Monday, July 23, 2018

Only what I owe

"People are so demanding. They are never content", I burst out as soon as I sighted my friend.

'There he goes again', I hear you saying, and how right you are. My friends seem never to disappoint you in invariably disappointing me.

"What now?" Why that world-weary tone creeps into the voice of my friends as soon as they talk to me, I will never understand.

"There is this author on my Timeline. I even bought and read the damn guy's book, quite nice it was. Now he keeps putting up Facebook statuses about how happy his readers, who liked his book, will make him if they posted reviews. I mean, come on, why does he think I owe him a review?"

"Does he think he is owed one, now? Or is he merely saying that he would love to have his writing complimented?"

"It is so tough to write..."

"Yeah! I know! Complaining is always easy, praising is so damn difficult. But, if you want to make people happy..."

"Whatever!" I could see that this was going the way our conversations usually went and tried to shut him up. It works rather fine for teenagers, I hear, to shut up adults with this 'whatever' but, unfortunately for me...

"Remember the time I told you to surprise your wife every now and then with flowers and gifts and..."

"I know. Whatever for? I mean, I do my share of the house-work, get her presents on her birthday and our anniversary...I mean, every single thing she has a right to expect me to do, I do, so..."

"People WILL be very unhappy if you fail to do what they think you owe them but almost never feel happy if you only do what what you owe. But, then, were you not the guy who could not understand why I bothered to compliment the waiter at the restaurant for his prompt and courteous service..."

"Yeah! Why did you? After all, you were paying for the service and even tipping him, so..."

"It makes them happy, just as a review of a book you liked would make the author happy. It is your choice to make anyone happy or just stick to doing what you think you owe them. Only, if you want to act that way with everyone, don't come to me asking why people don't like you."

"Why would they not like me?"

"Well...that boss of yours...Raghav or some such...do you like him?"

"Of course not! He is an entitled prig. I slave for two consecutive days, without sleep, to complete an urgent job that would normally take a week. The asshole takes it for granted. Not a word..."

"Why should he? You are getting a salary and, after all, he will take it into account in deciding your annual raise. So..."

So? What does he think? That timely positive feedback is unnecessary because I am getting a salary?

What an idiot!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Communication Lessons III

You know, this wiring diagram idea of human reactions really had something in it. I know, I have not had much success with my phrases but I think that there are these words that act like buttons that evoke defined reactions.

My friend has a theory about it. The chap says people really hate thinking, it is too much hard work, and especially when it comes to judging other people. Like, yes, people do love judging other people, it makes such a nice change from being criticized yourself, but to try to make a good job of it is just too tiring. So, they find it simpler to judge them based on the words they use, which is easier to identify, than the meaning of what they are saying. The latter, after all, means that you have to hear everything they say as well as understand...and who has the inclination to listening to others when you can keep talking yourself?

To be sure, there are some words which you think are sufficient to express some emotions, especially when you do not actually feel that way. Like, "Please get me a cup of coffee" is supposed to be a request, even when you snap it like a general telling his orderly to get him one. AND, if the other person is fool enough to say, "Who do you think I am - your servant?", you can always feel injured and say, "I was requesting you. I said 'Please', didn't I?"

Like saying, "Sorry", as you bull your way through a crowd to get ahead, in a tone that as good as tells the other guy that the only thing you are sorry about is that you did not stomp him into the ground while you were at it. Of course, you were being apologetic about it since you said, "Sorry"!

Yeah, those are cases where YOU think that they are effective buttons but the other fella does not, but, as my friend said the other day, these buttons fail only when you try to evoke positive emotions in the other guy. Comes to the negative emotions, though,...

Take these so-called 'politically correct' words, for example. I have always had the feeling that, when humanity gave up on making people THINK and FEEL the correct way, we decided to stop with ensuring that it was done in how we speak. Which sort of accounts for the fact that these politically correct words keep changing from time to time - what was politically correct, yesterday, becomes incorrect today because the underlying negative emotions - contempt, hate, whatever - still remain, and transfer themselves to the new word with the same felicity with which they infected the old.

But, as usual, the 'politically incorrect' words can act like buttons to evoke outrage, anger and outright hate. It does not matter that the word may be used by mistake while the tone and substance of the rest of what is said clearly shows that the speaker did not intend any contempt/hate/anger. In fact, with people who seem to work mainly on the button principle, you are better off when you spew contempt using politically correct words rather than express respect using the politically incorrect ones. Goes to show that with most of humanity, form trumps substance any given day.

And I with my trenchant opposition to jargon...I dread the day when I, with not a derogatory thought in my mind, say something like, "He turned a deaf ear to all my pleas...", and get jumped on for not saying, "He turned an aurally challenged ear to all my pleas...". Or should it be "He turned a differently-abled ear to all my pleas...", now?

AND before you start jumping on me for my 'insensitivity', let me clarify that being challenged or differently-abled is not something I look down upon. I only have respect for anyone who can handle any of the curve-balls that life throws at her and lead a meaningful life. The point is that, if we thought of any of that on the same lines as, say, having black or brown eyes, if the thoughts had been politically correct always, words like 'deaf' would have been seen as no more contemptuous than words like 'brown' (AND, before you say it, I do know that in some contexts even 'brown' can acquire derogatory status). AND, if those thoughts never do become politically correct, we shall always be hunting for newer and newer politically correct words, because we shall keep transforming the new words into terms of contempt from the very moment they are devised.

Thus, giving the button-driven guys more and more chances of feeling outrage. AND, since outrage is what seems to drive most of social media, maybe that is seen as a good thing.

About time I hunted for a secluded cave for myself, I suppose!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Communication Lessons II

I have always been a people-pleaser. Or, more realistically, a people-pleaser-trier, if that makes any sense. You know, the sort of guy who always tries to please people but...

So, of course, I was finding it tough to understand why I do not succeed. Why, despite that permanent ingratiating smile on my face, and those sweet words (smarmy? There you go, making fun of my earnest efforts), people fidget and squirm and run away at the first opportunity. The polite ones, that is. The rude ones...ah, this is a family blog, so I cannot really type in the words that follow, "Get lost, you..."

And, yes, you guessed it right, enter one of my wise friends who are so full of useful advice. It is just my fault that I never am able to use it to my advantage. But, like that spider in the Robert Bruce story, I try again...and again...and again. (ad nauseam? There you go again!)

"You see, there are some words that trigger off some reactions. Say, if I told you, 'A baby in diapers can write better than you...'"

"Damn you! I ask for advice and you make fun..."

"THAT! See, some words evoke anger, so much so you will even forget it was only illustrative..."

That bulb that lights up above the head of comic characters...it lit up for me.

"Oh! You mean like...they work like buttons? Push one button, evoke one reaction, push another you evoke another? THIS is more like it...tell me what buttons to push and what reactions to evoke and I will write it all down."

Say what you will about me, just get me a rule-book to act by and I am the absolute master. It is only when I am supposed to think for myself and decide how to act and react...

"Uh! You make it sound like communication can be reduced to some sort of wiring diagram...but, then, yeah I suppose that is the only way I can get you to understand anything at all. So, tell me, what do you want to learn?"

"I want people to like me. I know I have to make them happy for that, so..."

"Hmmm! I don't know that people necessarily like those who make them happy. The entire 'hard-to-get' philosophy works on the premise that people respect and try to curry favor with those who make them feel inadequate but hold out the possibility that in time and when they improve...however, let us not get into all that. So, you want to make people happy?"

"Yes!"

"So, in your wiring diagram metaphor, you must first understand the nature of the person. When you push that button, there are those whose wires light up the "What does he want from me?" bulb. There are those whose wires connect to the "He is only saying it to avoid hurting me" bulb. There are those who have had a power-cut. They take it only as a statement of fact and move on. And there are those whose happiness bulb illuminates the room."

Busily scribbling all that, I was wondering if I could ask him to tell me how I could identify who was which sort. I mean, yeah, it is nice to know that all this happens but when you cannot trace the wires to which bulb it links to in each person...

The chap was still going on...

"But, you see, the wires do not lead to the same bulb in that person always. It also depends on who is pushing the button. Like, say, the class topper may have a power-cut when YOU call him intelligent but his happiness bulb will light up if the professor says so. Like that girl's "What do you want from me?" bulb went on when a dumb slob like you called her attractive but the "He is only saying this to avoid hurting me" bulb may go on if Ranbir Kapoor said so...Like..."

There was that dizzy feeling, that so often invades my head when I am hearing lectures, even though I was busily scribbling in all that, in the hope that I could make some sense, and use, of it all later.

"That is not all. There is also this thing called mood. So, even when it is the same person pushing the button, if the person is in a bad mood..."

"Hey wait! You mean, essentially it is like you push a button in a slot machine at a casino? Push it and hope for results?"

"Not exactly...but, yeah, for you it is probably exactly like that. You push your button and take your chances."

"What use is all this then? This is exactly what I have been doing all along."

"Well! You asked me how to make people happy. THAT is difficult. Now, if you had asked me how to make them angry...THERE you push the button and you will get the exact result that you want. No problem about who the other person is, who is doing the pushing, the mood...nothing. Though, yes, whether you get your nose mashed up or you merely add to your vocabulary of swear words...that may change..."

"Say, what do you mean? That the wiring in people is more predictable, more efficient in making them unhappy than in making them happy?"

"Yes. You can push what you think is a button for happiness and trigger off anger. But you will never have a complaint about a wrong reaction when you push the anger button. THAT will never trigger happiness."

"I don't believe it."

"Believe what you will. After all, these days, everyone is so strong on their right to have their opinions. So, if people can believe in a flat earth, why can't you believe that people are wired to be happy?"

He walked off in a huff. With him, at least, that anger button worked and, thankfully, not to the extent that he wanted to try out his fists on my nose.

But what he said? I mean, wired to be more certainly unhappy than happy?

It can't be right, can it?