In Lead more gently

Does sensitivity and kindness always work

A few weeks ago I decided to experiment with the scripture verse “A sensitive answer turns back wrath, but an offensive word stirs up anger.”- Proverbs 15:1.  The word “sensitive” is translated in various bibles as “kind” or “gentle” or “soft”.  Today I would like to give you the outcome of my experiment with kindness, gentleness, softness.

Late one afternoon, the cashier at the supermarket where I shop seemed very harassed.  She didn’t look at me, let alone greet me when I unpacked my groceries at her till point.  I decided to put my experiment into full gear.   My “hi there” did not get a response.  She just scanned away at my items.  “It’s been a long day and I’m really tired.  Now I still have to go home and cook.” I said.  “How has your day been?” I asked.  She stopped her mad scanning, looked at me as if she wanted to cry and said, “It has been a horrible day.”  Okay, I asked for it.  Behind me was a long line of weary people, all trying to get their shopping done and head for home.  In front of me was a tearful cashier.  All I could do was offer her a sincere wish that tomorrow would be better for her.  I took note of her name on the tag pinned to her breast and told her that I would pray for her.  As I paid and left, she said “thank you for caring.”   I thought that was a good outcome.

I’m sorry to report that I unwittingly also experienced the second part of the scripture verse “offensive words stir up anger”.  I can attest that offensive words hurt.  And hurt leads to anger.

Regardless, I continued to put the “sensitive word” experiment into action – my guinea pigs being family, friends and foes – and it worked with every person … except one.

With this person, the kinder and more sensitive I tried to be, the more abrasive he seemed to become.  I got, “what do you want? what’s the bottom line here?” responses from him.  I thought I was being sensitive but instead I was coming across as something else – perhaps too touchy feely for him, or intrusive, or weak?

Here’s what I’ve learnt from my experiment:

  • Kindness requires intentional servant leadership on my part.
  • A kind and sensitive word is appreciated by almost everybody.
  • Being sensitive requires that I make an effort to actually see and acknowledge the people that I come into daily contact with.
  • If somebody responds as a troll to my kindness, perhaps I need to adjust the way I am communicating.
  • Regardless of whether I am trying to build a strong, healthy relationship with somebody in particular or whether I am simply trying to get along with my fellow citizens, it requires from me first and foremost willingness.  I need to be willing to do what it takes.

Question:  Do you have any experiences with this verse? “A sensitive answer turns back wrath, but an offensive word stirs up anger.” Care to share?


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