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October 29, 2013

Gentleness Accomplishes More is the title of Susan Piver’s recent lesson from her beautiful Open Heart Project.  I read the title and was slammed with two awarenesses:  the truth of that statement, and then the reality of how very, very hard it can be for me to live out gentle.

This is my second blog in a row exploring what makes for thoughtful communication.  So obviously it’s a topic near and dear to my heart.  There is absolutely nothing more rewarding to me than seeing what I can accomplish when I accept my humanness and work with it, rather than pretending myself beyond my own evolution.

When I’m triggered, tired, on automatic pilot or in any state where I’m not fully present, responding with gentleness is not my go-to position. Literally, my immediate default position is shut down, walls up, reptile brain engaged and ready to fight.  Fortunately, through years and years of watching this automatic response to imagined danger, sometimes I catch it before I shoot myself in the foot.

The other day I was asked for feedback and I gave it without asking myself where this person was, what was happening inside, behind the request.  And the result was that I reacted in a way that wasn’t helpful.  Nobody wrong really, neither my friend nor I are mind-readers.  We had to slog through a bit of stuff to get to gentle.  But the point is I got there, we got there.  And in hindsight, it’s the only place that feels okay.  To me, shut down looks hard on the outside and cold on the inside.  And gentle looks soft on the outside and feels warm on the inside.  No contest.

We’re all probably pretty familiar with what shut-down looks and feels like when we’re triggered.  We see it in ‘them’ quite easily.  I wonder what would happen, how our lives might transform, if we invested more time and attention on noticing what gentle looks like on the outside and feels like on the inside?


  1. Gail says:

    Yesterday I got the bee in my bonnet about wanting a tall tree in corner of the living room, figuring that would cost about $200 with delivery. Then I remembered I had some pretty neat looking dead branches in the house, and a long limb outside by the garbage can.

    So I brought it all in and began to put them together into one long piece, using duck tape and magic marker. Through the whole thing my husband used the “gentle response,” and it was very sweet.

    At one point I said “what do you think?” He said “You don’t want to ask me that.” Anyway we agreed (of course I think it may be great – have to live with it a while) that when daughter our daughter, who frequently laughs when she sees what “new thing” I’ve come up with, gets here, he will say “I like it.”

    When I read your piece this morning I teared up thinking about how gentle he was yesterday. I imagined, each time I looked over at him making his tuna salad, that he’d just finished shaking his head (gently). But his words and the look on his face was exactly what a woman making a tree out of dead branches wants to see.

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