Lesson 1: Communication is open to interpretation, so take care!
Communication is all about growth and perpetual learning. When you shut yourself from doing and experiencing that, it's like shutting the windows out to block the sunshine. You dont realize how badly the darkness can pull you down but the truth is that it really does. You have to open your mind and intellect to experience communication like never before. That is why today's workplace is such a powerful place. Emotions fly high and so do relationships.
At your workplace, if you got angry with someone, do you think that person will understand without being told? Usually, that doesnt happen. But you dont have to take out verbal swords to make a point. So many different forms of communication are available to make things so much easier and structured. You can choose a conversation by telephone, or email, or letters or just call that person over for an open discussion. So many ways to solve conflicts through communication. That in itself can be a great learning. If you look back and see how effective you have become in communicating with the people you work with, that represents your growth and learning curve at the work place to some extent. Think about little things relating to workplace communication. When I think about a colleague who is very caring and perpetually worrying about me, the name "Ranjit" and the image of a slim, intense and professionally dressed girl comes into my mind. She has her little ways to getting me to drink water, take a walk so that I stretch my robotic frame and unwind just a little. Fantastic person she is, it's accomplished without too much articulation or talk. Silent and noble, thats her way of communication. But when it comes to work, she is more intense and capable of bringing out different facets that are vital cues to understanding a project. She makes you really think about things. Interesting, how different people add value to our life at the workplace.
Shambhawi, a young and pretty colleague of mine, with whom my interactions were always about work, shared a quotation with me that she found thought provoking. The quotation was from a book by John Updike titled 'Dentistry and Doubt'. The quotation read like this: " I grant we are apt, prone and ready to forsake God; but is God as ready to forsake us? Our minds are changeable;is His so likewise?" Then Shambhawi told me that this sentence made her think deeply because she often had existential notions about God's presence.
I am sure that I always respected her views but this piece of communication and sharing took it further. I realized how much one can learn from others and utilize it to think deeply and act with sincerity through such interesting tidbits of communication. It made me look back at my life and the lessons that I've learned with greater understanding.
Just by this communication she shared with me, a bond was developed, a sense of trust and understanding formed. It made me see the wonderful person she was. You see what I mean? That is the power of positive communication. It doesnt have to be always related to an immediate task. It can be sharing ideas, thoughts about books and anything that you feel strongly about.
Another time, I was chatting with a new person in my team on Yahoo Messenger and I happened to say something like "Great" and to this, the response was, "Please do not say that. Only God is truly great." I really found that interesting and insightful. It also spoke volumes about the 'real' person.
Remember, the truth is that communication at the work place or any place is open to interpretation by the person who recieves it. Thats why it is always advisable to not respond by email to anyone when you are angry or upset about something. Take time to think it through. Respond and remember to read and re-read before you press the sent button.
Lesson 2: Learning from Differences in People Behavior
I've met so many interesting people across the years. Different values, backgrounds and all that. In fact, its like being in school. You get to meet people who are so different and interesting. Some have great talent to become something in life, but often dont realize it. Another interesting thing about the workplace is that personal traits come to the forefront without people even realizing it!
There was a lady in our midst whom we code named Poodle. Sorry, we couldnt find a more apt name for this lady who was very classy, posh, and wore only designer clothes. She had great style and oozed it till she opened her mouth to speak. Well, the rest is history. She would call her fiance from her cubicle and lambast him and say a lot of terrible things about his parents. She would crib about his gifts not being expensive enough and things like that. Those of us who had admired her style and designer clothes stopped wondering. The funniest part was that she got married and didnt invite us in person but gave non verbal indications that our probation sort of depended on attending it. You cant imagine the kind of tension, heart ache and discussion that we got into, not knowing whether to go for a wedding we hadnt been invited to and whether to accept the veiled threat. Well, obviously, we were raw dorks at the time. Of course, we got angry about being taken for granted. Of course, we dressed up in amazing kancheevaram sarees and attended the glitzy event, even posed our plasticky smiles for the cameras. Now we look back at this episode and laugh about those crazy days when any one could take us for a ride! We learned that its best not to judge a book by its cover:) Ms Poodle gave us gals a piece of advice for our personal benefit:) and this is something interesting: "First thing to do, ask your husbands to give you expensive birthday gifts in advance like diamonds or a tour. Dont let them buy what they want. Demand your right, or else you will get nothing. Once you are married, dont let your husband support his parents, turn him against them otherwise you will be out." Now, you know what I meant when I said 'different,' right? But lets face it. We meet all kinds of people and the important thing is to learn the good things from them and let go of the rest. Easier said than done, I know. But i really work at it even when there are days when I have wanted to scream when I first started working.
Maybe thats why we, grown ups, evolve and grow more at the work place than any other place. It teaches us to communciate, grow and change with times in a way that school education never did. It helps us grow our personality, trim the not-so-good habits and maintain a momentum in learning how to deal with challenges and still strive for excellence. It is not always fun to deal with people who are selfish and mean at the workplace. Sometimes there are those who make it a point to get meaner by the day.
I remember when I first started out in my job in Delhi. It was the most interesting time of my life. We were a team of newcomers from different backgrounds and there was just one guy in our midst. At first glance, he seemed a sweetheart. Suave, well spoken, good looking, posh accent and a hygiene freak. He brought his own expensive coffeemug and flask from home. He wouldnt touch anything from office that may be 'contagious' and got admired by all the girls. After all, who among us knew a guy so literally 'clean' that he would wipe off the coffee smudged marks on his mug with a handkerchief so that it would stay clean. He always looked so clean and well groomed that it was painful to be around him at times. He brought his own expensive coasters so that he could cover the coffeemug from dust or any other particles that hovered dangerously in the air.
You couldnt hope for a more well behaved and sophisticated guy in your midst. Naturally, girls flocked to him but it didnt take long to understand that things didnt look so buttery after all. This guy, lets call him M for Mr. Mean, okie? Yes, I guess you guess that i m being mean but wait till you hear what he has actually been like.
Mr. Mean hates any one coming remotely close to him. If his desk phone rang and rang, you may pick it up to take a message but Mr. Mean will glower at you coz you have trespassed his privacy and 'polluted' his physical space. You have touched his property without asking him first. That sparks off the row. So many of my friends have got totally upset by his remarks because most remarks are so personal and mean. In short, Mr. Mean becomes your enemy no.1. Next day, you reach office. You get some nasty anonymous mails and that continues for days. The desk looks messier than you left it as well. Your desk phone doesnt seem to worka at all. Of course, Mr. Mean has nothing to do with it.
The more interesting part is yet to come. When Mr.Mean wants to give you a file, he slams it on your desk with a look of satisfaction as if he really slapped you on your face. If anyone looked in the direction of his sweety pie girlfriend, he would send hate mails, nasty calls and even threatening calls. It happened with some seniors who filed a police complaint and the calls got traced directly to our dear Mr.Mean. He was unrepentant of course. What did you expect? He said he would do anything to protect his girl friend's honor. I dont know what honor he was talking about. She was the most cunning and know-it-all flirt in our entire department and had boyfriends in every department. Lucky girl, she had brains!
Enough about Mr. Mean but I am sure you got an idea about what I meant. Remember, people at the workplace come from different backgrounds and behave differently. It is difficult to make people behave the way you expect them to. Most of the time, you've got to let go of such expectations and focus on harmonious working relationships. These are the two main lessons to learn and apply when you relate to communication at your workplace.
Ending on a Twitter note that caught my eye just now, and it read, ""There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew." ~Marshall McLuhan, 1964