The important lifestyle changes DePaulo recommends as being nearly as effective as psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy are exercise, nutrition and diet, recreation, relationships, relaxation and stress management, service to others, spiritual or religious involvement and time in nature. If these activities make us happy, what is common to several of these lifestyles and how might we go about taking the first steps to a better life? The answer is to learn to be more compassionate.

Compassion is a virtue of empathy for the suffering of others and is regarded as a fundamental part of human love and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism – foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society and personhood.

Compassion is ranked a great virtue in numerous philosophies and is considered in almost all major religious traditions as being among the greatest of virtues. For compassion to be more fully realized, what we know as the Golden Rule — Do unto others as you would have done unto you — should be changed into the Platinum Rule — Do unto others as they would have done unto them.

Compassion can be demonstrated through improved listening. To listen is also to communicate and there are two emotional factors that affect most conversations.

(1) How you feel about the other person’s ideas.

(2) What you believe the other person feels about your ideas.

Once you understand the role emotions play in communications you will be able to place yourself in another person’s shoes. Empathetic communication links people and performance and forms the basis for common action, generates power to leverage communication to targeted goals and gives relationships their foundation to empower rewarding and positive exchanges.

To be a successful team member, friend, spouse, human you must possess great empathy and sensitivity to the needs and wants of others. The secret to empathy is understanding — and caring. You must be able to communicate in both words and actions that you are interested in other people as individuals and they need to know that you appreciate their efforts and that their accomplishments are recognized. Healthy relationships are built on recognition, communication, trust and compassion, perhaps the greatest of virtues.