13 January 2010
The new found trends these days are making life in general very confusing and difficult to cope with. I’m not talking about the dressing style developed by the youngsters or the increasing amount of information we get from different sources or even the hi-tech gadgets made every day. Most are aware of the cultural differences that exist while communicating; the body language involved, the words used and even the way we say certain lines as well as the facial expressions that accompany it. However, you’d be surprised to know that differences more detrimental and more “different” exists within the family itself. And as the saying goes, “Charity begins at home”, it would be better if we tried to relate to our family members first.
A very familiar scenario may go like this:
Mum: How was school today?
Teenage Son: Hmmmmm….
Teenage Son: Gooorf! Phoookay! (Munching on a sandwich)
Mum: That doesn’t say much!
And the exasperated mother looks on while the sons walks to his room and slams the door. Clearly, slamming the door means sending out the message, “Keep away! I need my space!”
Let’s not be too patronizing on the teenager involved in the above example and say he reacted the wrong way or even on the mother and say that she wasn’t warm or clever enough to actually get a frank and open answer from her own son. At the same time, it’s easy for us as observers to sit back and say it’s the generation gap problem and it will resolve when time passes by. The good news is, most often than not, it does resolve over time and teens grow into mature adults once they feel they’ve got responsibilities they have to carry out on their shoulders. But the bad news is that, there have been many cases in which irreparable damage occurs and difficulties too hard to cope with arise as a result of this “lack of communication”. Moreover, sometimes people are not able to resolve these conflicts and as a result develop some serious problems in life.
Communication is a tricky business and the way we interact with different people is tailor-made according to the person’s temperament and how we are related to the person as well as on how the other person treats us. Clearly, there is no basic rule by which we should act or any basic principle we should follow to interact with the people around us. However, there surely is a basic attitude we could develop to make it less conflicting in nature. The attitude can be summarized in the phrase, “Gently but Firmly”. “Gently” meaning, the prime concern of every individual is to get the message through such that the other person is able to understand what is being said and how the other person feels about something, rather than trying to force an idea on the other person and prove that he is right. Persuasiveness is a good quality but it does no good to the receiver or the speaker to squabble over something that is of no particular significance. For example, a vegetarian may go on endlessly about how cruel non-vegetarians are for killing animals and eating their meat like cannibals whereas, non-vegetarians could retort back by saying that they would do the same if they knew the taste of meat. And besides, plants are living things too so why isn’t it considered cruel to kill and eat them too?
What about cases in which we need to convince the other about an idea? This is where we need to be convincing rather than forceful. This is one method used by participants in debates. Good debaters are alert and know both the pros and cons of their case. They present their arguments in the form of clear-cut facts and give a sincere and genuine expression of their points. They do it in such a way that people would think that they believe in it and they are justified to do so. This reminds me of a debate I was involved in a few years back. We were discussing the poem, “The Last Duchess” and there were two teams – one who fought for the idea that the Duke was wrong in murdering his own wife, the Duchess, merely because he didn’t appreciate the fact that the young lady had a way of charming everyone around her and the other team sided the Duke. Nobody wanted to be on the Duke’s side of course, because it was quite obvious that his evil act could not be justified. One girl in particular stood up and spoke for the Duke in such a manner that one would be convinced that the Duchess was naïve and utterly stupid in her dealings and that she should’ve seen it coming. She said it in a matter-of-fact way and very simply spoke out what the Duke must’ve been feeling. At the end of her say, it was obvious that even girls with the feminist attitude were nodding their heads. Frankly, I was scandalized but impressed!
By the term “Firmly” I mean the ability to stand for what you believe in and not waver but at the same time to develop a broad and flexible mindset that will help you to objectively listen and reason out what others say to you. Understandably, none of us know everything that is happening around us and people can educate you in several different ways. Incidents can teach you hard core lessons and it would be stupid if you do not learn from your mistakes. However, it would also be absurd if one had a fickle mind and is unable to think independently. We are all experimenters in one way or the other. Some are good while others are bad. Those we classify as “good” are those who have clearly experimented on the different possibilities, including the possibility of our concepts or our beliefs being wrong. Strange as it may seem, the modern world demands the need to question and test everything we see, hear and touch…even question the very core of our existence and beliefs at times. (These are areas philosophers seem to get lost and go “insane”.)
Now that we are familiar with the kind of attitude we ought to develop, let’s see how we can apply it in a practical sense. The following tips (which anyone can most probably google search) will help you a long way:
1) Develop the skill of listening:
2) Talk in a way that is not threatening to the person you are talking to or maybe even arguing with.
3) Maintain your composure no matter what because a hot-headed person may seem immature or emotionally unstable. Confidence is an important (and difficult) trait to develop, especially when you are doing the talking and all eyes are on you. Even if you are not sure of what you are expressing, patiently explain where exactly you are confused or need clarification.
Consider the above three points as the key factors that need to be attended to. But it’s not as easy as it seems. For some, it might come out naturally, but for others it might have to be developed and worked on further. But always remember that, “Slow and steady wins the race”.
A lot of people find it difficult to control their temper. Even those charming ones who seem to wear that amiable mask all the time, you’d think they could NEVER become angry – ever! In such cases it’s not uncommon to hear them say, “You wouldn’t want to make ME angry!” or somebody else say about them, “You’ve never seen him angry? Aaaahh, you wouldn’t want to know!” A common belief among both the young and the elderly these days is the concept that getting angry or ordering people around like Hitler-Reborn helps you get things done your way and that nobody can stop you even if they wanted to. I salute all those who believe in the fast road to developing a cardiac arrest!
Now let’s think like mature adults and reason it out for a few minutes, shall we? Apart from the very detrimental effects of a bad-temper to health, let’s see the after affects of an anger outburst. Picturise yourself in a scene in which you are provoked and you feel your blood boiling. Thoughts like, “I’m going to show him what I am made of!”, “Who does he think he is?”, “I’ll teach him a lesson he’ll never forget”, or maybe merely a list of censored words. You tell yourself not to lose ‘it’…you think to yourself, “what the heck?”, and the next thing you know is that there is a volcanic eruption and hot boiling lava is flowing from your very mouth! The after effects? Well, the recipient is extremely upset. The consequences of course, depend on what kind of person the other person is. If he is as hot-tempered as you are, then he might follow the principle, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”; if he is the inhibited type, he’ll whine and feel real bad about it; if he is the assertive type, he’ll make you look like a fool – you can bet on that! And beware, this might be only the overtly obvious consequence, but that one outburst can start a series of misunderstandings, frustrations, relationship problems and other complexities of human interactions. Neither of these are good outcomes, admit it. On the other hand, there are more pros than cons when you consider the option of remaining calm, cool and not losing your composure.
Another concept that is widely believed (basically because of the common male stereotype developed by the current society) is that you cannot be considered a “man” if you do not react to the situation - the more aggressive you are, the more manly you are considered to be. In fact, what most do not realize is the resultant uncomfortable feeling people around experience whether they are the unlucky victim or a casual observer. Well, let me tell you, it doesn’t have to necessarily be that way. George Clooney is one of those actors in Hollywood who never seem to grow old or maybe he’s got the charm of aging with grace. I’ve never come across any girl who’ve watched one of his films and said, “Ugh! That guy lacks something!” Nor is it obvious in the news about anyone hating him or obviously disliking him. Of course, there might be a lot of factors that contribute to his charm but one trait that really stands out in him is his ability to maintain his composure (surprisingly in real as well as reel life).
In the case of the modern day woman too, people would tell you that a lady without a “stronghold” or a “firm stand” will not make it big in this challenging world where everything is considered a rat race – from being a popular girl in school to making grandchildren obey. What most fail to notice is the fact that many lose the “woman charm” and their dependability when they prove to be hot-headed. In times of emotional turmoil and crisis it used to be the woman who went on and tolerated it till the end with a perseverance that seemed to be almost divine (even though they did shed buckets of tears to vent out the sorrow). The trend seems to be changing now. Now, it’s not uncommon to see both men and women shriek and yell out their emotions without realizing the fact that it’s not helping and that they are merely adding fuel to the fire.
Before making up our mind to change our attitude and start trying to become calm and composed ALL the time, let’s try convincing ourselves about the pros first. I’d like to stress on it by citing an example. I knew an extremely gullible and popular girl in college who got to know that her rival was spreading obscene rumors about her. The rumors were quite convincing and people started looking at her from a different point of view. She lost the trust of most of her colleagues and even a few friends. Although extremely upset about the happenings, she did not react angrily to the situation and relied on the very few friends who knew that these rumors were a lie. True, a few months were bleak and she had to face many hurdles, but slowly people were convinced by her sincere nature and that the rumors weren’t true and her charm and pleasant nature won her new friends. Surprisingly, most even forgot about it and were willing to accept her. All this happened within a time frame of 2 years, but the result was awesome. It was almost miraculous, in a way that surprised me. On the contrary, if she had lost her temper it would have turned out to be an even bigger issue and the outcome would have been the very opposite. Even in such a situation in which she had every right to fly off the handle, she maintained her cool and was rewarded for it. In fact, people respected her even more!
Controlling your temper is certainly not an easy task, especially when you feel that you are justified to. However, if you master the art of anger management, you’ll see wonders work around you. One last advice - occasionally when you lose your temper, don’t be too harsh on yourself…it’s a good start if you first train yourself not to get angry with yourself!!!