Written by Elizabeth Bernstein.
It takes compassion to deal with the difficult people in your life.
New research suggests the answer to avoiding the anxiety, high blood pressure and disappointment of interacting with a person that rubs you the wrong way lies in preparation. You can adjust your thinking about the person before an encounter and learn to feel compassion for him or her.
Researchers say compassion has four components: You recognize another person’s suffering, are emotionally moved by it, wish the other person did not suffer and feel motivated to help relieve the suffering. Whether you actually help or not is up to you. It is enough to be willing to do so, the researchers say.
The new study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of California, Davis and published online last month in the journal “Mindfulness,” looked at the efficacy of Stanford’s Compassion Cultivation Training Program (CCT), which is an eight-week course that teaches people how to become more compassionate. Researchers tracked 51 adults in the course through an iPhone app that prompted them to rate their levels of four different emotional states—anxiety, calm, fatigue and alertness—twice a day. Participants were also asked if they felt they could successfully regulate these emotions and how they would do that. (Did they try to reduce the emotion, maintain it, increase it or ignore it?) They answered weekly surveys as well.
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