Tuesday, February 6, 2018

20. How to lose an argument and win a relationship?

Have you sometimes found yourself arguing with people? All of us may have had occasions to enter into arguments with different kinds of people. Arguments have their place in life. Lawyers have to argue in courts and lawmakers, in legislatures. There may be situations where we may have to argue with officials and various kinds of people we come across in our day to day life.

But there is one area which should be kept out of reach for arguments. It is the area of relationships. When it comes to a friend or family member or even a neighbor or colleague, we should consciously avoid arguing with them.

This advice may appear obvious but many people don't follow this. Marriages have been rocked and friendships have been broken by arguments.

Just think why we argue with someone close to us. We have a different idea, perspective or opinion about a subject. Sometimes, the subject on which we have differences may be important to us. A husband may argue with the wife on who should drop their child to the school. You may feel that you have practical difficulties in taking up this responsibility and hence may feel the urge to put forth your point of view to your spouse.

Well, if the objective is to make your spouse accept your point of view, then an argument will seldom help you. Often, the argument will become counterproductive. Your argument may result in your spouse becoming more strongly attached to their point of view.

In fact, all arguments result in both the parties becoming more hardened in their stands. So, why should we resort to argument at all?

Whenever you find yourself arguing with someone with whom you have a close relationship, make it a point to terminate the argument on a friendly note. You should focus on making the other person appreciate your point of view even if they don't accept it. You can make a beginning by appreciating the point of view of the other person and expressing it openly, even while indicating that you have a different take on the subject.

Such an approach will create a space for you to work together and help you narrow down your differences and find a way to work together.

Please remember that in a situation where you have to work together with another person, an argument should have no place.

Monday, December 25, 2017

19. Skill Depletion Schemes!

There were times when things were difficult. You had to be alert, you had to exercise the muscles in your body and the cells in your brain more.  You had to "suffer" physical labor. You need to remember things.

Not any more. Automation has ensured that you can cook, wash your clothes and do other household chores, sitting on a sinking cushion, munching potato chips and watching the smart TV, which was once called the idiot box.

Once you have completed your studies, you don't have to remember anything. Your mobile phone will tell you whatever you need to know. If you have to visit a place, you need not know the route. The GPS will guide you. Very soon, you won't even have to drive. Just sit into the self driven car, set the GPS and relax. The car will take you to where you want to go. Perhaps the self driven cars will also be programmed to randomly meet with some accidents so that things would look normal!

Automation is good. Improvement in communication facilities is advantageous. But the way these developments have made us lose our innate skills is tragic. We have become too lazy even to move our body. To compensate for the decline in physical activities, we flock to gyms to exercise and keep us fit.

It is the fast deterioration of our mental skills that is most alarming. Earlier, when we had to know a phone number before dialing it, we would remember at least a few important telephone numbers. Not any more. Many of us may not even remember the phone numbers of our families. What is the need for this? We have our personal assistant, our "cellmate" who does the remembering for us.

There is also another area in which we are allowing our natural skills to wear away. This area is not even noticed by many of us. Now we don't have to be careful about anything. There was a time, when a student would have used at the most 2 fountain pens during his entire secondary school studies. Losing a pen was shameful, dreadful and tragic. But now we can afford to use one pen everyday! I can safely forget to take my pen while going to my workplace and can buy one at a pawn shop near my office. During yesteryears,  buying a watch was a once in a lifetime event. A watch after being use for 40 or 50 years by a person would pass on to his son after his death. Today, if a person keeps a watch for 2 years, it would be an exceptional record.

Today, you can lose your certificates of education and get duplicates. The only inconvenience would be spending some time and money. You don't have to be wary of dropping your spectacles and breaking them. They come in unbreakable plastic and can also be scratch proof. There are guards to protect your mobile phone. All these are good if only they are not making us abandon our sense of being careful, cautious, prudent and vigilant.

If we  go back in time, we will find that man has been building up his skills painstakingly over several thousand years. Even primitive skills like hunting for food, running away from danger, climbing up on trees for safety, making clothes to cover our body, building a house for protecting ourselves from rains and storms, learning to use fire for cooking, learning to make useful things from the materials available on earth, inventing the wheel and building a cart and so on  had been developed after a lot of efforts, struggles and experimentation.

All these skills have been improved upon over several hundred generations and transferred to us genetically. And we are frittering them away without realizing how bad this is going to be for us and our coming generations. While the government has been running a skills development program, we have been launching our own skills depletion schemes!

Let us make use of our technology but let us also realize the power of the skills we were gifted with  when we were born and make some efforts to retain these skills.

Friday, November 10, 2017

18. No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed!

I happened to watch a video on the nursery rhyme 'Five little monkeys jumping on the bed,' while showing it to my granddaughter.

When I was a kid, there were no nursery rhymes. So I find the rhymes always interesting. I have worked with the rhymes when my children were kids and I  have been  working with the rhymes again along with my grand daughter. From no rhymes for me, through reading and reciting rhymes for my children to watching and listening to the rhymes now along with my granddaughter now, the experience has been varying.

I am also hearing a number of new rhymes thanks to the proliferation of rhymes in the form of youtube videos. One of them is 'No more monkeys jumping on the bed.'

I am sure that most of the people who read this post would be familiar with this rhyme. Still for the benefit of a few people like me who may not be updated on rhymes like this, I  give below the first stanza of this rhyme.

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor
And the doctor said
No more monkeys jumping on the bed.

But the story doesn't end here. No one pays heed to the doctor's warning. The remaining four monkeys jump on the bed again and the story repeats itself. Replace the word 'Five,' with 'Four,' 'Three.' 'Two,' and 'One' and you will get the remaining stanzas. The only difference is in the last line of the last stanza.

And the doctor said,
Put those monkeys right to bed.

Listening to this rhyme and watching it on the video quite a few times along with my granddaughter made me wonder whether we are also not like these monkeys.

The monkeys see one of them falling down  and getting its head hurt. They are also cautioned by the doctor. Yet they continue to jump! Why don't they learn from what happened to one of them and  become more prudent?

Is it complacency? Is it a nonchalant attitude 'this won't happen to me?' Is it the arrogant self -assurance 'I am cleverer than others?' Is it a blind belief in luck? Is it a proclivity to take risks even when there is no need?

It could be any of the above, a combination of the above or some other reason like the above.

Monkeys can't think - at least not as rationally as human beings can. So we can understand monkeys  continuing to do what they were doing without learning any lessons from the experience of others.

But, we rational human beings also behave like this. We don't draw lessons from the experience of others.

We see accidents happening due to rash driving or drunken driving. But we also indulge in such practices.

We see people falling prey to the same kind of pranks and frauds again and again.

There are many such commissions and omissions.

Why do these things happen? Why do people fail to learn the right lessons from the experiences of other people?

It is is for the individuals  to ponder why we do what we do and why we wouldn't change ourselves using the inputs we receive from the experiences of other people.

There is also a more fundamental question. Leave alone the failure to  learn from others' experiences. Do we learn from our own experiences?

A person takes up an activity. He encounters a failure. After sometime, he does the same thing and gets the same result. He will do the same thing again after sometime and so on.

This may be about trying to make money in the stock market, starting a new activity only to abandon it after sometime, trying to develop a new relationship, trying to get even with our rivals, enemies or adversaries etc.

I can think of many instances where I have acted this way.  Pondering over the deeper meaning of  this rhyme has made me realize that in future I should be wary of doing things without considering my past experience and the experience of other people.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

17. You Are Not Alone

How any times have you felt alone in a crowd?

When I say crowd, I mean any social setup. It may be an office, a party, a function or a small group. You might have felt that while everyone was enjoying himself or herself, you did not belong there. You don't have to be an invert to experience this, though introverts are likely to experience this more often.

This experience happens to everyone sometime or the other. You may be an employee in an organization and you may feel that you are unable to connect yourself to the boss.You may be under the impression that the other staff have no such problem with the boss. This may just be your perception. The reality may be that many people have a similar problem. If this were the case, then it is obvious that you are not the one who has a problem.

Even if it were to be the case that most of the other employees have been getting along well with the boss, it does not follow that you have some fault. Perhaps your boss has some fear of you and hence has found it safer to keep a distance from you!

The only way to find out is to open yourself to your boss. You can express your feelings to your boss frankly and ask him  or her whether he or she has any reservations about you. In all probability, your boss will come out with a frank responses. He (she) may say that he (she) thought that you didn't like him (her). You will find that the ice is broken within a few seconds and the foundation for a warm relationship laid.

It may also turn out that your boss has some problem. Your question may act as a trigger and make him (her) share his (her) problems with you. Sometimes, this happens accidentally. I was once handling an assignment for a coaching institute. For some reason, the CEO of that institute was somewhat cold towards me. There were other people handling similar assignments but I didn't know how they felt about him.

One day,I was sitting with him alone, after everyone had left the office. A casual mention by me of another person running a similar business from the same complex made him open out. He told me that the person running the other business was employed by him earlier and that he had illegally taken copies of many course materials which he began to use for his own business. He talked to me at length sharing his anger and sorrow at the betrayal by his former employee.

After this incident, my relationship with that person improved dramatically.

I have mentioned other examples of your feeling that you are alone in a gathering. In such situations, just look around. You will definitely find at least a couple of people appearing to be feeling alone. Talk to one such person. You will not only find that you are not alone feeling alone but will also overcome your loneliness by sharing your feelings with those who also feel as you do.

Whenever you feel 'I seem to be the only person...,' reassure yourself that there are others who feel like you and that by connecting with them,  you won't feel lonely any longer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

16. How to Cope with a No?

Convert the 'No' problem into 'No problem!'

I talked about the need for you to say 'No.' But what if others say 'no' to you?

Since I said that we should sometimes be prepared to refuse what others seek from us, it is only logical to understand that we should also be willing to accept 'no' for an answer, from other people.

Unfortunately, one of the most difficult things in life is to accept a 'no.' There are many reasons why a 'no' hurts us so much. Some of these reasons are to do with our conditioning. You might have noticed children crying when the parents say 'no' to them. This experience gets embedded in our minds and we unconsciously go to that state even in our grown up state, when we receive a 'no.'

Another factor influencing our attitude to receiving a negative answer can be our ego. There is an unconscious belief in many of us that we are entitled to receive what we crave for. We also have a rationalising process running in our minds that will make us believe that whatever we desire is reasonable. How often do we think or even say, "After all, this is what I asked for" and fault the other person, the world or even God for not granting what we asked for!

There are two components driving our ego. One is the disappointment of not getting what we want and the other is the pain of rejection we experience.

Thus, if we want to configure ourselves to accept a 'no,' we should do something to overcome these two feelings - a feeling of disappointment and a feeling of getting hurt by rejection.

How do we overcome these two feelings?

The only way to overcome disappointment is to realise that there are other sources that  could satisfy us. This means either that we could get what we want from other sources (persons or places.) or that or that we could go for something different that will give us satisfaction. If you don't get admission from a university of your choice, you should convince yourself that there are other universities offering the same course. Or, you feeling of rejectioncan decide to go for a different course or even take up a job that has the potential for your growth.

The  can be overcome only by developing our self esteem. . You will know that you are too strong to be put down by a 'no' from someone.

It is not easy to cultivate a mindset on the above lines. But it is possible. It needs practice. But first it needs conviction  - a strong belief that this kind of thinking will work for you and that you are capable of cultivating such thinking.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

15. Say No and Empower People!

In the previous post, I said, 'Ask and you will receive.' But now am I saying, "When someone asks you for something, say 'No?'" No, I am not. I am only emphasizing th  need to say 'No' when you have to.

Why do you hesitate to say no?

You don't want to disappoint the other person. (eg. your child)

You don't want to displease the other person. (e.g. boss or colleague.)

You feel an obligation to say 'Yes/' (to someone whom you owe gratitude.)

You are afraid of the consequences of saying 'No.' (e.g. losing a relationship)

By saying 'Yes,' you expect the other person to reciprocate your gesture sometime in future.

If you have other reasons you can think of, you can add them.

Whatever may be the reason, the chances are that you are not likely to achieve your objective.

The other person may consider you weak or he may take you for granted. Or, he may feel that he is so strong that you can't say 'No' to him.

One of the most undesirable consequences of the failure to say 'No' is that you create expectations in the other person. In future, if you have to say no to him, he will feel as if you have betrayed him. 

There is a proverb in Tamil A beggar laments  'The noble lady who would always refuse to give me alms, has refused  today also. But what happened to the bitch who was giving me alms every day? The beggar is not upset by the former not giving him alms, because he had  no expectations from her. But he is upset with the 'philanthropic woman who was giving him alms every day.’ So, how can she refuse alms to me today’ is the logic of the beggar.

So, learn to say 'No' when you find the request unreasonable or when saying 'Yes' will not be in your interest.

By not saying 'no' when it would be the appropriate response, you are making the other person dependent on you. But by saying 'no,'  when, you have to, you are making the other person less dependent on you. This will make him think of other options and will empower him by forcing him to think and do things without relying on you.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

14. Ask for and Receive!

'Ask and it shall be given' is an often quoted biblical saying. I have sometimes believed in this concept. But sometimes I have not believed in this concept because this concept conflicts with another concept 'God knows what you need. So, you don't have to ask Him for anything. You will get what you deserve.'

Philosophy can be confusing. There are conflicting and divergent ideas presented even in the same philosophical work. We have to choose what seems appropriate to us.

I am reserved and self-restrained by nature. I won't even ask people even the time of the day. I will rather look for a source from which I can gauge the time myself. I realized how many opportunities I had lost when people told me 'Why, if you had asked me, I would have given it /done it!" Sometimes people have even told me "In fact, I was expecting that you would ask me for this but I was surprised that you didn't." How frustrating it is to know that there was someone ready and even waiting to help you but you lost an opportunity by not asking!

When we don't have opportunities, we can't do anything about the situation, but when we have opportunities but miss them by not asking for help, guidance or support, then it is our own folly.

In another blog about the reflections from my life, I have mentioned how, in the beginning of my career, I lost a job opportunity in a public sector organization because of my reluctance to ask my employer for leave for attending the interview in a far off place. In retrospect, I had felt that if I had asked for permission to attend that interview, my employer, realizing that it was a good opportunity for me, would have allowed me to attend the interview.

Asking can be of many types - asking for information, asking for guidance, asking for help, asking for feedback, asking whether the other person needs our help, asking about something we want to know, asking for favors, asking people to fulfill their commitments (eg. a lender asking the borrower for repayment of the loan) and so on.

Think of the times in which people have asked you for something and you have obliged them and of the times when you have declined their requests. Chances are that the number of times you obliged others is more than the number of times you said 'no.' Most of the people have a natural tendency to say 'yes.' It is up to us to take advantage of this.

Whenever we feel a need to ask, we tend to suppress the need because we want to avoid feeling bad if the other person says 'no.' It is very simple to change your attitude. Ask people if there is a need for asking, with an open mind. If they say 'yes,' you gain. If they say no, you have nothing to lose and there is no need for you to feel bad about it. Getting 'no' for an answer is no rejection. If you can develop this kind of a mindset, you won't find 'asking.' Just observe other people. You will find that there are numerous people who have no hesitation in asking even strangers for help and often getting what they want.

Next time when you feel the need to ask something of someone, ask! You will not regret your asking!