How gentle are you?
In an increasingly competitive market place, gentleness is not a quality one would think of placing at the top of the list of key qualities for business success. That’s because gentleness is often misunderstood. When we come to understand what it really is, we can use it to achieve greatness.
Most definitions of “gentleness” feature the words “kind”, “amiable”, “mild”, “not harsh or severe”. These are all relevant, but do not provide the complete picture. Another way of describing the word is as “moderate” and “easily managed or handled”.
The term “gentleman” has been around for centuries and, while it originally referred to people in the aristocracy and land owners (landed gentry), over the centuries the term has come more recently to refer to men who treat others – particularly women – in a considerate and courteous manner as in the sentence, “He’s a real gentleman.”
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, people lost the plot and started to confuse gentleness with weakness. That’s a big mistake. People can be weak without being gentle, but gentle people are definitely not weak.
Obsessive, insecure, egotistical executives will scoff and scorn at the thought that gentleness should be a board room quality. Don’t let them bully you into falling for their bluster. They operate from a platform of fear (you’d better believe it) and view gentleness as a weakness. They think that if you are gentle, you’re being so because you’re too weak to stand up to someone or are afraid to incur their disapproval. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Here’s the kicker. Gentleness is the ultimate form of strength.
When you truly know who you are, when you are genuinely comfortable in your own skin, when you have outgrown your insecurities, when you have transcended your poor self image, you are truly strong and no longer feel the need to have to prove anything to anyone. And it’s only when you’ve reached that place of strength that you can afford to be gentle.
Gentleness can be used to sooth troubled humans and troubled beasts. Horses and dogs who are uncontrollable can be brought under control not by a beating but by gentleness. Gentleness can be used to defuse the ugliest boardroom brawl. Gentleness can be used to bring warring parties to make peace. Gentleness can be used to deal with aggressive criminals. A few years ago, I used gentleness to handle three armed robbers with guns to my head and to my wife’s head. I acknowledge that criminal acts are unpredictable and often end tragically, but I am thankful that in our case the robbers responded to gentleness, resulting in our coming through the event unscathed and the robbers being apprehended, tried and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
When you approach a person with gentleness, you defuse their feeling of vulnerability, opening the way for them to behave as they should, and not driven by fear. A cornered animal is a fearful animal and we all know that a cornered (fearful) animal is very dangerous. So remove their feeling of being cornered and you will remove their need for aggression.
I have found gentleness to be one of the most powerful business tools I can use. It has been highly effective in bringing to resolution some of the most trickiest situations and can recommend it from personal experience.
To be gentle, though, you need to be comfortable with who you are. When you’re comfortable in your own skin, you will be able to think clearly and calmly, be kind, not harsh or severe, and you will make good decisions, giving you a massive advantage over others.
If you want to operate from a position of genuine strength, be gentle. You will be surprised at the results!
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net and a mentor to Next Gen leaders.