15 July 2014

Of white lies, garbage trucks, life and business

I have attended quite a few corporate soft skills workshops directed especially for professionals and also follow posts on LinkedIn on these topics. There are tips on how to deal with office politics without burning bridges, or how to present to an executive with a confidence you do not really feel or how to deal with a troublesome peer in a non-confrontational manner. All these etiquette lessons basically teach you to hide your true feelings and present a more positive 'body language' so that your image at work is enhanced.

In families too, this is an undocumented truth. Especially in big or joint families, by unspoken agreement, every member follows this mutely. You never question the most powerful or popular member of the family and hide unpleasant facts from him/her whenever possible. You try to please them, as well as their favorites, as that would keep you in their good books and therefore in the family. I get jittery when I hear ladies, or even gentlemen, mouthing back-handed compliments, doling out blatantly false flattery or handing out platitudes at every social opportunity. Sometimes the double standards in their behavior to people at a lesser social status than themselves and to those whom they regard as higher up socially is downright nauseating. Yet, the recipients as well as the spectators swallow it all silently. Its like watching a well-choreographed play where everyone knows their dialogues without a prompter. From families, moving onto society, a similar by-play of little white lies is observed at all levels.

As you enter middle age and become victim to life's myraid eccentricities and diseases, you are introduced to the world of spiritualism. One of the topmost tenets of all spirituality is that we let loose that which is our true self. We should first meditate / introspect deeply and then accept or come to terms with what our inner mind is saying to us. Only when we are honest with that, can we find true peace. You see a lot of folks quitting work, starting their own businesses, divorcing their long time life partner, overhauling their social life and even their eating, sleeping and exercise habits as a result.

Can this whole rigmarole be avoided if people are honest with each other and themselves all the time? Is that even possible? Why do we human beings go through so much trouble to hide what we truly feel and cloak it in layers of camouflage? In our attempt to show the world how happy, successful or powerful we are, we weave such a complex web of deceit that it becomes hopeless to unravel it sometimes. Its not as if everyone is out to rob a bank, but more of applying pancake to the face to hide their true emotions and put on a mask quite unlike themselves.

A very common bone of contention between my hubby and myself - probably between most of the world and myself is - should we judge others by their words or by their action? I am a firm believer in "Actions speak louder than words." If someone has said a lot of unkind words to me but their actions have been just and correct in all their interactions with me, then I see no reason to think ill of them. However, most folks think that how we say something matters most whether or not we act on those words. If I shout while saying something then I'm the most unreasonable person around. If I point out bare facts without sugarcoating my words, then I am spreading negativity at work. Are we not curbing honesty by this? Even if I have been mistaken in judging someone to be too negative or mistakenly badmouthed someone, should that really matter to that person? If one is confident of one's intentions and actions, should the misunderstanding or misinterpretation of others be so upsetting? Of course in such a case, the minute I find that I was mistaken I should issue a heartfelt apology to the person in question immediately. As long as everyone follows this rule, I believe we all can live uncomplicated and peaceful lives.

Sadly, the fact is most folks are too sensitive, too egoistic and too hung up on words. Someone once forwarded me a post on FB - "90% of conflicts start due to tone of voice and only 10% are started due to real issues". Though this is statistically a fact, it is sadly so not right.

To be honest, I myself have been angry at peoples' tone of voice or raised voice against me, or perceived insult to me or my loved ones. By being upset by it and dwelling on it, I only end up spoiling my own health and peace of mind. Is all this trauma really worth it? Yet another FB post (FB guru ki jai ho!) told me that some folks are 'Garbage Trucks' who are intent on offloading their garbage onto you. So if someone suddenly yells at you at work through no provocation from you, then its some other anger that they are taking out on you. But should you assimilate that garbage? Of course not, you just shrug if off your shoulders and get on with your day. If someday they choose to apologize, great! If not, you don't remember it anyway. After all, what they think of you is their business not yours.

Life and business work on such contrasting beliefs. In business, perception management is everything; whereas in life truth is everything. Its a fine line to traverse. Those who excel at business are hence rarely great in life and vice versa. Food for thought?


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