It was the late nineties and one of many performance reviews I would have in my career. There they were, three words that were never written down but somehow always got conveyed, “you’re too nice.” They were career crippling – I figured it out early on. There was the implication that they’re holding me back. Not able to excel. Missing the killer instinct – I imagined being said behind closed doors. It always involved a differing of philosophies. It wasn’t that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do the requested change. Maybe I wondered aloud, there was a better way to do it that would cause less wreckage. I had some possible solutions. This was a sign of the times, compassion was a weakness.

Fast forward twenty years and Standfords Centre for Compassion and Altruism research and Education is catching up. Scientific research is now suggesting that being selfish and self focused can actually prevent you from being as successful as you could be. Compassion is the opposite of self focus. Those who make compassion – not self-interest- a priority in their dealings with other are more likely to be happy and successful. It is argued that self focus ultimately back fires because it creates blind spots, ruins relationships, makes you weak in the face of failure and damages your health and emotional well being. Research with animals and infants is showing that compassion is actually a natural instinct. Studies at the Max Planck Institute in Germany Suggest that compassion is an inborn trait in humans and animals where they spontaneous engaged in helpful behaviors when confronted with another in need. At Stanford, in a study of 500 people the question was asked; “if you only had three days to live, what would you spend your time doing?” At the top of the list was spending time with loved ones and helping others. Despite the fact that we may not live our lives that way, intuitively we know that our connections with others are the most meaningful elements in our lives.

In a research article published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science it is shown that when organizations institute compassionate practices their performance levels improve dramatically in financial measures, customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability. Another large health-care study confirmed that a compassionate culture at work not only improved employee well-being and productivity but also improved client health outcomes and satisfaction. As Emma Seppala PhD notes in “The Happiness Track” compassion benefits you, your team, and your clients – bringing better results all around. So the next time you’re thinking you’re losing your edge by being compassionate, think again. It might just be your edge!