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October 2012: “Cultivate Compassion by Shifting Your Perspective”

One of the most transformative emotions we can cultivate in our relationships is compassion. It’s also typically the last place we go when we’re engaged in a conflict. We usually focus on ourselves, our story, why it’s right, why our actions are justified, etc. What about the other person, their story, how it might also be right, how their actions are justified, etc.? There is so much we can’t see when we’re attached to our perspective. One way to cultivate compassion is to step outside of our story and to imagine what might be going on for the other person.

Now here’s the transformative part… After seeing this, we can move to a third perspective, that of the ‘relationship.’ This perspective acts as a neutral third party who cares deeply for both sides and desires harmony. What do you see when looking through this lens? Observing the issue through the lens of the ‘relationship’ pulls us out of either story and transports us to a more neutral, caring place…one where both sides are honored. When we can see through this spacious third place, we begin to cultivate compassion for both ourselves and our partner and are able to see new possibilities that honor both parties.

In the next month begin playing with shifting your perspective in the middle of a conflict. See the attached worksheet with an exercise and visual representation of how to do this. Pay attention to the messages you receive when looking at the issue through each perspective – yours, your partner’s, and the relationship. What are the underlying concerns that each have and how can we see each of these as valid? Notice what shifts for you in the presence of this exercise and what new insights you have about your partner. How is compassion showing up?

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