attributed to M.K. Gandhi
Yesterday I was talking to my business coach/mentor about my plans for next year (from September; it's interesting how school terms still influence our lives) and she mentioned another business coach/mentor who she suspected might now be a better fit for me, describing her as "a gentle soul". I was fascinated to notice my reaction to this description, which you could probably summarise as "Hmm, that doesn't sound very good."
My reaction was particularly intriguing as some years ago - in response to insights and feedback about myself as "The embodiment of gentleness" gained during my membership of a different business mentoring group - I had acquired the domain name thegentlenessproject.com. I'd set about conducting some research among senior leaders into their willingness to demonstrate gentleness in the workplace, and with one exception, their response had essentially been "No Way." The exception, an old friend from business school, told me that the only reason that he felt able to reveal that side of himself to his colleagues was that, as a physically tall and imposing person, no-one would ever take him for being a wimp. So I hastily abandoned all thoughts of talking about gentleness in organisations, and the domain name languished unused (although interestingly I kept it on!)
So here I am again, years later, thinking about it again, being prodded by my unconscious into re-examining the concept of gentleness. My reaction to the phrase "she's a gentle soul" makes me realise that - in spite of knowing that I am a gentle person, and that in my work as a coach, thinking partner and supervisor, it's my super-power: it seems to be the thing that makes it safe for people to open up and explore things that they might otherwise not do - I still don't really value it. I realise I'm still assuming that a gentle person must also be weak and wishy-washy. And then I'm reminded of the long-ago interview where I was asked whether I was tough, and my reply was that I wasn't tough, but that I was strong. Some years later, I absolutely think I have the life experience to justify that.
So I may just start talking again about the importance of gentleness, and how it has the potential to bring us back to ourselves. And that you can be gentle and strong at the same time...
What do you think?