When I trained with Drs. John and Julie Gottman of The Gottman Institute several years ago, I was introduced to 30 years of research they had conducted observing over 3000 couples in determining the predictors of divorce. One of the behaviors they recognized as very problematic in marriages is when one partner (or both) use what the Gottmans call harsh-start-up which is when a partner begins a conversation with a harshly negative or critical comment. The anecdote, of course, is approaching the same conversation with a soft-start-up which is consciously softening tone and choosing words which are respectful and absent of criticism or negativity.
This same idea is true for the way we lead our lives. If we are able to employ a softer approach to everything we see, do and say, our relationships will thrive in a very positive way and we will likely feel a greater sense of peace in our daily lives.
Here are 10 ways to improve relationships & life by using The Power of Soft:
- Check yourself before you speak. Notice if there is any "charge" of anger and take a deep, full breath. Come into awareness and intention to speak softly.
- Express feelings, thoughts, ideas, and requests with a soft tone of voice.
- If you want to receive something, first give freely and then softly and clearly make a kind request of others. If you are ignored or get a "no" don't take it as personal rejection rather understand that person is simply not available at this time.
- When you hear others brag and boast, know that likely they have some fear and insecurity within. Soften your heart to them rather than rush to judge.
- Listen more than talk. Hold space for others and just really listen. As you listen simply hold the space with full attention rather than rushing to respond.
- When you feel the sensation of anger, soften the edges and peek underneath the anger noticing there are probably thousands of moments of confusion, fear, pain and doubt under there. Breathe into the sensation of anger feeling it as simply energy in your body. Breathe through it and with it. Watch how it will begin to dissipate simply by being observed with breath and softness.
- If someone is harsh with you, attacks you verbally or lashes out, take a moment to sit back and breathe and remember they also have pain, confusion, fear and doubt under the emotion from which they are speaking. Soften your heart toward them knowing this. Then, with a soft, clear voice make a request, "I must ask that you please not speak to me so harshly. I am sorry for what you are feeling and I will help if I can."
- Be like water. Take the shape of whatever container you find yourself. Flow around obstacles. Be softly persistent. Be capable of changing shape and form as needed to adapt to the environment. Be fluid in all things for here is your greatest strength.
- Practice softening the muscles around your eyes and jaw regularly. Also, practice softening your belly throughout the day. Drop your shoulders down and away from your ears and notice when your hands are gripping the steering wheel or the pen or the phone. Soften.
- Take pause. Learn to wait and not react and jump to respond to what others do and say or to whatever impulsive thought may tempt you. Cultivate an ability to shift into neutral and observe long pauses before taking action.
A steady, dedicated practice of observing the power of soft will improve your relationships and your life. The word power is often confused for hard-hitting, fast-moving, action-oriented behavior. On the contrary, soft-touching, slow-moving, being-oriented behavior with fluidity, flexibility and patience allows for longer lasting joy and peace in life.