The Soft Parade

Here is a thing that I know, and I know it hard. I am completely certain that it is true and I have proven it again and again. And yet, still, sometimes I need to be reminded, because of feelings. There are feelings that can make you forget what you know.

This is it: If you want another human to do something, or to not do something, or become aware of something they are apparently not seeing or understanding, or in any other way respond to you in a particular fashion that they do not seem to be inclined to do without instruction, you will more successfully get what you are after if you approach them politely, respectfully, kindly, quietly, and with words that convey your generally positive regard for them.

This method of communication is called a “soft approach,” and it is remarkably effective.

It works with children and it works with spouses. It works with friends, neighbors, and strangers on the bus. It works with your employees, your bosses, and your peers. It works with the grumpy lady at the DMV and it works with police officers (ok, it works better with police officers if you’re white, truth be told).

It works even when you are irritated and even (especially) when you are angry. No matter how justifiable your irritation or how utterly righteous your anger, if you lead with that instead of with positive regard, you will get less cooperation and more resentment. Granted, you may not care if the person you are talking to plays no regular role in your life. But probably most of the people you interact with are recurring cast members in your show.

This business is not trivial. Humans live a long time and relationship damage is easier to avoid than to repair. It goes both ways, the damage. If you spew bile all over someone you care about, it harms them and it harms you, even if you apologize later. I still have tender spots inside of me from long ago incidents in which I started a battle that didn’t need to happen. I can find the spots and poke at them and they still make me wince. There are other spots where a verbal battering left its permanent mark. You can tell when people have more of those spots than they can really bear. You can see it in their eyes.

See, I know it hard, but still, feelings. They get the better of you (me) sometimes. The sore spots never go away but you can make them hurt less if you forgive. That goes both ways, too. You have to forgive people who forget we are all supposed to love one another. And you have to forgive yourself.

I see I got off track here. I meant to explain that the soft approach works better but I wandered into psychic pain. And like many of my posts and indeed, many conversations, this one is not entirely about what it’s about. But that’s my little joke and I don’t expect you to get it.




5 thoughts on “The Soft Parade

  1. I had to read this many times. There are lots of wonderful insights in here. I particularly love the part about relationship damage being easier to avoid than repair. AMEN, sister. But: I take issue with one tiny point, and that is, I don’t think it’s true that the soft approach works. It works more often than the hard approach, perhaps, but still, the percentage of times it works is probably closer to 20 than 80.

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