Soft power. How beautifully it rolls off the tongue.
It’s a political advantage that is having a moment in the global arena; a term coined by Joseph Nye in 1990 that promotes a nation’s prowess in the arts, culture and social appeal as having gentle leverage in shaping affairs.
Canada has it, the Netherlands, apparently China and perhaps intriguingly, the USA.
Prioritising people over politics as assets in driving desired change, it reminds me of how my grandmother, mother and aunts ruled the family with love. They gently diffused disputes and created harmony amongst quarrelling siblings.
The women in my family managed the mood voltage of rowdy family dinners with finesse, knew when to hold it and when it fold, used their emotional intelligence to hold the family fibre intact.
Soft Power in the World
Upon seeing examples of soft power in the world (think about how Justin Trudeau, New Zealand’s Jacinta Arden or France’s Emanuel Macron are shaping the face of leadership) I was struck by the parallels between the nation’s purported virtues and feminine energy.
These softer, yet no less powerful leaders are someone we would want on our side, negotiating and mediating with staunch dictators.
It was Australia’s Julie Bishop who artfully handled the MH17 plane crash crisis, convincing hard power stalwart President Putin to allow vital investigations.
Jacqueline Kennedy added a heightened aura and I’m sure, political might to her husband’s presidency, while it is the women around Trump, as calamitous as we may feel his tenure is, who offer a semblance of hope.
Soft power is attributed not to governments and their policies, but to the people and personalities within it. If policy is the head, then society is the heart.
It is an essence, rather than a gender stereotype. It is the gentler parent who pacifies the firmer spouse, the brave kid who stands up to the classroom bully, or the calm, yet resolute negotiator who dissolves a military threat.
When you reflect upon your own strengths, it’s likely you are already a good listener, decision maker, peace-keeper and go-getter as required.
If you’ve been worrying that you have not been brazen or vocal enough to fight for what you want, perhaps this is a call to trust that perhaps you are achieving more than you realise.
Consider how you would handle the following examples.
1. Your boss burdened you with the challenge to fill a work event within a week. Do you…
a) Freak out, lose it, call everyone you know to complain, declare a crisis and call clients and friends begging to attend and not take “no” for an answer?
b) Take a deep breath, send a prayer to the universe and think who this event would actually serve. As you get on the phone, your aim is to connect and see where conversation goes. Where appropriate, you recommend your event, ask if they have any referrals, and see if there is any other way you can help before you hang up.
2. Your kids are having a tantrum at dinner time, throwing food around and not listening to your pleas to stop. Do you…
a) Lose it and give them a tongue-lashing, confiscate treats and ground them?
b) Remain still and calm, extracting yourself from the situation until they step in line. You let your terms be known in a present and simple way and don’t choose to engage with them emotionally.
3. You’ve cooked your partner an amazing dinner, but he doesn’t make it home until 9pm because he got ‘held up’ with mates. Do you…
a) Absolutely lose it. You sulk, give him a spay for being irresponsible and immature and give him the cold shoulder for the week.
b) Put his dinner in the fridge, enjoy your portion then go do your thing. You mention it once when he comes home and explain your position, then focus more on yourself and self care in the coming week.
What did you choose?
In most cases, option a is what we would do. Our ego tells us that we are validated and justified to loose our minds. And sometimes we are!
However, is it really the most effective?
While option b is seemingly passive, it does have one main advantage – a service orientation.
The hard power option in “a” is all about minimising, dominating or manipulating the other so that you feel justified when you’re under threat. It doesn’t do your personal growth and grace any favours, nor does it endear the other person to truly come around to your way of thinking.
The soft power solution in “b” is making a conscious choice honour your own energy and be compassionate, centred and patient. It has a longer range, where leading by example is the best way to make a point.
Your boss would likely be served by all the long term business and goodwill you generate for the brand. Let alone having customers along to the event who actually want to be there.
Similarly, your kids will learn to take the responsibility for their own actions when they don’t have your emotional energy to push against, while your partner would likely never repeat the indiscretion if he’s coming back to a powerful and mature woman (who he’d love to make it up to).
Option a will lead to more drama and a fight. Option be will lead to resolution, healing and power.
So no matter what, know that on the global stage, as much as in your home and workplace, kindness and a softer power wins.
Need some more help? Try the following:
1. Soft power beings in your mind. Speak more kindly and gently to yourself so as to overflow that grace to others.
2. Ask yourself when you’re triggered, “what would love do”? It’s an oldie but a gem of a question, one that opens up immediate and empowered solutions, yet still needs a constant reminder.
3. Wear nice lingerie – for real! The softness, lace and structure of Simone Pérèle pieces are the ultimate sartorial testament to soft power. Beautiful and supportive, with an ability to elevate and empower.
4. Take a pause. Sometimes a situation can resolve itself when it’s given a chance to rest. DOn’t react right away and trust in the wisdom of the process.
5. Honour your truth. Speaking from the heart is very different to speaking from fear. It is the way to make your message compelling and real, so think about what you really want to say proactively.
Where in your life do you apply soft power?
About the Author
Alina Berdi knew early on that her life’s calling was to help empower women. Now, with more than a decade of coaching and consulting experience to her name, she has emerged as one of our most respected and trusted guides and coach to many of Australia’s most successful women. As our lives have been faced with tremendous amounts of pressure from all areas, the vast majority of women tend to feel more and more cut off from their inner goddess selves. A practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and a student of Tantra, Alina’s insights into life and love have seen her regularly contribute to a number of popular publications including Cleo, Cosmopolitan, Body and Soul and Madison.
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