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 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?"


"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?


  1. Having tried people-pleasing, I conclude that we can't please all the people all the time!
    I like the idea of the buttons. Imagine knowing where they are and which one to push when :)
    May all be wired to be happy :)

  2. There was an article that in a leading university a course on happiness was the most popular one.

    1. And the students left markedly happier, I presume 😀