Hey! How are you?

c2b31202-7694-4fab-8b8a-812cb68b7e85For the longest time, having worked in corporates and subsequently with them in a different capacity, I have wondered about the relevance of this phrase. I have lost count of how many times, how many people ask me this question, more as a means of registering their presence rather than as an intention to really know me. You ever feel that?

I figured there is a simple hack that you can use to tell if the other person really wants to know how you are doing (and there are some really nice, genuine, caring people in my life who I am grateful for). If they pause after asking, look you in the eye and wait for even a couple of seconds, know that they are at least somewhat interested in how you are doing. The sad part is, most times, people ask you how you are doing and then move on hurriedly to do the next thing or say what is on their mind, the reason why they uttered those words from their mouth to begin with.

Unfortunately, many of us experience this at home too. You walk in and your spouse asks ‘How was the day?’ and then turns to his / her phone or the TV. Many of us do this with our kids too, especially after kids return from school. ‘How was school?’ and then somehow, the attention dwindles and the kid can be raving or ranting but we might get disengaged and won’t have a say in the matter.

Let us pause for a minute and think about what this does. What does this do to you when it happens to you? How do you feel? Well, for one, you certainly don’t feel special. If you have had a bad day, you probably feel worse knowing that what you say does not really matter. What happens subsequently, is a sad, slow breakdown of relationships. Why? Because communication is the backbone of any relationship. Asking a question and forgetting about it is not communication. Having an intent to genuinely know how the other person is doing, being curious about it and being open and present to listening is what communication is all about.

All our fancy gadgets do play a major role in taking the attention away from where it belongs. Keep gadgets at bay – off or silent when you meet people, even if it is for a few minutes. The world will not end, I promise 🙂 Some people have event started making gadget free zones at home. Try it!

So the next time you ask someone how they are doing, pause, look them in the eyes, wait for them to share what has really being going on. Who knows what might emerge. Kids learn by role modelling. They won’t have to sit in a training program on communication skills later on in life if they know this simple way of connecting!

So, how are you doing, my dear reader? I do hope you are doing well. Unfortunately, this blog is one sided so unless you leave a comment, I really would not know how you are doing. I would absolutely love to know, so do share 🙂

P.S. I am writing this post after a long break. I have been off writing for a while, thanks to my spiritual pursuits, so thank you for being around and reading it 🙂 Enjoy the present!

 

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Circle of Positivity

1I have been doing a lot of reading and research on Happiness of late. Happy people are a resource I always recommend to participants of my workshops,  although it just struck me that not everyone might be purposeful about forming such connects. If you intend to be happy, there is an invaluable resource you must be purposeful about tapping into. It is, what I would refer to as a Circle of Positivity. This circle is really an imaginary circle surrounding you, at all times, acting like a shield when you need protection, like a source of strength when you feel weak and like a sponge when you feel overwhelmed with negative emotions of any kind. It is quite remarkable if we think about it this way but unfortunately, not all of us consider creating or rather, curating one for ourselves.

Many of us would have heard about the vibes we get from people, about auras, about negative and positive people, about energy vampires and various such constructs. Simply put, there are people who raise our energy levels and there are those who tend to deplete them. If we pay close attention, any one interaction is often enough for us to gauge the impact that a person might have on us. However, not many of us are purposeful about making time to spend with those people who enthuse us, energize us and fill us with positivity and hope.

Most times, we flow through the day, moving from one interaction to the next, from one task to the other and from one place that leads us to the next and so on. This is essentially, flowing through the day on a default mode. An alternate would be, a design mode, which is governed by an intention. While we do complete tasks and meet the people necessary for the same, we do ensure that we make time to interact with those to help us dip into the source of energy that, perhaps, all of us draw our energy from. It could be the sun, or the supernatural or anything else you might believe in – but there is, certainly, a source.

Surrounding ourselves with people who exude positivity and those who leave us with a sense of possibility and recharge us, is almost a life skill. If you are familiar with Buddhism you might have heard of the ten angels or you might be familiar with any other such similar concept which basically indicates that in times of distress, there are people around you who are there to pull you out of your situation. If you think about it, you already know who these people are in your life, They could be in your family, your friend circle, or even at work. What if we plan to include them in our lives everyday instead of reaching out to them and hoping they would be there when we are really down and out? Imagine how that might infuse us with positivity each day and might, in turn, enable us to be that source for someone else. I hope not having time is not the excuse you might be planning to cite for not being able to do this 🙂 You do know that not having time is the world’s favorite excuse!

So who forms your circle of positivity?

The Match

maxresdefaultBefore you read ahead, let me clarify, this is not a blog about sports  🙂

I was reflecting today on what makes people differ in opinion, in values, in ways that leads them to disagreements and almost pulls them apart. It all really boils down to different people operating in different planes.

Let us say, one person wants to go right, the other wants to go left. They meet and they start walking. Oh..but..I thought..no..actually..well..awkwardness! What just happened? It was all going well until, they started walking. That was the beginning of awkwardness.

What really happened was that two people, wanting two different things, never really discussed what they wanted. Leave alone discuss, never thought it important to articulate it, to state what they wanted.

The result – a mismatch. The root cause of a mismatch is not stating what is on your mind. Multiplied by many instances, it leads to broken relationships and irreparable damages which take eons to reverse, if they ever do.

How does one avoid it? The thing is we do not live in a homogeneous world. We will always have mismatches everywhere, with everyone we meet about something or the other.

If we could only find a way of sharing what is on our minds. Talk more. Really talk…connect…despite the distractions of the environment around us. Share with people what you want often…what makes you happy…what you are looking for…what you are not ok with..it helps minimize mismatches..helps reduce stress and heartburn…and eventually…makes for a happier life.

So, what DO you want? WHO should you be sharing that with? WHO else needs to know that?

Go on..get started…the list of MATCHES that results keeps growing..and you will see, so does your happiness 🙂

 

Honey, the stork is here!

getty_rf_photo_of_parents_kissing_infantIt is one thing for a husband and a wife to say that they are ready to have a child and it is completely another to make adjustments on a daily basis so as to preserve the marriage, even if it is at a steady state.

If one were to plot the graph of the relationship between the husband and the wife before and after a child, it would obviously vary drastically from couple to couple but I suspect what might be common would be an inflection point which marks the birth of a child.

So what happens to a marriage after a child is born? I am sure each of us have very different experiences, though by and large, I would contend that most mothers tend to get impacted at multiple levels: physically, mentally and emotionally. It is tough to not be able to get a full night’s rest night after night after night; to keep track of the household chores; to prepare for the socialization that follows and of course, to have to deal with a new addition to the family who now needs your love and time, more than you sometimes believe you might be capable of giving. Added to that, dealing with the weight gain and the resultant self esteem issues coupled with the sometimes drastic decisions related to one’s career, do make for a phenomenal degree of change.

While the mother grappling with these changes, the father is perhaps battling with emotions of neglect and is still getting used to being second on the priority list. It is tough for the man, to suddenly realize that not being responsible is no longer a choice and that a lot more is now expected, of him, apart from also having to deal with the mood swings of the wife. Financial pressures could set in or perhaps just the thought might be disturbing enough. Additional people staying in the house might add to the chaos and the amount of change in everyone’s routine and expected set of tasks is quite the recipe for flaring tempers.

What does this do to a marriage? The entry of a child in a marriage puts the marriage through a very stringent test. It is important to acknowledge that the birth of a child is just the beginning of a permanent and big change and that any change requires people affected but it, to adapt. The time that the husband and wife could earlier take for granted now needs to be planned for, rationalized and sometimes, skipped. Being able to plan for alone time to spend as a couple and discovering new ways of having fun as a family are early signs of adapting to the change. Change is tough but brings with it new opportunities.

A child is born. A change has happened. The point is, are you up for dealing with it? The answer to this question can have a lasting impact on your happiness and that of those around you.

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column on Relationships written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).

Shape up

keep-calm-and-prepare-yourself-1Imagine that every relationship you are in, presents itself in a 3-D shape. Choose your favorite shape – a sphere or a cuboid or whatever.  Imagine you are in it, with the person with whom you share this relationship. And this could be any relationship – of any kind. Could be with someone from the family or a friend or an employer perhaps. The point being, that when we are in a relationship, we try and sustain the shape we are in. We try our best to let the cuboid remain a cuboid and not transform itself into a sphere lest it create discomfort for us. We hence, also try and play it safe with our relationships and fear experimentation.

As and when we find the nature of our relationships (viz.  the shape we are in), changing, from what we originally thought it might be, we start feeling uncomfortable and do take a while to get accustomed to the ‘newness’ it presents to us. No wonder then, we take time to ‘settle’ into a new relationship..are unsure..need time..and all of that. We are really trying to figure out what shape we are in and how to keep it from distorting.

The birth of a child does, in most cases I know of, unsettle relationships. Could it be because we forget that with the addition of one more person, it is time for a new shape and we perhaps are still trying to force fit ourselves and everyone else into the old one? A parent moving in with his / her children or a child moving out once he / she grows up; a spouse who has started to work or another who has given it up – all present us with an opportunity to recreate the shape of the space we are in so that it becomes a comfortable setting for all.

So, why would we, then, want to be fixated with something that is old and want to retain it, knowing that it has the potential to make everyone uncomfortable?

Welcome change. It is an opportunity to create life all over again.

So, what shape are you in?

The Bridge

T-C-header-cleanerRemember those times when someone who you thought you knew really well, did something or said something which stumped you and you thought ‘And I thought I knew this person all this while..’? I have a theory on why we end up in situations where we end up disappointed and would love to hear from you what you think about this.

This is not the Charles’ Darwin theory of evolution…but well, on similar lines, the theory of evolution of the psychology of people. Human beings, we all know, have evolved and we continue to evolve biologically. We do know that over time, our brain and our capabilities have evolved too. We are witnessing some of the youngest minds prove themselves better than some of the older, experienced ones and certainly, evolution is apparent. The thing to think about, and honestly, I found this thought a bit spooky, is that everyone around us, is evolving, constantly and well, so are we.

So? The thing is, that if we know that everyone around us is evolving, then, are we evolving at the same pace? The answer in many cases might be – not always. We all know of relationships that sour over time or just lose that spark or children who find they can no longer connect with their parents or vice versa. What happens? Well..everyday, each of us, go through a whole bunch of thoughts, feelings and emotions. We might think something, feel something and end our day with some thoughts. Every day, we evolve. We don’t know into what and we don’t know by how much and most people around us don’t know that too because they are busy evolving too!

If we did consciously acknowledge this constant evolution, then, perhaps we would get up in the morning and think..ok…now, let me think about how my spouse might have evolved post this travel and what I need to do to get up to speed so I can evolve a bit in that direction…or we might sit down with our friend and recount the many experiences and feelings and emotions they have been through to gather the extent and the direction of their evolution?

The less we do pay attention to this, the more surprised we are, at some point in time. We just wake up one day and say..I have no idea who this person is! Of course we have no idea! How would we, when we have not kept up with their evolution or shared about ours?

Relationships, by that construct, would be these continually broken down, vanishing and rebuilt bridges, connecting two people, who are moving from one stage of evolution to the next. The more disconnected we keep ourselves from the evolution of people around us, the wider and weaker our bridges might become.

So..did you rebuild your bridge today?

The Guilt Tax

thought2This is a touchy subject so let me start with a disclaimer that I really don’t intend to judge anyone for their actions – never have, never will. After all, we are the best judge of ourselves and the actions we take.

There are so many instances I could recall in general from my life and the lives of those around me, when I sensed someone feeling guilty or felt guilty myself. You might be able to relate to some of them too I guess.

The time when you perhaps forgot a dear one’s birthday or a special occasion and tried hard to make up for it by splurging and going overboard with your gift spend..? Or the time when you had a bad fight and realized later it was completely uncalled for..and tried all kinds of things to somehow wipe off the event..? Or the time when you found yourself slipping away with your emotions, bordering or even crossing the line with legitimate relationships and then being extra nice at home, sending lovey-dovey messages..or flowers? Or how about you really wanted to spend that time with your kid and just could not manage it and somehow thought some treats (mostly unhealthy) might make up for it?

There are many more…maybe some we witness every few days. The interesting thing is, that most times, our guilt tax ends up being something material. Guilt is monetized. The guiltier we feel, the more we might end up paying as tax.

The funny thing is..nobody I know is into the guilt tax collection business. People are in relationships and there is love (of varying kinds) in relationships. You give love, you get love. That’s really how relationships work. Love is given by spending time with people who mean something to us, doing the things they love to do…listening to them…making their unexpressed wishes come true.

In fact, I would tend to think that every time we pay a monetized guilt tax, we might run the risk of demeaning a relationship. A chocolate? Is that really what someone’s happiness is worth? Or flowers? Or an expensive watch? Is that really what you believe might give your loved one the happiness they deserve?

How about giving some thought as a tax? Think about what might be valuable to them? What might be something that would truly delight them and make them forget about what you did not do? I have tried it a couple of times myself and it does give me a great feeling at the end of it.

So here is what I propose – don’t monetize your guilt. Choose to pay ‘thought’ tax. Try it the next time you feel guilty – hopefully over time, you won’t have many more such reasons to be guilty :).