Tenderness is how we express warmth and affection to our fellow man. It can be protective, or sympathetic, or just plain considerate of another’s feelings, and for each of us there is a trigger; an indicator, either verbal, visual, or intuitive, that tells us when to tread lightly in the handling of others.  Beyond that we probably give tenderness very little conscious thought in our day to day lives. Could society use a few more acts of kindness,,,, maybe a little tenderness?

Children and animals typically warrant a tender approach simply by virtue of their size or innocence (naiveté). Adults, being more ‘seasoned’ with life, tend to be a little tougher (or closed?) They may interpret acts of tenderness with suspicion or they may see it as pity, and nobody wants to be pitied. We do however, all want to be treated kindly, because no matter how tough our exterior, we are all vulnerable to hurt, and each of us reacts differently.

Society is so hung up on image; boys in particular are ‘programmed’ from a young age to be tough because… boys don’t cry(?)  In the quest to ‘act like a man’ they are constantly reminded to withhold their emotions, when they really need to let it all out. (everybody needs a good cry once in a while) In truth, I think women have more respect for a man who is sensitive and unashamed to show emotion. Now that said, no one wants to see a man sobbing into his teacups every time the wind changes direction, but it certainly would be refreshing (if not human) to indulge a fellow man his pain, for whatever reason. Allowing them to feel and share their emotions is allowing them to heal and with healing comes knowledge and growth, for all.

Tenderness is quite simply that act of treating someone with kindness in a very personal way and we could certainly incorporate more random acts of kindness into our day. Maybe it’s a matter of putting ourselves in the shoes of another. The disinterested sales person, the irate customer, the sullen family member, or the depressed friend; all have an underlying issue that has brought them to a bad place emotionally, and we can fuel the negativity or diffuse it with an act of kindness. Amazingly enough, it takes little effort to redirect negative energy and instinct will guide you as to what needs to be done, and how.

The irate customer is looking to vent. They know you’re not the reason they have a problem, you’re just the last straw, the middle man, and you can roll up your sleeves and engage in a full on battle or you can try a little tenderness to take the wind out of their sails. A couple of tactfully voiced acknowledgements of their concern will let them know they are being heard, taken seriously, and empathized with. It’ll also gently point out that YOU are not their issue, rather their potential saviour.  I’ve seen this tactic work time and time again….it’s a win-win.

The sullen or depressed individual, unlike the irate customer, isn’t looking for a fight, rather they are emotionally wounded and without knowing the cause or extent of their emotional turmoil, you can’t fix the problem. You can however, provide emotional support with acts of kindness in the moment. Listen to them talk or, respect their need for solitude or silence. Perform whatever act of kindness you need to help them lick their wounds. It may provide only temporary relief, until they are able to deal with their issue, but even temporary relief is better than none, and for that brief period in time they might feel a little bit better, and they will remember you for your kind consideration.

Not everyone will be receptive to open displays of tenderness because not everyone is accustomed to having it. We don’t all come from loving environments, but don’t let that discourage you or keep you from reaching out. And maybe your attempt at kindness with a stranger will fall flat or feel awkward, but I bet that’ll only happen once because any true act of tenderness will eventually melt the coldest of hearts. Besides, it costs nothing to be kind, whether you smile encouragingly, or joke playfully, or simply make meaningful eye contact; the act of reaching out to another in need is just good. So go on, be good, try a little tenderness. Who knows, maybe if we all exercised a little more random kindness the world would finally find peace. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? (somebody should write a song about this)


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