Think before you ink

Our ability to think before we ink may help us determine our future.  This may be the true barometer of a democracy as much a measure of our true success in life.  Let us first examine this hypothesis on what is a true democracy in society at large.  A nation, where every citizen can at free will express herself or himself without any repercussions or consequences is the foundation of a true democracy.    A country where the vote of every citizen is equal and valuable in determining its future is the crux of a democratic state.

I am lucky to be born in India, the world’s largest democracy and thriving for the last 60 years and counting.  We are multi cultural, truly secular and thrive on democratic values.  We may not be the most prosperous country in the world in money terms but we are the wealthiest in the world in emotional and spiritual power.  This has been possible only because every citizen of India determines our future.  Our constitution makers have ensured that every citizen contributes to the making of India.

The vote of the citizen in India is equal irrespective of whether you are rich or poor and whether you are educated or illiterate.  We are the first country in the world to have 100% electronic voting machines almost a decade back and we proud of our democratic credentials.  While the election commission of India, which is a constitutional body plays the role of an independent watchdog to protect and promote the rights of its citizens, it is each of one of us as independent citizens, who have contributed to this success by thinking before we ink in every election.

Now, if we move to the individual, the significance of thinking before we write something is equally important in our lives.  While everyone does appreciate the value of communications in life, it may be forgiven if we use inappropriate language verbally and seek forgiveness as soon as we realise it or someone points it out to us.  It may be erased from memory and easily forgotten too.  However, what is written down stays engraved in stone and lives in memory for eternity.

We need to think before we ink.  This may be easier said than done. In an era of emails and mobile communications, there is more communication through written forms of emails and chats rather than speech.  This makes it all the more necessary for us to think before we write.  We need to choose every word with caution and imagine the impact of the words we choose on the recipient of our communication.

We need to realise that it is easier to speak than to write.  The more we think before we ink, the better may be our expression and the more its impact.  It is we, who determine how others perceive us.  It is we as citizens determine the future of our country. The kid in the photo above seems to be thinking intensely before he puts his thoughts on the iPad.

Let us think.

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017

Power of Listening

We are all born with two ears and one mouth.  But we generally end up talking more than listening.  Why is this so ?  May be it starts with the family, then the academic institutions and finally organisations and society.  We are always encouraged by our family, friends and society at large to communicate well and make an impression, wherever we are.  We have always been guided to outsmart everyone around us.  There is nothing wrong with this teaching.  However, it is important to realize that God may have given two ears and one mouth to all of us with a purpose, as illustrated by this kid in the photo above.

We possibly need to realize that effective communication in life means listening more and talking less.  Let us examine this from own life experiences.  Who in the family we like to spend our time most.  In all probability, it would be our mother.  This is because she would be the best listener in your family.  She listened to our non stop blabbering and the unending questions without losing her patience or cool ever.

If we move to the school or college, who was our favourite teacher ?  Its always the teacher with whom you can share all your stories – good or bad.  The teacher always created space for us.  She was ever willing to listen to us and our views .  She made us comfortable and let us experiment and fail in any situation.  On the other hand, imagine the teacher who advised you on everything in life even before you asked.  What would be your reaction ?

If we move to organisations, employees love peers or managers who lend their ears under all circumstances.  Such managers and peers attract you like a magnet.  You can laugh with them or cry with them and you can be your self.  They are non judgemental and always have the time and space for you.  On the other extreme, you meet managers who are instructing you all the time even on issues where you do not need any advice.  None of us like to work with such managers.

I have sometimes wondered as to why listening is more powerful than talking ?  I recall an incident, where I was conducting an interview of a candidate for the head of manufacturing position.  The interview lasted for an hour.  The candidate spoke for 50 minutes and I may have spoken for ten minutes.  At the end of the interview, I asked the candidate if he had observed anything in his behaviour during the interview.  He was puzzled.  When I explained to him that most of the time he was speaking and I was listening, he realised the power of listening.  I could listen to him and make my decision without speaking much.

Life is no different.  If we look at our kids.  Most of the time if we are willing to listen to their questions and chatter, they are happy.  They are more than happy even if you do not answer all their questions.  They appreciate your patience and listening skills more than your talking.  Listening is more effective in communication than speaking.

I can share another incident in my life.  My father was a government servant.  He was a very patient person.  He hardly spoke and never lost his cool.  But still his staff  adored him.  I was very curious.  I asked his staff one day as to what did they observe in him.  He responded by saying that he admired him for his calmness and patience.  This proves listening is much more impactful than speaking. 

Let us resolve to listen more and talk less from today.  It is worth a try.

S Ramesh Shankar

Language is not a barrier for kids

Language bridges people from across the world. It helps us to communicate with each other.  We can share ideas, solve problems and help each other succeed because of language.  But sometimes we believe language becomes a barrier between people and even communities and states.  Why does this happen ?  There is no logic to explain this nor reasons to justify it.

Let us look at children.  Have you ever seen children not mingling with each other because they cannot speak a common language.  I have never seen that.  On the contrary, I have even recently experienced my grandson and my nephew’s son play with each although they do not speak any language in common.  Children have a way to communicate with each other without any language.  Language is never a barrier for kids to share and enjoy together.  Why should it be for the elders ?

We have an opportunity to learn from children.  As elders, we make language a barrier between us. We feel it breaks down communication and will easily blame communication as a barrier.  How do children overcome this barrier ?  How do they communicate even without knowing the language of each other ?  I am reminded of a story, which happened in India a few decades back.  A french anthropoligist was visiting India to study in some part of rural India.  He neither knew english nor Hindi.  He was also not familiar with the local regional languages of that part of India.  When asked how he would do his research without knowing the local language, he responded that he would visit the villages and behave like children and then the villagers would respond.  This will help him study their behaviour.

Thus we need to realise that language can be an enabler for better communication.  It should not be a barrier to deal with each other.  It is also interesting to note that more than 70% of our communication is done non verbally.  Hence, how can we blame language as a barrier, which in any case only accounts to that balance 30% of communication between human beings.

It is fascinating to see children talk to each other without knowing each others’ language.  They are not only able to communicate with each other but even able to coordinate with each other seamlessly.  If you see them play a game together, you will see this in action.  What prevents the elders to not do the same? As we grow older in life, our ego becomes the barrrier between human beings and not the language.

We tend in live in own world and refuse to adapt ourselves to others as the situation demands.  Children are adaptive by nature.  They are always willing to give more than they take from others.  They listen more attentively.  This makes them communicate with each other bettter without blaming language or other factors as barriers.

It is time to reflect, un learn and re-learn this adaptive nature from kids.  Their ability to adapt is admirable.

It is time for change.  What do you say ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Sights and Insights