Sunday, March 10, 2013
Veneer of Transformation
That the trainer who was imparting business communication skills to a group of software rookies was himself talking rubbish, was the least of his faults.
That he was rolling his tongue at all his ‘r’s, ridiculously trying to ape the American accent, was a lesser fault too.
I say ‘fault’ because in a way, he was defeating his assertiveness, his self esteem by trying to imitate someone else, but perhaps, ‘self esteem’ was the subject of some other soft skills trainer, not his, so he could do that.
But the effect of all that ‘putting on an accent’ was abominable just the same.
That, like all mediocre trainers and interviewers, he was trying to bring out not the best out of his subjects but instead their worst, to catch them on the wrong foot, even lead them towards mistakes, just so he would have the chance to correct them, feel superior, give gyan and show off the book learning he had brought with him, was pardonable too, though pitiable.
That those role plays meant to teach us how to interact with the clients were laughable, even a comic relief, for, the way we talk to our clients in reality is a far cry from the joke being enacted before us, that too was not a grave fault.
The fact that he was attempting to teach sophisticated communication (in 3 days), to a bunch of guys who speak English in Telugu, who cannot not speak one sentence that isn’t not blighted with two grammatical mistakes, was the blunder and wonder.
That he, along with hundreds of others in his vocation, was attempting to teach young men and women to grow fruit without first planting the tree was what was fundamentally wrong.
The other soft skills trainers do much worse.
They teach you to fasten coconuts to coriander plants and fool people.
To pretend that you own a banyan tree while you don’t even have a potted plant in your yard.
It’s ludicrous that after so many years of their sham, IT firms continue to send batch after batch of their freshers to these trainers to undergo ‘transformation’.
And these fellas have fancy stuff on their menu!
All of them are 2 – 3 day courses conducted in fancy 4 or 5 star hotels. Why star hotels? Simply because the IT firms’ coffers are bulging with dollars fresh from America and they are happy to shed some to look glamorous.
They teach you all sorts of things.
Body posture –back straight, chest forward, shoulders drawn back, chin up, open arms show openness, closed or crossed arms show your guard is up or mind is closed or whatever…,
different kinds of handshakes, one for manager, one for subordinate, one for client, one to show you are on higher ground, one to imply you are standing on equal ground, avoid the one that implies that you are on lower ground...
look people straight in the eye, use the right pitch and tone while talking, say it loud and clear…
repeat after me three times ‘I can. Yes I can. If you can, why can’t I, if I cannot, who else can…that’s positivity…’;
form teams, throw balloons up in the air, keep hitting them upward when they are coming down, make sure they don’t touch ground, now you know what wonders team work can do…
listening is an important part of conversation – say ‘aha’, ‘hmmm’, ‘I see’, ‘oho’, to show you are attentive…
make your speech interesting – use acronyms, use anecdotes, check if the other person is bored, use simple words, right body language, small sentences…
wear a tie, wear a blazer, you will be taken more seriously, use some perfume, very important – learn to say no…
After three days the pupils walk out of the star hotel transformed - confident, positive, assertive, having high self esteem and great attitude!
The only takeaway from these programs is the dessert that’s part of the elaborate fantastic star hotel lunch menu.
The sudden influx of dollars has resulted in the mushrooming of many professions/vocations that have no useful wares to sell but flock to claim a share in the moolah under one disguise or another pretext.
It took me 10 years’ journey to build all of these attributes.
And it was very little of personality development.
What it was, to tell you the truth, was character building.
And I did not set out to acquire these attributes. I was not directly after them. I did not even know such attributes existed.
As I strengthened my core, my character, my inner worth, these attributes began manifesting in my personality.
Confidence, though people made it sound very simple, would require, I was to realize later, years of work at the foundation and just a few months of polishing at the surface; like an iceberg, all of it except the tip was under the water.
I would go about thinking I was confident, and just then, suddenly, I would be faced with people or situations that shook me, made me feel inadequate, and I would realize that there was more work to be done.
The core had to have more stuff; otherwise, I’d end up being a success among the mediocre, like most of the people these days, who go about being confident.
In order to become confident of myself, I had to, in the first place, discover my’self’, of which I had set out to become confident.
I would first have to discover who I really was, beneath all those different false identities, pretences I might have taken on, for various reasons.
I would have to accept my true station, my endowments, my limitations; and then I had to figure out, what material I had to build my core with – material that suited my natural inclinations, predispositions, ideology…my calling.
No matter how confidently I stated my opinions, of which I always had plenty, whether or not I knew enough about the subject, people were not to be convinced until reading happened; knowledge and information flowed, and my opinions became well founded. Without this foundation, any number of tricks – short sentences, simple words and all would not get people to listen to me or, take me seriously.
Good Listening was not hindered, as I had though, by my absentmindedness, or my dreaminess.
Also, saying ‘oh’, ‘aha’ and ‘hmmm’ was not going to fool the speaker into believing that I was being attentive.
To listen to others, I had to stop being full of myself.
That in turn had to do with high self esteem or high self worth: a quiet knowing that I am worthy and I don’t need unseemly vociferousness to prove my worth to myself and to others.
Apparel, accessories, designer stuff would last only until I opened my mouth.
It was my increasing preoccupation with the subtle, the sublime – music, art, theatre, poetry that brought about discrimination, refined tastes and subsequently, refinement in attitude and real elegance.
Positivity came from a very unexpected quarter.
Religion and spirituality made it happen.
The doctrine of karma explained everything good and bad that’s happens in life. It helped me to see order in the universe. It help me to see reason.
It removed cynicism and fear. The inevitability of events brought dispassion and detachment.
At the same time, it assured me that we are not powerless before karma; good actions and thoughts are our means of bringing good to our lives. That brought hope and responsibility.
When faith was thus restored, security arrived. Positivity happened.
It did not happen by saying positive words three times an hour.
Different people may take different paths in this journey. There may be several ways of ‘getting there’.
In my case they happened to be, (among many other things)
Reading, Writing, Traveling, Culture, A Habit of thought – analysis
Reading a variety of books exposed me to different perspectives and improved my discrimination; it proved very good ‘building material’.
Writing brought about more thoughts, better expression, more writing. And growth.
Culture brought about refinement; travelling, beauty.
Without analysis, all this experience would have amounted to simply rolling without gathering moss.
There were insults from people; resentment, disapproval, feedback – they made me learn too.
A continuous thirst for learning, growing will ensure I change for better and never stop building.
And lastly, regardless of what success you may initially have with people with all your qualities, it is sincerity and forthrightness, which, in the long run, entrench your place among them, help you win people’s trust and eventually their liking.
I am not being self congratulatory here.
I am arriving at the idea that holistic development should be our goal, our aim.
And then what ensues with such development is our reward.
To isolate certain qualities and habits and to pursue them with a view to ‘market advantage’, is simply not the right way to grow.
It’s downright opportunistic. Imagine aiming opportunism at yourself!
The right thing to do is to aim at holistic development.
No matter what stage of life it is, one must start with the fundamentals.
What is at the periphery must be a consequence of what is inside.
Like cause and effect.
One does not directly pursue the effect, one pursues the cause. Effect ensues.
One does not pursue confidence, attitude, assertiveness and such qualities. They constitute the periphery of who we are. They ensue as a result of our pursuing holistic development.
We must build. Without a care for marketing.
It just amazing how far we can be removed from basics guidelines, for how long, and then how many of us!
Just when I reached the end of this article, there appeared, as if with a perfect sense of timing, the cherry on top.
A woman in a high position, presiding over women’s day celebrations at an IT firm, when asked by some girls for a ‘message’, said among other things, “there used to be a time when my father used to object to my wearing trousers….and now, if he sees me in chudidaar, he asks, why are you in this dress?.....
…you have to dress for the occasion, you can’t say you will wear a big bindi, sari, chudidaar,… you can’t say your husband, children are waiting for you… you have to take your career very seriously…’
Many things can be said about this ‘message’.
But to say only one thing, how impoverished womankind must be if their success should depend on their wearing pants like men!