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When times are tough, show compassion.

By Jim Knight
December 2021
The twin hardships of COVID-19 and political polarization are wearing down even the most resilient among us. Unfortunately, at a time when people really need us to show compassion, some of us are finding it harder and harder to be compassionate. Compassion, as Sara Schairer (2019) has explained, is different from both sympathy and empathy. “Sympathy,” Schairer writes, “means you can understand what the person is feeling,” whereas empathy means “you feel what a person is feeling.” Finally, compassion means that you are “willing to relieve the suffering of another.” In short: Sympathy = understanding. Empathy = understanding + feeling. Compassion = understanding + feeling + action. As I’ve reflected on Schairer’s definitions and my own attempts to be more compassionate during these challenging times,

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References

Neff, K. (2012). Self-compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself. William Morrow.

Schairer, S. (2019, November 23). What’s the difference between empathy, sympathy, and compassion? chopra.com/articles/whats-the-difference-between-empathy-sympathy-and-compassion

Wheatley, M.J. (2009). Turning to one another. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


Senior Partner at Instructional Coaching Group | + posts

Jim Knight, senior partner of Instructional Coaching Group, is a research associate at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has spent more than two decades studying instructional coaching, writing several books on the topic.  Knight’s articles on instructional coaching have been included in publications such as the Journal of Staff Development, Principal Leadership, The School Administrator, and Teachers Teaching Teachers. Knight directs several research projects, including Pathways to Success, a comprehensive, district-wide school reform project in the Topeka, Kansas, School District. Knight also leads the Intensive Instructional Coaching Institutes and the Teaching Learning Coaching annual conference. Knight has presented and consulted in more than 40 states, most Canadian provinces, and around the world. He has also won several university teaching, innovation, and service awards.


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