In The Art of Happiness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shares this piece of advice for overcoming feelings of isolation, loneliness and social anxiety: you should approach others 'with the thought of compassion in your mind'.
He explains: "In many cases, people tend to expect other people to respond to them in a positive way first, rather than taking the initiative themselves to create that possibility. I feel that's wrong; it leads to problems and can act as a barrier that just serves to promote a feeling of isolation from others. So, if you wish to overcome that feeling of isolation and loneliness, I think that our underlying attitude makes a tremendous difference. And approaching others with the thought of compassion in your mind is the best way to do this" (1999:53).
The Dalai Lama speaks regularly about the importance - and usefulness - of compassion in our relationships. He describes compassion as 'something really worthwhile' (1999:52) that has the power to transform your life. When you approach others with the thought of compassion, he says, "that will automatically reduce fear and allow an openness with other people. It creates a positive, friendly atmosphere. With that attitude, you can approach a relationship in which you, yourself, initially create the possibility of receiving affection or a positive response from the other person" (1999:52-53).
He explains: "With this attitude [of compassion for every person you meet], even if the other person is unfriendly or doesn't respond to you in a positive way, then at least you've approached that person with a feeling of openness that gives you a certain flexibility and the freedom to change your approach as needed" (1999:53).
Compassion has the power to instil us with unshakeable social confidence and transform the quality of our relationships. As we all emerge from months of lockdown, approaching others with a thought of compassion in our minds may help to alleviate any feelings of social anxiety, and offer us a fast-track to connecting with the people we meet.