Tenderness: how does it improve YOUR effectiveness?

While a rather rare friend in most US corporate settings, tenderness has quite a lot of power to offer those of us looking to expand our influence.

Tenderness is the emotion of security. Without it, we can lock ourselves up in a fortress and still not feel safe. Infants who receive no affection as babies grow up feeling alone and not part of the rest of the human race throughout their lives. Their foundation of security has never been established.

Through the safety which tenderness promises, conversations – and changed behaviors – can take place which were had never been available before.

With our loved ones, tenderness seems the obvious choice. These are, after all, the people with whom we can let our hair down and really get vulnerable. We feel cared about and perhaps because of this, we trust them and are more ready to get closer to them. So tenderness becomes a sort of virtuous circle.

How does tenderness fit in at the workplace? No, it’s not about physical touch per se. But it is about our words, our tone of voice and the way we, through our physical bodies, display a warm, open posture toward others – relaxed, soft, listening, allowing, compassionate.

As an employee, imagine how different your experience would be if news of your poor performance were delivered with a soft and concerned voice rather than that of a judgmental one. How much more ready would you be to do what it takes to improve your results? Take a moment and think about the times you, as a leader, have had a really bad day: how did receiving even more pressure to perform in spite of your state of being affect your motivation level? How much more loyal would you feel toward your company and directors if those around you were instead gentler and allowing of the space and time you require? Tenderness can be a powerful tool – even in the workplace.

Turning that tenderness on ourselves can also be a productivity jumper. When we are fatigued and stressed, how much more work do we get done after we have taken the time to exercise, take a nap or take a 1/2 day off? How about the way we talk to ourselves when we have made a mistake: do we tell ourselves we are the worst person/manager/colleague/parent in the world, or do we give ourselves credit for trying and being human? My own experience reminds me of the times I kept digging myself more and more into a hole because of harsh language toward myself and of expecting nothing less than perfection from myself. Tenderness – through my words (“That’s OK, Colleen – ‘ A mistake is evidence that someone has tried something new.’” ) and actions like going to a yoga class or getting a massage – has allowed me to soften my view of myself and, in so doing, to make less mistakes and even improve my performance more quickly than I am sure I would have had I chosen to stay in beat-myself-up land.

How will tenderness show up in your interactions today? As one of the songs in my yoga class today goes: “Try a Little Tenderness Today.”

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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