Last month, we asked 3,000 people across the U.S. about their place in a wide spectrum of optimism. From optimists to pessimists, and a whole cast of characters in between, our findings helped uncover three key values our world could use a whole lot more of. Besides cheese. Or chocolate. Or—wait, we’re getting off topic.
What does our world need most? Compassion, according to 63% of optimists, 61% of pessimists, and 63% of our overall group. We’re all guilty of surrounding ourselves with like-minded friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues. It’s harmless enough, but on a deeper level, can make us forget to consider the unique experiences and perspectives of others. Here’s how to approach people outside your inner circle with more compassion.
Next time you run into someone whose ideas are quite different from yours, don’t approach them from the belief that they’re wrong. Instead, start a conversation. Offer up your full attention and ask them how they’re doing. Listen to them as generously as you can with the goal of understanding and appreciating what they have to say. And when the moment comes for you to respond, make a serious effort to speak as openly and honestly as possible. It might not be rocket science, but with enough practice, it’s a surefire way to learn how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, recognize why they act the way they do, and even admit that “different” is okay. It’s compassion, after all. And it looks great on everybody.
In second place, came honesty, a trait backed by 62% of optimists, 59% of pessimists, and 62% of people overall. Why’s that, you ask? Technology has made it easier for us to cloud our real lives, and as our social environments grow increasingly competitive, we tend to feel more pressure to do so.
But you don’t have to. One way to grow your sense of honesty is by practicing being as authentic as you can with yourself, from your thoughts to your words, actions, even your most simple desires. From here, spend time thinking about your interactions with society, from chats with the local barista to your most intimate relationships. And those cloudy white lies (or posts)? Just don’t share ‘em.
Lastly, we could all use more love in our lives, couldn’t we? It’s the trait that came in third, with votes from 59% of optimists, 49% of pessimists, and 57% of people overall. So, how do we grow the love?
It’s all about flexing our empathy muscles and remembering that those different than us don’t have to be an enemy, even if we disagree passionately with them. It’s about staying present to our own feelings and inner experiences, and paying it forward when we can. It means to be mindful of our feelings and attend to our thoughts as soon as we feel anything other than peace. It’s a kind of practice that, with time, will train us to gently and compassionately (this is where #1 comes into play) avoid letting our anger or frustration be in charge of our thoughts and actions. Because the old saying, “you must love yourself before you can love others” is very much true. And once we get the hang of it, we can turn our love on others—and watch the world change.