soft power for introverts

Ben Howard, author of One Time, One Meeting, wrote this lovely piece on introverts and how to engage in a world that is driven, loud, and often self-promoting.  I particularly liked the ideas of “quiet persistence” and “soft power.”  Ben references a book about introverts by Susan Cain – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – and then in his inimitable way takes it deep into the dharma, weaving together patience and diligence.

Watching the window installers, I was struck by the steady, unrelenting way they approached the task.  And it is a formidable task, this tearing out wood frames of a friable old farm-house without taking out chunks of the (wood) wall.  Hour by hour, window after window was pried away from almost a hundred years of clinging to the frame; the opening was cleared of debris and the new window inserted.  They cleaned the floor and outdoor surfaces of splinters and nails, methodically moving from section to section.  There wasn’t a moment of wasted or mis-directed energy; conversation was light yet never broke the rhythmic dance between deconstruction and reconstruction.

In a quiet moment’s conversation at the conference last week, a friend and I shared the frustrations we feel when we want immediate results and have them come in a particular form beyond what the situation can grant us.  We reflected on the years we’ve put into our work and eventually gazed astonished at what had emerged from our own quiet persistence.  I spoke with someone else of wanting a more “intimate relationship” between our organizations and later through a different interaction with her came to a painful realization of what that intimacy would cost.  I wondered what diligent persistence in that direction would bring me.  In another conversation with a friend, I garnered from her wisdom that the true circle of impact is much closer to the heart and it’s easy to disperse our energy when we get caught by the wanting-creatures.

Kabir’s warnings against the wanting-creature notwithstanding, it’s difficult to “stand firm in that which you are.”  This is especially so in a world that loudly proclaims it knows us better than we could know ourselves.  It’s easy to doubt our senses and to lose them.  It’s a short tumble into the rabbit hole of crippling grandiosity and inadequacy.  To persist with diligence requires reducing our reactivity to the voices that decry our strengths, our commitment, and our willingness to begin again moment after moment.  It means honestly appraising our deepest intentions, willingly acknowledging our deepest fears, and proceeding with attentive awareness of the impact of our actions.

I’m not sure if this is what is meant by “soft power” but it does seem softer than the sledgehammer and crowbar approach and more powerful than strong-arming a connection.

6 thoughts on “soft power for introverts

  1. your “sledgehammer and crowbar” comment struck deeply to remind me of how much damage I can do with my “wanting”, how much damage I can do with impatience and thinking I somehow know best. The aggressive energy of “getting things done” leaves a lot of debris in it’s trail. Thanks for this startling image! It is just what is needed to wake me up to this truth.

  2. Genju – Thanks for these reflections, particularly your perspective on awareness of intentions, fears, and the possible consequences of our actions. I’m glad to know that my own essay played a small part in your thoughtful inquirty.

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