Monday, July 25, 2011

Interruption the bane of conversation

My daughter was discussing with me one day some matter of importance when her son of seven years interrupted her calling “Mom, mom, listen to me.” She did not pay attention to him and continued talking to me. His interruptions became persistent and louder. She lost her cool and shouted at him angrily “How many times have I told you not to interrupt me when I am talking to someone and that it is bad manners to butt in without saying excuse me.? Have I not told you to wait for some time and talk when there is a pause unless the matter was extremely urgent?” When I counseled her patience citing the boy is young, she said that he is not correcting himself despite her repeated admonitions. He exhibits impatience if his interruption is not acknowledged immediately

It was then I thought to myself how many of us, grown up individuals, interrupt others in the middle even as they are talking. Many of us not only break into the conversation of two people like a bull in china shop but also interrupt the other person with whom we are conversing in the middle of his talk. We do not have the patience to allow the other person to complete his say and instead we finish his sentences. The moment we hear the first two sentences, we think we know the drift and assume ourselves what he/she wished to say and proceed to give our(mostly) rebuttals or our views. We would have even thought out our sentences even while the other person was speaking paying little attention to what was being said.

Conversation, we fail to realize, is a two way street. It is not a race to determine who speaks the most. Interrupting a person who is speaking is bad decorum. It is the characteristic of only very young children to keep talking without anyone listening. They keep talking simultaneously or by turns with no real conversation taking place. Talking is easier than listening. Listening calls for some effort.

I have seen in innumerable conferences people giving scant attention to the speaker(s) but keep writing notes on what they wished to say when their turn comes. Some keep rising to ask questions without allowing the speaker to conclude. How can they understand or answer the points spoken by the other speakers if they do not hear fully but engage themselves in other pursuits like making notes, whispering to the adjacent person, yawning or sleeping. These are much worse than interrupting as they indicate to the speaker that he is not wanted. They are also apt to miss the important observations made and may also lose the opportunity to contest the points if wrongly made when their turn comes. Most importantly they learn nothing new. When they speak, very often they talk upon the points already covered.

There are many dimensions to listening skill. We have only examined the interruption aspect of it. This listening skill is very essential for succeeding in life and for making ourselves acceptable in social and business circles. To put it in another way, paying undivided attention to what is being said and understanding the message conveyed fully is a vital component of good conversation or interaction. Mark Twain put it with his inimitable sarcasm that “There is nothing so annoying as to have two people talking when you're busy interrupting. “

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Is life fair?

When two kids born of same parents and brought up in the same surroundings with identical facilities and comforts, one turns out to be very intelligent while the other tends to be a dud or one is born healthy and the other a victim of host of ailments. Why life is not fair to everyone, is a question that comes up in everyone’s mind when besieged by problems. Superficially it would appear life is certainly unfair. No two are dealt with in similar fashion with outcomes being different for the same efforts.
But we have the false belief that life should be fair to all with no discrimination as we are all children of God who is believed to be impartial and kind. We start questioning God’s ways when things do not go well for us or for those dear to us. If we accept the premise that life cannot be fair, we would stop pitying ourselves and sincerely work for betterment. We would no more compare with others or even worry for others who suffer. Instead we may commiserate with them and help them where we can. Once we realize that it is not the purpose of life to be fair or perfect, we get a new perception of life and strength of mind to face situations as they come instead of wallowing in self pity.
But the entire insight into the issue of fairness would undergo a total transformation if we look at things through the prism of karma theory. “My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand”-Thich Nhat Hanh. All actions good or bad have outcomes in the present life or succeeding lives. Christianity puts the same idea succinctly in the words “As you sow, so you reap.”Our past actions follow us like shadow and cannot be shirked away. The luxury and wealth that wicked men enjoy is the outcome of unliquidated good deeds in the previous births while the untold suffering that good men undergo is the result of past bad karma. Many may have doubts about karma theory but then how do you explain if God were all merciful, impartial and compassionate, why one baby is born blind or with ailments while the other one in the same family healthy. The pieces would fall in place if we accept the karma theory. So if life is not fair for us at any time in the present life, take comfort in the thought that we are discharging the debt of bad karma.
“Belief in karma ought to make the life pure, strong, serene, and glad. Only our own deeds can hinder us; only our own will can fetter us. Once let men recognize this truth, and the hour of their liberation has struck. Nature cannot enslave the soul that by wisdom has gained power and uses both in love.”-Annie Besant

Thursday, July 7, 2011

There is a price for not asking

I read this in a book The Alladin factor by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen

A number of years back the University of Chicago received a million dollar grant from Mrs. Fields of the Marshall Fields Department Store fame and fortune. When the administration at Northwestern University read the headline in the newspaper, the people of Northwestern were shocked, How could this be?

Mrs. Fields lived in Evanston, Illinois.Northwestern was in Evanston, Illinois. She had been a supporter in the past. Why hadn’t she donated the money to Northwestern? Why had she given the money to the University of Chicago instead?

When the University officials called Mrs. Fields to discover why she had given the money to the University of Chicago rather than to them. She replied, “The people of the University of Chicago asked.”You didn’t.”

The answer is yes……. But you have to ask! This would apply even to asking God

Monday, July 4, 2011

Being trustworthy

I know a person, let us call her Nirmala, who would be very nice when talking to you. She will listen with rapt attention to all that you say and make sympathetic interjections to goad you reveal more. She would appear very friendly and give the impression that she is trustworthy. You would have poured your heart out to her telling all the things that you would have normally kept to yourself but for her responsive demeanour.Nirmala is however the worst gossip. She would rush to tell others one by one not just what she heard from you but embroider it with half truths and utter lies. You would be shocked when you hear people talking in hushed tones about your personal matters. Once bitten, you would be doubly shy of talking to her. You will avoid her like a plague like so many others whom she befriended earler.But she would go for new quarries. She never realised that she lost many good friends and was detested by all who knew her. Yet she was not able to change herself. She did nothing to earn the trust of the people by discarding this bad habit of gossiping.

The point that I am trying to convey is that each one of us is tempted, not like Nirmala always, but to tell others sometimes what has been told us in confidence. There is a false satisfaction in showing off that we know a little more than what the other person knows. The intention may not be to harm but nevertheless the act of betraying the confidence is bad. By such foolish acts we create an image of us to others with whom we mix that would do us little credit. In turn others would be cautious when they speak to us. It is in us to control the way others respond to us by conducting ourselves." To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved" is a maxim worth remembering.Trust once broken is never set right.Not to be believed by a friend is far greater loss than in losing him.

This does not mean you have to be secretive about everything and decline to part with even innocuous information.Trust means not divulging what has been told you in strict confidence. “A true friend never breaches the trust of his companion or stabs in his back. He is trustworthy and reliable. One should therefore always try to be a true and reliable friend”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Begin at the periphery

I read this story narrated by Sudhamahi Regunathan and wish to share for the great message it has.
The story is about Chanakya."Touring the countryside in disguise, he halted in a small village.An old woman offered him a meal.Chanakya was ravenous and so accepted the invitation.He was served steaming hot rice.Chanakya delved into the centre of the rice in his plate, which resulted in his burning his fingers.
."Oh dear!" exclaimed the old woman."You are indeed like our stupid minister Chanakya".
Chanakya was taken aback.The old lady explained: "Never begin at the centre of the problem.Chanakya plans his attacks on the capital city and loses.He should begin at the periphery and slowly make towards the centre.".
Chanakya had learnt a new technique for success.The beginning is always small and at the periphery.But it will unfailingly lead to the centre,one day.