A Native American grandfather was talking about how he felt to his grandson. “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart,” he said. “One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.”

The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?”

The grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”

According to one definition, compassion is an emotion that is a sense of shared suffering, most often combined with a desire to alleviate the suffering of another and to show special kindness to them. Compassion essentially starts with empathy. Compassionate acts consider the suffering of others and attempt to alleviate it as if it were one’s own. In this sense, compassion is the cornerstone of the Golden Rule.

Where does compassion fit in business? Will it hurt the bottom line? Will it make our company look soft, like a pushover?

The answers: At all levels, no and definitely not. Compassion and profitability are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, companies that are perceived as people-oriented and good corporate citizens have a far better chance of succeeding than those that put profits ahead of people.

When I was interviewing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for my book We Got Fired!…And It’s The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Usthe mayor told me that one thing he never forgot was the people who called him after he was fired by Salomon Brothers.

“I remember the exact list,” Bloomberg said. “If any of them end up in trouble, I’ll call them. If you see them on the way up, you should see them on the way down. Whenever someone gets fired or has some real problems, I always call to tell them my thoughts are with them. And if I can be of any help whatsoever, please let me know”

Michael Bloomberg is right about being there at the dark moments. I have always tried to call people when they were down, or to do  what I could to help them get back on their feet and succeed. I believe compassion should be a vital part of our character.

There is a big difference between compassion and sympathy. Sympathy sees and says, “I’m sorry.” Compassion feels and declares, “I’ll help.” Compassionate people really care. 

There are scientific studies suggesting there are physical benefits to practicing compassion. People who practiced compassion produced 100 percent more DHEA, a hormone that is though to counteract the aging process, and 23 percent less cortisol–the “stress” hormone.

When you’re happy, you make others m,ore happy. Why? Because compassionate people are more positive, plain and simple. Compassionate people radiate vibes that make the people around them happy to be where they are. And every skilled salesperson knows that a happier prospect is more receptive and more inclined to be a repeat customer.

Confucius said wisdom, compassion and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of a person. I’m not a big philosopher, but who could disagree with that?

Mackay’s Moral: Helping someone up won’t pull you down, and could very easily pull them to your side.


About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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