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Complimenting is an art!

We have all received compliments at some point of time or the other. Some we remember, some we don’t. And then there are those few that we cherish – the ones that bring a smile on our face anytime we think of them. It could’ve been years back, but every time we think of them, the same feeling of happiness comes by again. What is it that makes a compliment tick and stick for so long? Here are a few things that made the difference:

1) How they feel depends on how you say – Firstly, like everything else, complimenting too is an art. And art means expression. Consider half the job done, when you say it with expressions and communicate your energy and enthusiasm behind the compliment. It is such that it lifts the emotional state of the receiver in an instant. Passionately communicate rather than merely stating. Compliment is an expression of praise or admiration not a generic talk.

2) Make it an identity – Anything positive can be made to an identity level statement. For example, you are a terrific orator (instead of, ‘you speak well’); you are a great singer (instead of, ‘you sing well’). This will help them get associated with a positive word for themselves and repeat their excellence in other contexts too.

3) Remember & recall – It is important that you are explicitly quoting what you liked the most. That way, you are giving evidence that you were fully there and focused; and by stating specifics, you are also helping the person understand what the best part about what they did was and help the other person bring their unconscious excellence to their consciousness. Hence repeating this behaviour will be easy for them in the future.

4) Don’t stop just yet – Stating one sentence is easy. But, if you really liked something and truly want to appreciate, be generous with words. If their actions blew you away, the least we can do is sweeping them off their feet with our words, isn’t it? This is one place where we wouldn’t leave a person wanting for more. Let’s just give it to them since they deserve it.

5) ‘Buts’ can be parked – Following up a compliment with a ‘but’ is as good as negating. It is said that whatever precedes ‘but’ is bullshit. Think about it – “I like you…but…” And you don’t even want to hear the rest of it because you know the first part is not absolute. A compliment is strong enough to stand alone. It doesn’t need the support of advises or suggestions. Let’s park them for a later date if required.

6) Stick to the present rather than the past– Sometimes, when we like something about a person in the present, we tend to compare it with the behaviour of theirs from the past which we didn’t appreciate as much. This can backfire at times. Also, rather than spending more time talking about a past that wasn’t appreciated, we might as well focus on the present that we appreciate. The golden rule is ‘stay put with the desired behaviour’.

7)  You could be better, but that is for later – It isn’t about you, so fully focus on the other. Even if you have done something similar, or if you were the one who is responsible for their excellence right now, that is not most important right now. Be magnanimous and selfless in appreciation of the other. A simple sentence like, “See, I told you” or “I did something very similar” can reduce the effect of a compliment. You can’t appreciate and advice someone at the same time!

8) Compliments don’t need cousins for comparison – Rather than telling someone that they were better than another, appreciate them for who they truly are. That way we are truly celebrating excellence without putting down another. When we compare we may forget to see their uniqueness.

9) Don’t miss the moment – As much as the compliment, the timing is also important. Say it as soon as you experience their excellence. Say someone won an award and if you wish them after 3 months, even when you had the chance to wish them the same day …!!!

10) And then stop – Anything in excess loses its credibility. Saying the same thing in different variations isn’t effective. In fact, it makes people think that there’s no depth or content in the compliment. So, it’s good to know when to stop just as well.

As much as it is a joy to receive a compliment, there is just as much in giving a compliment and lighting up someone’s day too. Intent is always right behind a compliment. Getting it right hence, becomes easy. There could be more things to make a good compliment a cherished experience. Feel free to share. And, have a wonderful day ahead!

Speak your Actions; Behave your Words!

Actions speak louder than words – which means what you do is more significant than what you say. However, what if what you say is not consistent with what you do? What if what you are saying is the exact opposite of what you do? You could be doing all the right things, but how often have you seen that your words have gotten you into trouble although you had extremely well-meaning actions/intentions?

In line with this is the other saying – Pen is mightier than the sword – One of the interpretations of this is that words can hurt more than stabbing with a sword. Let’s explore how.

Apparently, there’s a certain tribe in Solomon Islands, where if they want to kill a tree all they do is curse it for 30 days and the tree somehow dies on its own with all the negative energy. On the other hand, there is a beautiful practice in an African tribe where if someone does something harmful, they take the person to the center of the village and tell him all the good things he has done in the past. This helps the person remember the truth of his inner goodness which he had been temporarily disconnected. Click here to read more.

It has been found that even water responds to words. Imagine if 70-80% of our body is comprised of water and if we are using a lot of negative words and anger, that much part of our body gets affected by it.

Why waste all the vocabulary we know in communicating things that don’t add any value and also negate the value of our actions? The only control for a verbal diarrhea is within self – Being aware – Pausing for a split second before speaking. Putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes and thinking how we would feel if they were to use the kind of words we are planning to use. If we say something inappropriate, let’s be quick to apologize and learn. If we repeat the same mistakes, we may not expect to be forgiven always.

If you can align your actions to your intent, why not go one step further and align your words too. Actions anyways take more effort than words. Then why not put in a little more to watch the words and align them accordingly? It will surely go a long way in enhancing the quality of your relationship too. Rather than saying and expecting forgiveness, if we don’t mean something, then let’s not say it.  Why hurt a person with words while trying to save them through our actions? We all use our five senses – so telling someone, “Don’t hear what I am saying, but only see what I am doing”, may be irrational. On the other hand, it’s just so wonderful when caring actions are followed by respectful words.

Give Graciously, Live Joyfully!

We all give. We are constantly in a state of giving love, care, money, time, efforts, dreams and so much more. Giving goes hand in hand with living no matter who we are or what capacity we are living in. And there’s a joy in it. But if everyone is giving, how is it that some of our giving is celebrated while the others aren’t? How is it that some of our giving is joyful while the others aren’t?

Going deeper, while ‘giving’ is a part of our DNA, ‘joyful giving’ may not be as much a part of us sometimes. And that is something that really makes a difference. When I say giving, I am also referring to ‘giving in’. You must be quite familiar with this.

For example: You really want to do something but a significant other in your life is opposed to your idea. If you give-in here, ‘how you give-in’ makes a huge difference. Do you give-in with joy, that what you did makes someone you love happy? Or would you go around with a pumpkin face?

On the other hand, if it is really important for you, are you willing to pay the price? If you are, then take the efforts to explain what’s important about it and go ahead. If it is important enough, fight for it. Else, let it go freely. Holding on to something with half a heart and willing to let it go with another half only adds to the list of ‘un-accomplishments’ or complications.

Choosing to be unhappy because you gave up your dream (OR) choosing to be unhappy because you went ahead with your dream, but someone else is not so happy – is a lose-lose situation. You are then, essentially making a choice to be unhappy either ways. Can you instead, choose to be happy? If you choose to be happy – you can do either and still be happy.

Whatever you do, do it fully and freely. This will enable you to experience the joy of giving or receiving. Halfhearted giving or halfhearted receiving isn’t going to keep you happy or do much good anyway.

You always know why you are doing what you are doing. If you don’t, then stop and ask yourself that question. In that answer rests the key to many other choices and decisions that you may have to make.

If you are letting go of something you wanted, you must be letting it go for a reason. Are you consciously aware of that? Could be because someone’s feelings are more important to you than what you want; could be that you are not ready to do what it takes to get what you want; could be that the price you have to pay is not worth what you wanted or it could be anything else. When you lose sight of the reason, resentment may set in. And that can make a joyful feeling resentful or sad.

If you have decided to donate money for a noble cause, you might as well give it happily. If that’s difficult, don’t bother giving at all. What’s the point of giving and feeling miserable about it or making others feel bad about the fact that you gave? End of the day, people can only influence you. YOU can decide what to do and choose whether to be influenced or not. So holding others accountable for our actions is a strategy to feel unhappy. To experience the true joy of giving, give joyfully and respectfully.

High Five!

I was sitting with a dear friend of mine at work and we were talking about what makes us happy and how does our work contribute to our happiness. She mentioned that although she had many accolades at work, none of them ever featured in her list of happiest moments of her life. She said that happy moments for her would be a time when she went for a walk in the nature or had a great conversation with someone or when she travelled by herself. Curious, I looked within to see if that was the case with me too. Did my work not contribute to my happiness in my larger scheme of life?I figured that for me I had moments from work, from creativity, from people and extraordinary situations that counted for my happiest moments. It was clear that what truly, deeply mattered to me was creativity, people and a sense of accomplishment and what truly, deeply mattered to my friend was a quiet, peaceful time with herself or someone she loved. This insight was so intriguing that I carried it further with another friend asking him what were his happiest moments. He, true to himself, had a balance of people and accomplishments in his list of five happiest moments so far.

It felt like one of those Eureka moments for me. Although when I spoke about it, it sounded so commonsensical. Nonetheless, I figured I’d like to write about this and explore more. The reason why I thought this is so important is because it very clearly gives me an understanding about what matters the most to a person. And for self too, it gives a perspective on one would or should rather spend their life’s energies on if they are in pursuit of happiness. There’s a theme that we find in these 5 happiest moments. Therein is the key or a guide for our future actions.

Think about your day today? How was it? How many moments count for happy ones today? Could that be a feed for your tomorrow? Else, what would you want to add on a daily basis, that can add up to your happiness factor in a day (could be based on something from your happiest moments in life). It doesn’t have to be that if my day of marriage was the happiest – I’d want to get married everyday! J It could just mean that there is something about the person who I married or about the marriage itself that makes it count for my happiest moment. So how can I add to that factor in my everyday existence is the thought.

Think about your colleague or loved one. If you know their five (or key) happiest moments – you’ll know that as a person they are happiest when they deal with challenges and emerge – or when they are with people – or when they are by themselves doing something or the like. That would give you a clue in terms of how you could engage with them in a way that makes them happy and productive too. We don’t have to necessarily ask. People keep talking about things that make them happy quite often. Are they activity based, people based, situation based, recognition based, place based etc? You can know the criteria for motivation for that particular person. What a powerful way would that be to influence someone positively? We can create experiences that would matter the most to a person. So, I know when my friend comes home the next time, all I need to do is take her for a walk and engage in great conversations as we usually do. 🙂

Devotional Perfection!

This is not about the kind of perfection we usually think as an illusion or tease people about. It’s not about the end result. It’s not about being obsessed with perfection.

It is about dedication to a process…committing to do whatever we do to the best of our abilities. Perfection is all about giving your best to the process and enjoying it all the way.

The Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore and Akshardham temple in Delhi totally blew me over with their dedication towards perfection. At Isha Yoga center, whenever we entered a hall (about 150 of us), we would leave our footwear outside very erratically. However, by the time we came out, our footwear were always arranged so neatly, that we were able to spot them in seconds. The humility, patience and dedication with which they went about all the chores regardless of the nature of work were truly stellar. I figured that work is not big or small or important or less important. Work is just work and how we go about it makes all the difference. It appeared as if everything used to be in divine order all the time.

At Akshardham, I was enthralled by its magnitude and the architecture. It was nothing like anything I had ever witnessed. It must have taken a mammoth effort to construct the place. It has been over 8 years since construction. However, it looks as good as new even today. I loved the dedication with which it is being maintained. In this day of cell phones, cameras and laptops, nothing is allowed inside. Everything has to be left behind and you enter, just as an individual. For those who are addicted to phones, they might think they’d come out after a quick glance. But once they enter, they are not their own anymore. The breathtaking beauty and the magnificence takes over. The next many hours would be one of wonder and awe. Nothing else seems to matter more. By the end of the tour in Akshardham, one is so enchanted by the place that the sense of self becomes one with the universe and the richness of life becomes evident.

If the people at any of these places were obsessed with perfection, it would have had a very different effect. When we are obsessed with something, we get ornery and upset if things don’t go as expected. Whereas, when we are devoted to the process, we value everything that comes along. We seek to strengthen our commitment to the process and the people around in spite of all odds. It’s a humbling experience for those around as well.

I have also had the opportunity to meet some fantastic leaders who were so committed to everything they did. When I met them for half an hour, they put aside their phones and laptops and only focused on their conversation with me. It was like I was the most important person and talking to me was the most important thing for them to do at that time. I felt valued.

With the new age technology, where we could have multiple conversations simultaneously with people, I wonder if at times, am I giving the person in front of me the time, attention and importance that he or she deserves. When I am eating, I wonder if I am truly appreciating what I am eating. When I am breathing, I wonder if I am grateful for my life.

When someone asked a Zen master ‘What do you do?’ he said, ‘I eat when I eat, pray when I pray, sleep when I sleep.’ How wonderful! Intentional living – perhaps this is what it is all about. Living life’s moments perfectly rather than perfecting life itself.

How much is too much!

In a store I know, the owner decided to sell a particular set of t-shirts at extremely discounted rates. Reason being, there was an event coming up and last year, for the same event, free t-shirts were distributed. This time, however, since the economy wasn’t very strong, there were no free t-shirts being given. He had a noble thought of selling the t-shirts at discounted rates so that people with moderate incomes could afford them and make it for the event in those fancy t-shirts. Noble as the thought was, the store opened and people flocked in. He saw people buying shirts in 10s and 20s. And these were the seemingly well-to-do people. Curious, he asked one of them, “Sir, what is your plan with buying these 10 t-shirts?” The man replied, “These are being sold at throw-away prices. I thought I could just buy and keep them and if I ever want to gift or reward someone over the next few months or years, I could use them for that.” The store owner was shocked. With a well-meaning intent he had offered the discounts. However, most of the t-shirts got taken by the ones who already had and were buying only to hoard. Eventually, when the people who actually needed them came to the store, they were disappointed because they either did not have their sizes or the store ran out of stock.

When I heard this story, I wondered how most of our actions may be impacting the world around us similarly. Earlier, people used to save for a rainy day. However, nowadays, our saving has turned into a sort of hoarding and this very hoarding is bringing those rainy days closer to us. In the city that I live, around 40-60% of the apartments are lying vacant apparently. Owners have purchased apartments in order to save – one per every family member (and some even higher than that). However, they would need only one roof to stay at the end of a day. The others are for rent. The need is not so high though – be it for rent or for staying. The implications of this mindless buying or so called investments are huge – It is actually bordering on the lines of being a disease, a mass madness. The city is expanding on all sides; trees are being cut massively to make space for newer constructions. Global warming is increasing. Every species is endangered, including our own. This is just one such example of hoarding.

Let’s look around us and within our household. How many of the things that we have are things that we actually need and how much of it is unnecessary hoarding? Is there someone else who might need that more than us? Can we offer it to them, can we sell it? Can we make our surroundings lighter and brighter by getting rid of excesses? It’s not that we shouldn’t indulge at all. We may. However, let’s draw a line. A sanity check perhaps? Like they say, eat to live, don’t live to eat. How about acquire to live, don’t live to acquire.