It is not just empathy but ‘an authentic desire to help’ and ‘taking action’.
A Tedtalk – ‘How 40 Seconds of Compassion Could Save a Life | Stephen Trzeciak’ – gave words to my understanding of compassion.
Taking action starts with being real and authentic in what we say, how we say it and then how we act on those words. Those words must come to life in our eyes, ears, hands and the time we spend to really connect with another person.
Stephen Trzeciak is a specialist doctor (Intensive Care Doctor) and driven by his own need to understand compassion found research conducted by Johns Hopkins University. The question ‘How long does it take for a meaningful expression of compassion?’ was the focus for researchers during consultations between persons living with cancer and oncologists. They found that patients experienced much less anxiety when the doctor said the following at the start of the consultation:
“I know this is a tough experience to go through and I want you to know that I am here with you. Some of the things I say to you today may be difficult to understand so I want you to feel comfortable in stopping me if anything I say is confusing or does not make sense. We are here together, and we will go through this together.”
And after the consultation: “I know this is a tough time for you and I want to emphasize again that we are in this together. I will be with you each step along the way.” It only took 40 seconds to make a real difference in real peoples’ lives.
As I listened to the talk, the scenario of that first day when an Elder moves into a care community came to mind. I know it might not be comparable to a consultation around cancer, but what do I know is that there are high levels of anxiety for the person moving in as well as for the family.
Making a difference does not take money, it takes us being real, being present and showing compassion, even just 40 seconds will make a difference.