Tough compassion is a term that's been resurfaced due to recent world events. The typical rosy-colored compassion has not been sufficient to address the challenges posed by the pandemic, widespread inequality and climate change. Dacher Keltner, psychologist and founding director of Greater Good Science Center, describes tough compassion as practicing kindness - but with an edge.
In Buddhism, the goal of compassion is to promote the least amount of suffering for everyone. By this definition, nodding along to someone’s bigotry, bullying or falsehoods for the sake of preserving that relationship is the opposite of compassion. It interferes with peace-building on a societal level and prevents safe working environments on an interpersonal level.
Practicing uncompromising compassion in the office means that if your work colleague makes an offhand racist remark or insults a colleague, you speak up — without rancor, but with conviction. The biggest challenge in practicing this type of firm kindness is staying levelheaded when emotional storms rage. If you’re not prepared for adverse reactions, it may be tempting to avoid confrontation. However, if your goal is to promote less suffering for all, you will stand firm in your convictions and practice tough compassion.