# 160 Spirit of MI: Compassion

Compassion here is not a feeling on your part. You may feel sympathy and kindness toward your client. This is not compassion. This MI spirit element is evident in your actions. You are guided by the needs of the client. You commit to work for the well-being of this person.

In the small matters trust your mind;
in the large ones, the heart.
Sigmund Freud

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy,
let alone compassion.

When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts
 as our problems and preoccupations loom large.
But when we focus on others, our world expands.
Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller,
and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.
Daniel Goleman

Compassion is the component that distinguishes health counseling from sales. Good sales people are skilled at accurate empathy, acceptance and supporting autonomy. However, their end goal is to achieve a sale, whether this is in the best interests of the customer or not.

Examples of situations where acting with compassion for the client may be hard for us:

  • You really want someone to lose weight or improve lab values because it will look good at your performance evaluation. You have this in your mind as you give advice. Not only is this not compassionate, but it also is less effective than focusing on the well-being of this person at this moment in time.
  • You are new in private practice and working to increase the number of clients you see. A client comes in who has a complex concern and you know a colleague who specializes in this area. Compassion means setting aside your needs and to refer a client to someone who will better serve his needs.
  • You love working with intuitive and mindful eating. A client says she has tried this and just needs a food plan. Compassion includes carefully listening to your client and helping her figure out what will be best for her. This may, at times, lead toward a focus on intuitive eating or it may not.
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