Can I be both successful and kind?

Is it possible to be soft, yet strong? It can feel like a battle; grasping for control over our own success and desires, yet staying true to our values. Hilary Gallo, executive coach and author of 'The Power Of Soft', explains it’s a lot like Pilates…


Can I be both successful and kind?

Build a strong core

1. Ask yourself what you really need, at your core. Imagine my daughter and I are on the verge of having a row about her being home by 10pm every night. Once I accept that what I actually need is to know she does her homework and gets a good night’s sleep, things change. I learn she needs to feel trusted and have some freedom. Once we understand each other’s needs, it’s easier to agree a way forward. Making demands feels like a good way to get what we want, but often has the reverse effect. Instead, if we pull back to what we really need at the core, a more fluid way of working with others will often emerge.

2. We also try to get external control by trying to change others and how they act. It’s like shouting at the TV or the referee: disempowering and pointless. Frustrating though it is, we can’t change others or what we don’t control. But pulling back to what we do control is hugely empowering. Our sphere of influence tends to expand once we focus our efforts within it. Applying our efforts to playing, rather than arguing with the referee, is what will win the game. We should hold our sense of commitment at the core, rather than any particular outcome. If we know what we need, we are far less attached to any particular way of satisfying our needs.

3. Whether we are trying to negotiate a deal or get something done, it pays to think through what we will do if we just can’t make it happen. Do we really need it? Are there other things we could do? Being able to have a ‘multi-tracked mind’ takes the pressure off and allows a decision to happen as it should, rather than as we think it must. It’s hugely empowering to have choices.

Nurture a soft, open front

1. Softness allows space for people to be heard. It’s annoying to be interrupted when we are speaking to be told what someone else thinks. Experiment in listening to a friend without commenting. It’s hard but unless there is a bit of silence, no-one is really listening. ‘Mmm’ is a good response, as is ‘and…’. Good questions tend to start with ‘What’, such as, ‘What stops that happening?’ or simply, ‘What’s next?’ If you hear something interesting, repeat it back – ‘I notice that…’, ‘So, what you need is…’. If you do this for others, in time, they will do it for you.

2. What makes us angry in our external lives is a clue to our own truths. Pausing and tasting the anger before exploding gives us a moment to reflect. If other drivers get in our way and annoy us, use the power of ‘soft openness’ to see that blaming others doesn’t help the other person, the situation or us. Anger now is the trigger to help us address our deeper needs that are not being met. We might simply need more time or have other emotional needs. Either way, we get to recognise and address what really matters for us.

3. ‘Wishing Well’ is a simple process that can have a big effect. We select strangers that we see, think about them for a moment and, in our thoughts, wish them well for their day. Try to do this for up to a dozen people a day for a few days and see how it makes you feel. Kindness to others can work even better than being kind to ourselves. In a connected world, it’s probably the same thing.

The Power Of Soft is published by crowd-funding publisher Unbound. Explore more at

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