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Point Well Taken - Society & Culture

All of us have the desire to be appreciated and sincerely liked by people around us whether they are our family, friends, acquaintances, customers, vendors, colleagues or even strangers.

There is no doubt that pleasing everyone at all times, with our words and deeds is a demanding job. Focusing on situations in a workplace where we need to express ourselves frequently, there is a possibility that our views may not go down well with everyone. For example, if you are in a group meeting, you may be full of ideas that are completely different from the rest of your colleagues. What can one do to make a point without making enemies — or, the least number of enemies — if that sounds more realistic?

Prepare yourself mentally. The best survival kit in a conflicting situation is to have an open mind. One should do proper homework before presenting a point of view and it should be done considering the sensibilities of the others involved in the process. The concept of a ‘generation gap’ is not totally incorrect. The strategy of explaining a point to a gathering of experienced colleagues should be different in tempo and tone from that of relatively younger ones.

Everyone may not necessarily agree or may be biased regarding a certain point of view because of their background and experience. However, one should be able to accommodate other people’s perspectives, looking at things from an angle other than your own, something difficult but possible. Agreeing to a different point of view should not be considered as a matter of ego. All of us are to varying extents the captives of our egos.

Pay attention and listen carefully. We must try to learn as much about a situation as we possibly can. The ability to communicate is not just about speaking well; it also means to listen carefully and actively as to what is being said. The tendency to fast forward and listen to what is yet to be said should be curbed. Judging from the context, we try to ‘anticipate’ what we believe will be said next. The mind goes into preparing counter-arguments for what we have not even heard fully. But our guess may not always be right. We need to be patient and at the same level of the other person for communication to take place.

It is easy to feel offended or provoked in the heat of the moment. Avoid an impulsive response. The most dangerous thing in such a situation is that our emotions control our response, not our reason. It’s best to pause at such moments and recompose.

Manage your stress. Fatigue, anxiety and health problems and even age have an impact on our moods and hence on our responses. Something as simple as a cold can affect the way we respond.

Think of finding a better response. People are not offended by what we say but the way we say it. Don’t say the first thing that comes into your mind. The gap between what you are thinking and actually saying should sound reasonable.

Ideally we need to experiment with at least two options before we begin to speak. The risk of being misunderstood is possibly the biggest threat no matter how good our intentions are. Also, be sensitive of the setting. The same thing said at two different situations may elicit different responses. Also, be mindful that our previous experience in an interaction with a person also influences our responses. If we like someone, a comment will be seen in a broader manner. However, the same comment coming from someone who shot down our last proposal, no matter how genuine, may not go down well with us. This is where the complexity of a human relationship comes in.

What if everything fails? There are situations in life when being silent is more correct than being right. Most people believe themselves to be right most of the time, which in itself is a remote mathematical possibility — only if one was to realize it!