Wisdom//

You Can Go Miles on the Back of a Smile

It doesn’t cost anything but improves the day for everyone.

Whatever we understand as happiness, joy and inner peace, has a snowball effect on how we intend to face our daily moments. During all these years, I have realised on multiple occasions that bringing even a moment of exuberance in someone’s life makes me happy with an exchange of good vibes. This does not come at any cost and with minimal effort.

It is also about the culture of a country or city. What kept me intrigued was my observation for micro-gestures that have the potential to make someone’s moment or, for that matter, make someone’s day.

Chicago learnings

The century leap, year 2000, during one of my early business trips to Chicago, my reflexes made me try to cross a road, thankfully the traffic was light, however, the approaching three cars stopped in the middle and waved at me politely to cross the road. In the elevator, people outside would allow people inside to get out first, with acknowledging smile exchanges. We used to head to a nearby café for lunch and I noticed that one of my colleagues would always open the door. 

Different DNAs, different people

I kept observing human beings, various kinds—ones with no sense of empathy, ones who just want to talk and finish their part, ones who do not listen effectively, ones who write emails which are in your face, one’s who will keep their ego first, ones who do not have the ability to unlearn , ones who are not-coachable, ones who can crack jokes on people but can’t take it themselves and also, the complete opposites in contrast with these. And tell you what, from every kind of person, I learnt something or the other because in essence, people are not toxic or behave in a particular way by their ascriptive value. It depends on the culture, set of values that are fed in at an early stage and how we make the best out of our environment.

A natural impulse of human beings is to think that what we are trying to communicate is being understood at the receiving end. That may be the only real reason why we still have so many debates, trainings and articles on ‘communication’. To me, ‘communication’ is not a soft skill. It is a difficult and ‘hard’ skill.

What I learnt from an interview call

I can never forget that interview call. The global head and regional head organised a conference call with me. The good part, they knew and had seen my work. The way the global head interacted with me, made me feel extremely valued, that had a genuine human connect. I was floored in that 20-minute call and every day I try and work towards a better interaction with people, even my close-knit circle.

How I understand the word environment?

I used to visit Connaught Place in New Delhi a lot, sometimes with dad to have a bite at Wenger’s (still a rage), or Wimpy’s (a rage that time), Janpath for some shopping or going to Kamani Auditorium for theatres. The gol chakkars (roundabouts) were intriguing. I almost always found it challenging to get back to Ring Road (those were the non-GPS days). Not necessarily everyone is good at a sense of orientation. That was and still is a very good example of ‘environment’ to me.

As we move on with each day in our life, there are these gol chakkars that will throw options at us to choose and each option will take you to a different route. In you take the wrong route, it will take you longer. Simple. 

What I learnt from taking the wrong routes

There were people on the street who I took help from and there were four kinds of these people. First, those who know the direction and will guide you, the second type know the direction but will misguide you (I have always found this funny), the third kind do not know the direction that well but will try and take a moment to still help you. The fourth, those like me, who would from each such instance get better at their sense of orientation on the realisation that it will save time. 

Example of a practise that made me evolve

So, I initiated a key result area for myself years back, which is to keep a check on how I make people feel. A good moment or meeting has the potential of creating a recall and this is not about personal branding at all. This boils down to a purpose-driven life with micro-behaviours and actions that join the dots.

One real life example is my experience at the airports. The officers who frisk and do the baggage X-Ray check are essentially doing a thankless and mundane job. When my turn comes, I smile, say good morning/ good evening and ask him, ‘How are you doing’, with a smile. In 100 per cent of these situations, they have made eye contact, smiled back at me and responded back with the greeting with double the energy. So, smile more often (never a cliché).

These are few things that I am sharing from my diary, some ‘real’ things that have helped shape me and my relationships with people, both old and new.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- Marcus Aurelius

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