I am quite afraid of the “we need to talk” kind of situations in my personal life and at work, I am worried to see a meeting invite from the manager with just the subject mentioned as “Connect” and no agenda mentioned. Both represent not-so-happy communication, rather, it’s self-explanatory that it’s gonna be a difficult conversation. As one grows, one witnesses such conversations and there is no escape route.
Listening to negative things about yourself is not easy. Let me put it in better words. Listening to the areas of improvement in your work or behaviour is not easy and the first reaction is the defense. Most of us try to defend ourselves even before truly evaluating what we did. This does no good and then makes the conversation even more complicated. Next comes the blame game. It’s kind of easy to push the blame. Isn’t it? But does that make you clean? Think about it.
Over the years, I have been in such situations many times, and the journey from being a naive individual or professional to a mature and experienced one has given me a lot of learnings. And now, I have learned to look beyond the defense and the blame game. What do I exactly do?
While discussing the negative feedback the first and foremost thing that I do is accept the mistake. It’s hard but it’s the best to do! Then I talk about why it happened and what can I do to improve it. Trust me, this makes the conversation easier and short. Post this discussion, I reflect upon myself and disintegrate the feedback. I pick up what is useful and let go of what is not. Remember that not ALL that you get to hear is right or useful. Make your choice. Negative feedback or areas of improvement are not always a bad discussion if you learn to decide which part to keep and which part to let go of. Thus, you can actually turn these difficult conversations into something good.
But what if there is no mistake done by you and yet you get a mouthful from your boss, spouse, or parents? It happens, right? And what’s the immediate reaction of most of us? Yell back? Or revert in an aggressive way? Does it help? Definitely not! What do I do then?
Again, this didn’t come to me naturally but I have learnt it on my way to growing up! I stay calm! Sometimes so calm that it calms down the other person. We all know that one word leads to another and in no time an argument can flare-up. So, staying calm really works in these situations. The next thing that I do is the person what makes him believe that needless to say, in a very controlled tone. Once you know the source, it’s easy to clear the air. In most such situations, the misunderstanding is cleared but not all situations and people are the same. So, after considerable effort, if I feel that the other person DOESN’T want to understand, I end the discussion by saying “LET’S AGREE TO DISAGREE”.
Now, what I do after that is even more important. I shed off all the inhibitions about how good or bad I am in the eyes of that person. Again, this didn’t come naturally to me but I have learned this over the years. Someone has truly said that don’t let the negative feedback DEFINE YOU. You are much more!
So, take it with a pinch of salt and move ahead. Negative feedback can actually help you only if you learn how to deal with it. How do you cope with negative feedback and difficult conversations? Do you reflect upon them? Does it drive you to do better or do you break down? Do share your experience and tips and tricks!
“I wish I was a deaf and dumb person! If I was deaf, I wouldn’t have to listen to all the derogatory things said to me. And if I was dumb, I wouldn’t talk stuff that irritate others. Better still, I think I should die. That would be the end of all my problems.”
An excerpt from a 10-year old’s chat which I received last week after she received a mouthful from well-meaning, but frustrated parents.
As adults, many of us have learned in the course of time to give a deaf ear to the harsh words of others or to mend our ways after getting a dose of constructive criticism which might not necessarily be music to the ears. But, is it the same for children?
There were times when spanking wasn’t really frowned upon. Rather, it was considered to be one of the corrective measures needed to discipline children. There were times when severe scoldings from parents, teachers, and elders made children rethink their actions and mend their ways. At least it was true for a majority of the population, with only a few scattered here and there who took the rebel route.
But, times are different now. We have highly observant children now who don’t hesitate to talk back. Call it genetic evolution or the influence of media or civilizational progress, children today are sharper, argumentative, rebellious, curious, independent, and thoughtful than those of the previous generations. They are not as compliant and submissive as most parents would want their darlings to be. To top it all, they are so very touchy!
There are numerous pieces in newspapers of late, of suicides by children who were either reprimanded for a wrong or refused access to gadgets – all which parents thought are measures of disciplining their children. But, the consequences proved to be disastrous thereby imparting strong messages to society and numerous amendments in Child Laws at the cost of precious lives.
So, what do we do? Give in to the whims and fancies of our children? Stop disciplining them? Use only sugar-coated words and ignore their wrongs? Keep worrying about their feelings and emotions all the time without caring for their holistic development? If our children are always kept in an aura of positivity, how will they learn to take negative feedback in their stride?
These and such other questions are bombarded by worried parents. Well, the approach to negative feedback is different for children and for adults. I will not dwell on those in this write-up. While adults are not expected to be childish in their response to negative feedback, children must also not be expected to behave in overly mature ways in response to criticism.
‘Sensitivity’ and ‘sensibility’ are the two words I want to leave behind for all to ponder upon. Criticisms, negative feedback, reprimands – all are parts and parcels of life. The way they are accepted depends most of the time on the way they are delivered and the outcomes they generate.
It’s a story of the reunion of a man with his daughters. A man had three daughters from whom he got separated. He was leading a miserable life, until one day when the three girls reached his house and asked for shelter, as they were tired of playing. As it was dark outside the man decided to let the three little girls halt in his house.
The darkness was so terrible and threatening. The darkness was an invitation for the robbers to intrude into the boundaries of the house. They slowly started digging the foundation of the house. Their purpose was to crash the house and loot. As the walls trembled in that dark night, so was the man. This is not new to him. All his life he was under constant attack of burglars in the veil of night. He lurked in the darkest corner of the house to save himself. The three sisters were sleeping in the corner where he hid. He tucked himself into a shell, hoping that the violent blows to his house and self recede somehow.
As the man was consumed by his struggle, one of the three sisters woke up due to the commotion inside and out of the house. She saw the man struggling, she rose to help him. She peeped from the window, she could see some light in the distance. Also, she saw how exercise to weaken the security that man had was being carried out. She had a plan in her mind “If I could take this man to that point I will be able to save him”. She tried to pick him up, but the weight of the man was crushing her. She gave a call to her elder sister and immediately she grabbed the other hand of the man. He slowly picked himself up with the help of the sisters and made an advancement towards the door to get out of the darkness surrounding him.
But the saga of fear was still not over for the man. His feet were stumbling over the hurdles placed across his path in a bid to stop him from reaching the light. As the sisters held the man and they were occupied, they called their eldest and strongest sister. She came, fought, and conquered the plunderers, paving a way for the man to make a safe exit from the darkness. The fight wasn’t easy. The attackers kept coming back to attack the man from different sides, the other sisters were slowly crumbling under the fatigue of carrying the man. But the one who was fighting was nowhere close to extinguishing or exiting. She was gaining impetus as she was blowing away her counterparts and a part of her energy she was transmitting to her sisters too. It was a long night before they finally made it.
With the help of the three sisters, that man reached his destination. When he reached the enlightened spot he recognized his estranged daughters and embraced them. He vowed to never ever part from them as they released him from the haunted place he was dwelling in. And they happily lived ever after in the land where the sun never sets in.
End Credits (cast of the story):
Sisters: Youngest Sister – Will; Second Sister – Action; Eldest (strongest) Sister – Knowledge
Man: The Human Soul
Thieves: Vices like greed, lust, anger, hate, etc.
Hurdles: negativity and pessimism in the form of harsh comments, blame game.
Light/ Enlightened spot: The happy space where the mind is in total control of its actions and not affected by the actions of the villains surrounding.
Moral of the story: It takes the three sisters of Will, Action, and Knowledge to accompany a man (figuratively) to cross the hurdles of vicious backlashes and the fear of failure.
People, mostly those who are associated with us in some way or the other pull us down in our life. A random stranger will never do that to us without having a valid reason and when someone we know does that, feels all the more pathetic.
There are three major ways how they treat us to pull us down or be an obstacle on our way to proceed ahead. I call them The ‘S’ Treatments.
Silence: Have you ever gone to your boss and asked him something that you have planned and waited for his response for hours? Later you are made to understand that you have been turned down by him. He used Silent Treatment on you to display his disapproval of your proposal. I don’t know these behaviors of the bosses are prevalent in the corporate sector or not but in small organizations, it is very common. I have gone through it a number of times when I was working.
Even I have this experience at my own home. My elders simply avoid or change the topic or stay silent till I lose my patience of waiting for a YES or NO. It literally kills your spirit.
Sarcasm: Comments or remarks like: “Oh, she will definitely top the class this year” for a girl who is an average student; “He earns so much that we need not work anymore” for a man who’s still searching for a job are called sarcastic comments or sarcasm. Sarcasm has never helped or built anyone. It has only hurt, degraded, and made people angry. And mostly our own family members, our friends, and colleagues use sarcasm to pull us down.
I always share this incident of my life with all. My Nanaji (Maternal grandfather) reacted when I wanted to buy a guitar and learn when I was a kid. He said, “Will you be a bandwala?” And today I can compose songs but I don’t know how to play a single musical instrument. He succeeded to stop me that day and I failed to move ahead. He was a very loving grandfather, he just had this prejudice about musicians.
Sentimental: This is the more dreaded weapon our elders use against us, to stop us. “If you step out from this house, you will never see my face again.” Have you ever heard such emotional or sentimental statements made by your parents? Maybe the above statement was too filmy but there are many such examples that we know that stop us from moving ahead or doing things our way.
At times, we face all three treatments applied against us at different points of time. People try their best to be a hindrance.
In my life, in certain instances, I have let them succeed in their mission of stopping me from doing something that I had ever wanted. But in other cases, I just did what I had to do and felt like doing. If I introspect and retrospect all those instances together, I regret thinking “Why did I let them stop me?” Definitely, we can’t predict our life but when we wanted to do something good in life, we should not be suppressed by these ‘S’ treatments.
Remember, we can defuse the effects of this Three ‘S’ Treatment with another ‘S’ Treatment from our side. And that’s called, “STANDING FIRM“. Standing Firm on our decision doesn’t mean that we will have to be rude, rebellious, and arrogant. We can stand firm humbly as well. Our this attitude will definitely let a person speak out if he is silent, stop him to be sarcastic for long and soften his heart to accept our decision at the end.
There are basically two types of people in this world – those who listen and pay attention and others who hear sounds and choose to ignore. If you know me well enough, you probably would know which side I’m tilting more towards…
If there is one thing that humankind is blessed with, it is the ability to use the words, include them in sentences and be vocal about our feelings – but how sad is it when all that some people end up doing is bring another down by their harsh words and negativity?
I’m no saint, when it comes to using such words – we have all said it, meant it, or even wished it in our minds. I guess it all boils down to what we all have within us, which is called crab mentality.
Crab mentality involves pulling down anyone who achieves or is about to achieve success greater than yours – and how more vocally can one get, by muttering words that would not only destroy one’s morale but also mess with one’s thoughts? – Think about that.
We aren’t bad people, yet somehow we as a race, seem to disappoint on so many levels, that it makes us think, do we deserve what we eventually get in life, in terms of support from friends, family, and well-wishers? Let us look at this picture a little closer, and notice the smaller things-shall we?
There is a man, who as he goes through life, is told that he is useless, an idiot, and even that he is worthless, where-in he finds himself broken at different phases in his life, but what we may not notice is; that he gets up every time and keeps walking at a brisk pace towards his eventual goal to achieve success.
What we can learn from the above picture is; The road in life is never easy, and the more people see you as a threat to them, the more likely you are to be targeted. However, keep going – for tough situations never last, tough people do.
You might have all heard about the half-full glass story, and how that being an optimist, helps look at the world in a better light. I will go ahead and say, being an optimist will get you as far as where your mind can take you, but being a realist is a far better option – at least that way, one is aware of their surroundings and act according to prevailing situations.
We live in a country <India> where emotions run high at the slightest poke, and controlling that, is probably the biggest task, we as Indians can work on.
Learn to ignore the small things, only then, when you learn to do that, will the bigger things not affect you as much.
There is a Chinese proverb – “Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it!” This proverb talks about the necessity of taking risks in life. Whereas at the verge of taking risks, the person has to respond to an awful lot of important questions. These questions often come from within and some of those basic questions are –
How is it possible for me to do it?
Who can be the man of trust for me?
If I end up losing my life and resources?
Well, such a situation reminds my journey from Howrah to Cuttack after my interview in Kolkata. I was barely in my early twenties and it was my 1st solo-traveling experience. I went to Kolkata with a few of my former colleagues to appear for an interview. I was told that the return journey is uncertain, it may take a day or two to finish with all the rounds of interviews. So, I was unable to book my return ticket whereas all the rounds of interviews finished in a day and I was asked to return back to my hometown on the same evening. I was completely new to Kolkata city, in fact, it was my 1st journey outside my home state. I was much worried about how to execute my return journey. Alongside I didn’t have time to book my return ticket. Somehow with the guidance of my colleagues, I was able to catch the right local bus to Howrah. At Howrah station, I was all alone without my journey ticket and had no idea about the availability of trains to my hometown. Sametime, dozens of human trafficking and robbery crime stories seen in Crime Patrol were swarming in my head. After a lot of struggles, I made up my mind. I prayed to God for journey mercy and took the courage to consult someone. But “whom should I consult? If I fall prey to some mischief person?”. I thought it would always be wise to consult a policeman. I found an RPF Policeman, checked his name on his uniform. With his advice, I took a general ticket and grabbed some cookies and a water bottle. When I saw the crowd in the general compartment, I didn’t dare to get inside the bogie. I get into a reserve sleeper class compartment and approached a RAC passenger to allow me to sit and travel the whole night. After a few hours when I was in deep sleep, the ticket collector patted my shoulder for the ticket. In sleepy mode, I simply showed him my general ticket. He looked at me from head to toe and said, “you are in the wrong compartment. In the next station, get out of this compartment.” Since I had seen the crowd of the general compartment, I didn’t dare to change the compartment. Though I was sitting just a couple of seats away from the ticket collector’s seat he didn’t ask me again to get down. He was much gracious to me to remain there.
As I recapture that 7-hour long journey today, it teaches me many lessons.
Life is all about taking risks, making new decisions, and achieving our vision. But to take risks all we need in the first place is courage. Courage to die, if it is required. Those who fear death can never live because it is the fear of death that will always haunt life and will seize our present. In the same context, while summoning Joshua as his successor to lead the Israelites to Canaan, Moses encourages the Israelites “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of the enemies, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you”.
Is courage sufficient enough to help us to take risks? Definitely not! Courage without wisdom is inanity. When we take risks, we are stepping into uncertainty. Our ignorance to step ahead is our call for wisdom. Where to get wisdom? Wisdom is with the wise. The Bible recommends, “If you lack wisdom, ask God for He gives generously without finding fault in you” and secondly, “In the abundance of counselors (wise-men) there is victory.”
What is wisdom and who is wise? Wisdom is doing the right thing at the right moment and wise is the one who lives accordingly. Wisdom always leads to truthfulness, honesty, and life, and the wise long for it. Because of this, “The wise inherit honor but fools get only shame”, the Bible says.