The main thing is this — when you get up in the morning you must take your heart in your two hands,” the poet and storyteller turned activist Grace Paley’s father told her in what remains the finest advice on growing older. “You must do this every morning.”

A few years ago, I was hiking through the Bruce Trail in Ontario and reflecting on a friendship I felt was on the verge of ending or needing some utter adjustments. Often, when a relationship doesn’t feel reciprocal, or we think we are not met as equal, it is a sign that we need a deeper conversation.

At that time, I invited my friend to discuss how to act and connect in a way that reflects emotional generosity. How can we negotiate how much emotional wealth we will invest in our relationship? What does it mean? And What does it involve being emotionally generous?

I wondered … how openly do we share our emotional wealth? How aware are we of how much emotional wealth we harness? How do we generate and invest in emotional wealth in a society fixated on material profit? How do we recover when we feel in a state of emotional bankruptcy

I define emotional generosity as a radiant thread weaving the fabric of our connections. Like alchemy, emotional generosity can transmute the base emotions of self-centeredness into the precious gold of compassion and empathy. Emotional generosity in a relationship involves being vulnerable, expressing feelings, and empathetically connecting with others, fostering trust, understanding, and genuine connection where we feel seen and felt.

The Essence of Emotional Generosity.

Emotional generosity finds its essence in the willingness to give without expectation and to share one’s emotional wealth without harbouring ulterior motives. Emotional generosity is a profound and transformative concept that can significantly enhance mental health and enrich relationships

Compassion and empathy serve as the fertile soil from which emotional generosity blossoms, so we can cultivate the need to share the burdens and joys of others.

Emotional generosity emerges as a counterforce in a world often dominated by the pursuit of self-interest. It calls upon us to relinquish our self-serving desires and open ourselves to the interconnectedness of existence. A kind word, a comforting gesture, or a genuine smile can set off a chain reaction of positivity that transcends the initial interaction. 

Engaging in emotional generosity requires a commitment to authenticity. It demands that we express our emotions genuinely and allow others to do the same. This authenticity and expression of vulnerability, far from signs of weakness, are a testament to our courage and a foundation upon which deeper connections are built.

Why is the Practice of Emotional Generosity empowering?

Enhanced Emotional Well-being: When we practice emotional generosity, we release pent-up emotions, reducing stress. Sharing our feelings can provide relief, leading to a sense of lightness and emotional freedom. It helps to build trust.

Strengthened Relationships: Emotional generosity forms the bedrock of solid relationships. Sharing our feelings and genuinely listening to others creates a sense of intimacy and understanding. This, in turn, leads to deeper, more meaningful connections.

Empathy and Compassion: We learn to empathize with others’ experiences and emotions by practicing emotional generosity. This empathy fosters compassion, enabling us to offer meaningful support and comfort to those in need.

Conflict Resolution: Emotionally generous individuals are often better equipped to navigate conflicts. When we openly express our emotions and listen to others, misunderstandings can be resolved more effectively, leading to healthier resolutions.

Personal Growth: Engaging in emotional generosity encourages self-reflection and self-awareness. By examining our emotions and sharing them, we can gain insight into our needs, desires, and areas for personal development.

How to Cultivate Emotional Generosity?

Practice Active and Reflective Listening:

  • Pay full attention when others are speaking.
  • Validate their emotions and show genuine interest in their experiences.
  • In your own words, give feedback on your understanding of what they shared with you.

Express Yourself Authentically: 

Share your feelings honestly and openly. This vulnerability encourages others to reciprocate and creates a safe space for emotional exchange.

Empathetic Responses: 

Respond to others’ emotions with empathy and understanding. Avoid judgment or trying to “fix” their feelings or “rescue” them from their feelings or emotional discomfort. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a compassionate ear!

Prioritize Connection:

  • Make an effort to connect emotionally with friends, family, and colleagues.
  • Ask open-ended questions and show curiosity about their emotional well-being.
  • Give a second thought when you fear asking questions about their feelings. 

Self-Care: Emotional generosity starts with recognizing and caring for your emotional needs. Engage in activities that nurture your emotional well-being, making it easier to give to others.

To end, allow me to share a quote from my recent second reading of Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist that fiercely spoke to me and inspired writing this blog:

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”