China Compassion Emotional Intelligence


“You don’t understand. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me as a Chinese. I need you to be compassionate.”

Being a Canadian born Chinese, Ming felt the all too familiar pang of wanting to connect with her Chinese heritage.

When Ming (name changed) first came to see me, she was hunched forward as if she was carrying too heavy a burden. Furthermore, she nervously pushed her glasses up the tip of her nose before letting her long black hair drop forward to cover part of her face.

When I asked this young Chinese woman what she needed, Ming then made the following comment:

Through my talking with Ming, I found out her Chinese grandmother had been the one primarily responsible for her caregiving while she was growing up. With this in mind, she described her Chinese grandmother as someone high on criticism and low on praise.

As soon as Ming was old enough to speak and read English, she immediately became the official translator of the family. For example, her parents demanded that she translated things like government applications and bank letters. 

Notably conforming to the grandmother’s life philosophy, Ming’s parents thereby expected their daughter to do as she was told or be shamed as a bad seed for making her family lose face.

When I asked Ming what she did in her spare time as a kid, she replied that—unlike many other Canadian children her age—she often acted as her brother’s keeper while her grandmother was taking a nap.

Have you ever found yourself in a challenging situation?

Significantly, Ming talked about her built-up resentment over the years. In particular, she said that in her Chinese family, whatever her parents blamed on her grandmother, her grandmother  then turned around and blamed it on her. 

Chinese or not, can you imagine what it’s like to feel resentful?

Therefore, I asked Ming:

“What do you need to let go of resentment?”

Hence the young woman said that she needed to become compassionate. 

I asked,

“What is the Chinese traditional view on compassion?”

Ming said that it is mostly viewed as a weakness.

What if compassion has nothing to do with weakness?

Ming looked at me, puzzled. She asked me what I believe compassion is. 

It is my belief,

I offered Ming the following analogy:

A little girl goes playing in a nearby field from her house with her beloved dog. It is a bright summer day and she is enjoying picking up wild flowers to make a bouquet for her mother. The flowers are enticing and she is getting further and further away from her home.

All of a sudden, she walks onto some rotten planks and she falls into an abandoned well. The well is profound enough that she needs help to get back out. Afraid, she starts screaming for assistance and bursts into tears.

Her brother who was a couple of years older than her hears her plight and comes running over to where she was. Standing on the edge of the abandoned well, he looks at his sister and says, “That’s terrible! What just happened to you!” And he stands there, feeling sorry for what has just happened to his sister. But does nothing else.

The little girl is shocked. Why isn’t her brother doing anything? She says to him, “Just don’t stand there! I’m cold and afraid. Do something!”

Suddenly, her brother jumps into the hole to be with her. She looks at him, feeling more powerless than ever. “Why did you do that?” she asks. “We’re both stuck now!” Her brother immediately starts telling her about that time he had felt cold and afraid.

The two children look at each other. Suddenly, the little girl feels this surge of energy in her heart for her big brother being in a predicament she is now all too familiar with.

Fortunately, watching the whole scene was the dog. When the little girl fell into the abandoned well, the dog started barking to draw attention to her. Really wanting to help, he stayed clear from the edge of the well. He instinctively knew it would be useless for him to fall into the well with her.

When he saw her brother arrive, the dog leaped with joy. But when the boy jumped into the well in sympathy of his sister, he ran back to the house and dragged their mother to the abandoned well, where she safely retrieved her two children.

Let’s recap.

In a state of compassion, we feel what another is feeling,

but we never allow the drama of another to become our own drama.

We remain true to ourselves.

In a state of compassion,

we get what it feels like to walk in another’s shoes, 

but we actively remain solution driven. 


I could certainly relate to Ming:

  • I lived in China for about ten years.

  • As a young woman, I married a Chinese man and we had three children together.

  • In our household, compassion was low on the radar of awareness.

  • It wasn’t until I developed compassion that I was then able to assist my children and clients in connecting deeper with their Chinese heritage without resentment. You can connect with me at

Your EQ coach,
Photo by qi bin on Unsplash