Home » Blog » Cultivating Tenderness

Cultivating Tenderness


I have noticed more harshness in the world over the last few years. Maybe you have, too.

Over time, hearts become hardened and numb to not only the harm done to others, but harm done to ourselves. Indulging our Negative Egos and flinging arrows of anger doesn’t lead to relief from internal discomfort. Instead, it makes our own wounds deeper.

Recently, on a Zoom call with colleagues, I experienced something that felt otherworldly, and yet so familiar. The topic was accepting life as it is, to be able to see the gift that we are being offered in each moment. As each person spoke, I felt a sweetness in their words. This was not so much an innocence or naivete, but a resonance of goodness. Later, our guide for the call did a long meditation, that took me through cycles of dream state, followed by unconsciousness and into a slow awakening of her words. At the end of the call, I was asked about my experience. I blurted out, “I felt as if I had been cradled, like a baby being rocked to sleep.”

Herein lies the antidote to a harsh world: cultivating tenderness. 

With tenderness comes kindness.

With tenderness comes compassion.

With tenderness comes an open heart.

How do I cultivate tenderness?

Multiple times a day, I spend time on my patio.
















On the face of it, I am tending to my flowers (pun intended). I deadhead old blooms, take off yellowing leaves (I have yet to master gardening), and admire new growth. I water the clay pots of soil thoroughly.

In actuality, my flowers are tending to me. They are working magic on me in their elegance and beauty and gentleness. I start the day with tenderness and it feeds me throughout the day.

If flowers aren’t your thing, there are other ways to cultivate tenderness.

Pick one, any one, and make it a daily practice:

  • Cuddle with your kids or grandkids.
  • Hug your significant other or spouse.
  • Enjoy the presence of your dog or cat and let them know it.
  • Take a walk in nature and take in the smells.
  • Read poetry.
  • Listen to music that softens your heart.
  • Give a friend a genuine compliment.
  • Give a stranger a genuine compliment.
  • Make art.
  • Feel the touch of a fine cashmere sweater.
  • Play with a baby.
  • Sleep like a baby.
  • Remember your first kiss.
  • Create a beautiful dessert and arrange it on a gorgeous plate.

To the cynics who think all of this is sappy and at best, has no impact and at worst, can make you an easy target, I am reminded of this saying:

“I am powerful enough to be gentle, and strong enough to be vulnerable.”

True power looks like an open and undefended heart. True power starts with cultivating tenderness.

Hat tip to my colleagues, Angela Trainor and Amy Sui, who have talked about and displayed tenderness for many years. They have been my role models for tenderness.

I’d love to hear your ideas for cultivating tenderness, as well as the results from bringing more tenderness into your life.


  1. Kallee Ann on July 9, 2023 at 12:21 PM

    Thank you, this article really meant a lot to me. I am a tender and gentle person, and I often feel outcast from others because of it, especially my 20’s age group.
    Thank you for helping me feel like I am doing the right thing, and that I am strong, not weak and weird like my cohort makes me feel.
    With tenderness comes awareness.

    • Carol Ross on July 9, 2023 at 1:19 PM

      I am deeply touched by your comment, Kallee Ann. Thank you.

      You are bringing light into the world with your tenderness and gentleness. You may never know the full impact of your light, but know that it matters.

      I am glad that you don’t feel so alone. I’m sorry that you’ve experienced the pain of being an outsider. I have found that being different is an asset, once I embraced it. I hope it’s the same for you.

Leave a Comment