Tag Archive | respectful

The tough part of Change!

What is the toughest part of change usually? That change is out of our comfort zone, that it is new, that it needs time, that it needs acceptance! Perhaps all these and many more – but the most important part is that sometimes we spend a lot of time trying to change others more than focusing on ourselves. That makes it really tough as we cannot change anyone. The only person whom we can change is ourself. However, we can always influence a change in others.

You wanting the other person to change is not a bad thing. But change can truly happen only when there is a deep desire from within the person. When we enforce a change on people whom we love, even with the best interest in mind, it can backfire and move people away from us.

Sometimes we have certain conditions on the change of the other person. Say, if we place a condition for our happiness based on whether someone else changes or not, that’s the start of trouble; mainly for 2 reasons – one, it is not in our control. Two – it may happen or it may not happen. So, if we spend a lot of our energies trying to change someone else, we should be well aware of the above conditions and be prepared accordingly. Just because someone is our husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, parent etc. doesn’t mean that they have to listen to us and change – even if it is in their best interest.

Can change come with choices? Can change come with flexibility? Can change come with respecting what the other person wants for themselves too? Yes – then we are talking about a win-win. A change not because you want it, but because it will enable the other person.

One fundamental question to ask ourselves before we try changing others is – “what is it that I need to have within me to accept this person the way he/she is?” “What should I have in me, so I can accept their behavior?” And when you strengthen that aspect in yourself to accept people the way they are, and love people for who they are, your ability to influence others will be greater – because you are in harmony with yourself and others. No amount of force can get you what a little bit of love can. 🙂

We can’t force a bud to bloom. I know that regular walks can do a lot of good to my parents. Yet, I don’t need to keep telling them that in every conversation – then I am almost bugging them and refusing to see anything else apart from that one thing. I am so fixated on this one aspect that if I hear a no for this, I am pretty much zoned out to listen to anything else that they might have to say. So, think about it – if that one change is making you lose focus on everything else that the person is or does and if we are insisting on looking at just that one aspect of change – it can be frustrating – not just for us but for the other too. The more we persist, the more they resist. If you want someone to keep you posted on all that they do and wherever they go all the time, it may not happen. But if you can let go of wanting others to change and just be an example of what you wish to see in them, they will eventually be influenced by you.

At times, relationships are strained not because they don’t love each other but because one of them is constantly focusing on that one thing that they don’t like in the other and expects them to change. It prevents them from seeing all the other good qualities they have. Life seems like a constant struggle trying to tell someone to change, change, and change! But what we don’t realize is – people automatically change, if we stop telling them and love them anyway.  I can always tell someone, “It would be wonderful if you woke up a little early.” But if they don’t wake up early, that doesn’t mean I have to be grumpy and spoil their and my entire morning – that causes the strain.

There’s this popular old English movie called Pretty Woman, where Richard Gere with a gentle smile tells Julia Roberts,” When you’re not fidgeting, you look very beautiful and very tall”. I loved the way he said it – a positive influence and a gentle way of stating something in a way that the other person gets immediately. He did not ask her to stop fidgeting or that she doesn’t look good when she fidgets. He only said that she looks good when she isn’t fidgeting. What a way to influence I thought! People may not readily change their views or habits for our sake or even for their own sake. But that shouldn’t determine how we are towards them. We can always communicate what’s important about doing something a particular way or being in a particular way. But that point of difference needn’t be the only thing to focus maximum energy on most of the times. Can we mutually co-exist with different points of view? And again, all this is for self. If you have someone in your life who expects you to change, and your heart is not in it, rather than expecting them to change their views first, see what is it that you can develop in you that will help you deal with them in a respectful and loving way.


My ‘GRAND’father

A very charismatic and learned man – always dressed in impeccable white – just like his character! His aura was such that anyone who saw him stood up in respect automatically. The man I am talking about – Ramaswamy – My adorable, admirable grandfather.

I can talk about the various roles he played from society’s perspective – like he retired as a Deputy Collector and was the most learned man in his entire district, etc. However, I’d rather talk about the man that he was above and beyond all the roles he played and the unforgettable impact he had in my life.I wonder if my life would have been as rich as it is without his invaluable presence!

He used to come visit us 5 times a year for sure (if not more) – those were my sister’s birthday, mother’s birthday, father’s birthday, my birthday and my parents’ wedding anniversary. He never missed coming. And every time he came, he’d give these crisp currency notes as a gift – we’d look forward to that – not because it is money but more because we never get to see such new notes without a single fold. I used to save my money inside a book and keep it away for a rainy day (something that I don’t do very well now 🙂 ). Even after he retired, he continued giving us money – I never found any difference in him post retirement – he still used to shave, dress up in those freshly pressed, crisp white clothes, hair neatly combed, the same zest for life, the same schedule, the same helping nature, moderate on food – nothing changed. I never knew retirement meant something because he made it feel like a man is just as useful and wonderful and fantastic regardless of whether he is in service or retires – it depends on how he continues to lead his life – with dignity and respect. He continued to be the head of the family – guiding people on important decisions like marriage, kids, education and work life.

I, for one, was the luckiest of them all – every time he came home, his evenings were exclusively meant for great conversations with me as a 7 year old. I used to ask him for stories from his younger days – pre-independence era – how was life back then – and boy o boy! What great stories I heard. I grew up listening to his stories – and I was so inspired that I told him I’d write his autobiography! My grandfather laughed and corrected me explaining – it would be a biography since I’d be writing it. It would be an autobiography only if the person himself/herself wrote it 🙂 . He was brilliant in English Literature too. Shakespeare and Milton used to come alive – I learnt Shakespearean lines much before kids of my age could. He quoted verbatim from Macbeth, Hamlet, Paradise Lost etc. He helped my mother with studies when she was preparing for her Masters in English Literature with 2 little brats in the house.

Though I was quite an introvert as a kid – there were 2 people, who I recall having great conversations with – one was my mother’s father who I have just described, and the other was my father!

A lot of values, respect for language, respect for people, helping people in need are things that I have learnt watching my grandfather.

Wait! Before I end – I just have to talk about a recent fantastic interaction with another elderly gentleman Mr. Chidambaram who came for my training program with his grandson. He came to me and said, “My grandson, who is in 10th grade wanted to attend this training and we stay very far – so I came along with him.” I thought, how sweet of him to take all the trouble, start early in the morning, change two city buses and reach the venue even before I did! What a commitment! What amazed me even more was – although he came to accompany his grandson, he participated in the training program with the same amount of curiosity and enthusiasm as a child would – like a clean slate. It was a humbling experience for me to say the least, to watch him learn and contribute in such brilliant ways. I salute the spirit! It’s inspiring to see such models of excellence. Following their footsteps, I am looking forward to growing up graciously and aging wisely. What else could I have, but respect for yester year’s youngsters and today’s shining stars!

We are who we are because of the inspiring generations before us, who live for us. It is now our turn to take care of them just as much as they take care of us with their unconditional and undying love.

When you don’t know what to say…

A man was having a heated argument with his wife in a hospital. He was telling her there was no need for her to get anxious and come to the hospital. He would’ve let her know if there was anything to be worried about. The woman on her part, kept saying, “How can I not get anxious? I have been trying to call you so many times and there was no response”. The man continued to yell at her for worrying and eventually the woman began to cry. That’s when the man mellowed down and said, “Okay, I am sorry! I should’ve called you back. I understand your concern.” He apologized for a few minutes and then, the woman calmed down and both felt better.

What happened in the first few minutes?

The man was trying to validate what his wife went through (anxiety). From his point of view, it did not make sense. Hence, he could not understand and was getting irritated. After a while, the man paused and tried to understand what his wife may have gone through, without trying to validate or justify. He moved from thinking in his shoes to the other person’s shoes. That made the difference.

Sometimes, there can be situations where we may not know what to say. Below are a few things that could be considered during those times:

It is their experience, not ours
The moment we validate someone’s experience or emotions, it is tagged based on our subjective interpretation and filters. Hence, what follows is based on thinking in our shoes. Rather, if we allow a person to experience what they are experiencing without any judgment, rationalization or validation, it is easy for them to express and move on. What we resist usually persists. The more we try to tell someone that what they are experiencing is not valid or valued, the more they may want to hold on to their thoughts or emotions. It is those times when we can think in others’ shoes, we have a larger influence.

Allow them to express
Often times, for lack of better things, we may want to say, “Why do you worry”, “Don’t cry”, “You shouldn’t cry”, “You shouldn’t feel bad” etc. when they are neck deep in sorrow. It may be better to allow them to experience and express their emotion than asking them not to feel a certain way. It is better expressed than repressed. Sometimes even saying “Don’t worry” could fall out of place if there’s every reason for the person to feel obviously worried. It’s good to weigh our words against the situation before speaking them out. Allowing natural human emotions to flow is healthy. Intervening may be required only if things get out of hand.

Acknowledge and Appreciate
Instead of the above, saying things like, “I understand” or listening attentively can be very comforting as they acknowledge what the person is going through. Acknowledging doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing. To acknowledge, is to understand. Agreeing is approving and validating that what they think and feel is right. It may or may not be necessary depending on the situation. There’s often something that can be appreciated too. For example: Appreciate the strength with which they are going through. It adds to their confidence.

Save the unsolicited advice
Troubled times are usually when advices may not land very well too – no matter how good. It may be best to save our ideas and advice for later and just stand by them for now.

No “I told you this would happen”
Someone is already feeling bad for a thing that went wrong. This would be the wrong time to say, “See, I told you”,
“I warned you” and the like. This only aggravates the guilt or bad feelings. What is important when things go wrong is for them to feel that someone is standing by them without any judgments or criticisms and will be there for them. People learn faster and better in unconditional positive environments.

One size does not fit all
Different people have different coping styles and reactions to similar situations. An open space from our end will help us understand what is their preference and how could we be there for them. If we are unsure of what may be an appropriate thing to say or do, standing in silence and expressing solidarity may be very supportive.

Times where Silence is truly golden
Not everyone may want to talk right away. Sometimes, it is best to give them time than force them to talk. What is important for them to know is that you are there for them, anytime. Whenever they feel like talking you are right there and that you truly wish whatever they are going through, gets better soon. Works wonders. Works better than being inquisitive in that moment.

The one time when silence may not be beneficial is when a person is in a self-critical mode. When a person is being self-critical, silence may come across as an acknowledgement or agreement to what they are saying and that is certainly not what we want to do. It may just make them feel worse. Here’s where it may be useful to tell them good things about themselves or things that assume positive intent on their behalf behind their actions.

My problem is bigger than yours
No problem is big or small. Even similar problems are unique to different people because people are unique. Telling someone that we have experienced or heard of bigger problems than theirs may not be most respectful. We are not there to compete on who has the biggest problem of all.

Sharing stories from the past that had bad endings may not be helpful either. Rays of hope are most welcome. Experiences can be shared in a neutral way (not as advise or suggestion) if we think they can boost the overall morale.

One of the most beautiful aspects of being human is about wanting to be there for someone when they need support. That is the propelling force behind wanting us to get it right – because it means something to you and someone you love too. Good luck and God bless!