Softness. It is a word I have not thought about extensively. Growing up I saw my mom as the quieter type, my dad often rolled right over her, I am not sure he listened to her. In college I eventually found my voice, and then I resolved to make sure my voice stayed strong. I never wanted to be walked all over. However, recently I have been thinking about taking a step away from that strong voice. Not that I will lose the strength, but that I will be more aware of the volume, and the frequency.
I often think that thoughts and ideas come to us when we are ready to hear them. I am gradually (while reading other books) getting near the end of Kristin Armstrong’s “Work in Progress,” which I wrote about in the blog post: “The grace that grounded me.” I came across this quote on softness. It was an aha moment for me.
“Softness is sweeter and more direct route to resolution, every time. Please note that by softness I do not mean wimpiness. Softness is not some puny form of compliance. It is speaking your truth without malice or apology. It is staking a claim without fanfare or unnecessary noise. It gets the job done with elegance.” page 50-51
How many times have you been on the phone with your insurance company, or bank and are so incredibly frustrated that you get nasty? I am definitely one to raise my hand here. Chris is such a great example to me of what I would call a quiet strength. He is not rude or wimpy, but he is gentle and kind with those that he interacts with in these situations. I lose my patience easily and get frustrated. Take just yesterday, I had to call my insurance company back. I had spoken to them on March 31, and their fix to my claim was supposed to take 5-7 days, and then they were going to call me back. It has been 21 days and still no resolution. The response I received when I called is that my claim is getting reprocessed and it will take another 5-10 days for one aspect and then another 10 days for a different part. Seriously? So I think it should be resolved by the middle of May. As annoyed as I was I chose softness. I was kind and not frustrated with the customer service representative. Although I did tell her I did not have much confidence in hearing from them since I did not receive any communication in the first 5-7 days like I was originally told.
Why am I sharing this with you? I took the route of softness. I did not get nasty with them. I have a short amount of patience with companies that say they will do one thing and do not follow through with their promise. Additionally I have a small amount of patience for individuals that say they will do one thing and then do not do it. And, at the end of the day, it is not the fault of the customer service representative that I spoke with that her company has such extensive processing times. Why ruin her day?
I know there are other areas of my life where I could be softer. Firm, yes. Strong, yes. Yet, still bring softness to the situation. So often frustration gets in the way and our words are lost amidst anger and impatience. What if we lead with a softer side? I am going to try to focus more on flexing my softer side.
At work last week, a few of us were discussing books, and I mentioned that at this moment my favorite book of 2014 is: “Mile Markers” by Kristin Armstrong. A colleague said oh, yes that is Lance Armstrong’s ex-wife. Of course I thought, duh. How did I not put two and two together? You would think her few mentions of her husband, Lance, in Mile Markers and her mention of Austin would have clued me in, but I was so enamored with her book that the connection never crossed my mind. By the end of our conversation one of my colleagues offered to bring in her copy of another Kristin Armstrong book: “Work in Progress: An Unfinished Woman’s Guide to Grace.”
Two nights ago I decided to crack it open, after some much-needed inspiration, and holy shit was I blown away. This is the first paragraph of the Introduction:
“You may have met, or know, a woman like this: She brightens a room, can literally alter the energy before she opens her mouth. Her presence alone is uplifting, her warmth is genuine radiance, and her eye contact feels like a gift. Her compassion and confidence are unshakable. She knows herself well enough to be able to get to know you. She has not pretense about herself, has no need to hide because she lives in truth. She has no need to exalt or deprecate others or herself, and this allows others the freedom to be authentic in her company.
She is the kind of woman who makes you check your posture, inside and out. She makes you want to think before you speak, not because you feel judged or compelled to impress her, but simply because she makes you want to be better. Her integrity draws others into the light. Her laughter is contagious. Her hugs feel so good you wonder how you can get another one without appearing needy. When she is happy, you want to celebrate with her. When she is struggling, you want to stand by her side. Come to think of it, anything with her would be fine.
Who is this woman? To me, she is a woman of grace.” page 1-2
Wow. If I could ever live up to that. I read that, and immediately had a woman in mind. Someone in my life that has always been an inspiration to me. While we have not been in touch as often these past few years, she has always been a role model to me. I can remember one time in college when I was struggling particularly with feeling like an orphan (my dad was around but not really existent in my life, my mom had passed on 5 years before). I remember I had hung out with her and her family (husband and precious little baby girl), and as I left she put her hand under my chin and looked into my eyes and said: “We love you.” Then she looked at me more intensely and said it again. I froze, and then started to cry. It was just what I needed to hear, but so hard to accept. She made me want to be better. She brightened the room, was so authentic and real, and exuded confidence, radiance, and her eye contact brought me to tears (in such a good way). She was the grace that grounded me.