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The Power of Kind & Careful Words

#intentionaloptimism #respect #wisdom #womeninleadership #wordsmatter Nov 14, 2022

In the Intentional Optimism Tenet of Wisdom, careful, kind and encouraging words guide our interactions with those who travel this journey with us.  A bit like the rudder on a boat.

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Steering a sailboat is… well, it’s complicated. 

Wind speed & direction, sail angle, and the current, all play a part.

It’s easy to think of the rudder as a steering wheel, but on my little boat it’s just the final piece of an intricate puzzle. When I’m tired, that puzzle feels overwhelming, like having 6 plates in the air at once. 

Fortunately, I don’t have to be right on top of the rudder or right in the sail but of all the things affecting my direction, those are the only two I truly have control over. Within each, there’s a bit of “play,” allowing me to adjust by calculation or instinct, determining the angle of the sail, and the angle of the rudder.

Here’s the thing, the rudder, tiny, compared to other parts of the boat, plays a huge role. Used well, it helps me stay on course, but mishandled, misunderstood or neglected, and I’m headed somewhere else, entirely. It’s complicated by the fact that I can’t just reach down and turn the rudder, I can only push or pull the tiller, the long pole attached to it, and confound it all, everything is backwards. 

It’s mirror movements that accomplish my purpose, like words that go out and are reflected back, sometimes I just get it wrong heading the opposite direction. The worst part is when my mishandling of the tiller propels me into another boat causing unintended damage.   

Fortunately, most of my journey isn’t directly over a delicate coral reef or dodging rocks that pop up through the surface, but I do not travel alone, and I must be careful that I handle the tiller in a kind and gentle manner, aware of those around me.   

And there’s no pushing and pulling just for fun.  Every single time I move it, that motion is reflected in the rudder and the direction of my boat. Sometimes the current and the wind compensate, keeping me on course, but if I yank on the tiller unnecessarily, there could be serious ramifications… 

I respect the power of that little pole, attached to that little piece of wood down in the water. I respect how the direction of my boat affects others around me, and how I can’t just slam on the brakes or turn “on a dime” to avoid a collision.  

So much of this journey is magical, peaceful, stimulating, exhilarating and fun… but all of it can be reversed with one small push on the tiller. 

So I use it carefully and kindly, understanding the power of one careless action. I’m deliberate and purposeful, using the tiller to guide the rudder in response to the wind and waves… and I’m respectful of the power of this seemingly insignificant part of my boat. I steer my boat toward, and with, my fellow travelers, encouraging them around the rocks and reefs.

This journey is so much richer, fuller and meaningful when I don’t travel alone, so I remain vigilant for the well-being of us all.  

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