways To Tell If You're A Truly Humble Person
In a society where fortune favors the strong, modesty is often seen as a weakness. Climbing to the top of a corporate ladder is our modern version of “survival of the fittest” -- and for that reason, meekness is often under-appreciated. But turns out, the secret to success and fulfillment may very well lie in the ability to express humility.
The emphasis on humility in philosophy and religious texts shows that it’s a trait and principle that deserves to be revered. As Confucius once defined it, humility is “the solid foundation of all virtues” -- and possibly the key to achievement. While humble people are often seen in today's corporate culture as unassertive, passive types, there's something truly powerful about them that we can all stand to emulate. Studies have associated humility with healthy adjustment, good leadership and other positive emotions -- demonstrating that in order to reach total success, we could stand to benefit from getting in touch with our modest side. And this doesn't require as much self-deprecation as one might think, says Mike Austin, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University.
“Many people think of humility as ... thinking very little of yourself, and I don't think that's right,” Austin tells The Huffington Post. “It's more about a proper or accurate assessment. A big part of humility is knowing our own limits, our strengths and weaknesses, morally or otherwise.”
But beyond just knowing ourselves, humility can also build upon other positive traits we already have, Austin says. “In general, most traditions, religious or philosophical, believe that certain character traits make up a good person -- and a lot of those attributes are enhanced by humility,” he notes.
So how do we add a little more humility to our lives? Below, find seven traits humble people have mastered that allow them to live accomplished, fulfilled and happy lives.
They focus their energy on others.
People who practice humility tend to reflect inward, but when it comes to where they focus their energy, it’s all about other people. Austin says that while humble people put others before themselves, they do it in a mindful manner that doesn’t end up hurting themselves in the long run. “Some people think of humility as thinking little of yourself, but I would say it’s someone who just doesn’t think about themselves that much,” he explains. “Their focus is just outward. They have a real interest in others and their contributions to the world.”
Because there’s this lack of self-absorption, humble people also have more courage to try new things. With a focus on others, there is less pressure to be perfect. “That really frees them up to take risks,” Austin says. “They’re not paralyzed with a fear of failure because that’s not their chief concern.”
In addition to being concerned for others, people who exude humility also act on their compassion. According to a 2012 study, humble people are more likely than prideful people to help out a friend. Additionally, research also shows that humble people show a more charitable and generous nature toward other people. Not a bad kind of person to have in your corner -- and certainly not a bad habit to adopt yourself. Science shows, after all, that altruism can benefit health and significantly contribute to happiness.
Their moral compass guides their decision-making.
We’ve all been there: Stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to making a choice. But when humble people struggle with what the best option is, they look to their instincts. “Humble people have a habit of thinking about their values when they make choices,” Austin says. “It involves certain respect for important moral values -- like compassion.” Humility by its partial definition is to accept things with grace -- and part of doing that, he explains, is knowing that you made a decision you will stand by, no matter the outcome.
They see happiness as a journey.
Studies have shown that we tend to achieve happiness more when we’re not actually pursuing it. Humble people -- who already place their focus outward -- tend to naturally take this approach. As a result, the virtue allows them to feel fulfilled on a regular basis, Austin says.
“Human nature is such that we want to be happy, however we tend to define that, but ... people that are the happiest are the ones that don’t think so much about trying to be happy,” he explains. “That works for humble people. They get caught up in projects, people and things that they consider bigger and more important than themselves and then they get more happiness anyway as a byproduct.”
They excel as leaders.
While humility is more of a softer strength, that doesn’t mean it can’t make an impact in the boardroom. “It sort of defies the stereotype of the arrogant, self-centered CEO. ... You don’t really think of humility as a key trait for success in leadership, but it is,” Austin says.
Humble people have the ability to shine in professional settings because they give credit where it is due and are open to collaboration. And while the workplace tends to recognize self-promoters over their more modest counterparts, humility actually makes people better employees and bosses, TIME reports.
They know good things lie ahead -- and they’re OK waiting for them.
When you live on the side of modesty, you’re genuinely thankful for the opportunities and accolades you receive -- and not only is that a refreshing outlook to have, but it helps you cope with the periods of wait time in-between. With humility, Austin says, you’re more capable of waiting for the peaks of your life to come -- and you’re grateful when they do. “We’re impatient with people and our circumstances because we want what we want, right now,” Austin says. “But because humility focuses so outwardly, it tends to foster patience.”
They have strong relationships.
While humility may sometimes be viewed as a subservient characteristic, when it comes down to it, most people don’t want a narcissistic friend or partner -- and that ability to posses modesty and genuine graciousness for others can significantly strengthen social bonds.
According to the American Psychological Association, humility creates a sense of “we-ness” in relationships. Being humble means possessing a better capacity to form cooperative alliances -- a crucial component in strengthening connections. “Of any communal endeavor, whether it’s a business, a family or an athletic team, humility can make those relationships better,” Austin says. “When there’s that kind of harmony, that’s when the better angles of our nature come out.”