Real unselfishness consists in sharing the interests of others. George Santayana
In our daily interactions we are bound to meet a large cross section of people some of whom we forge friendships and with others we maintain a purely professional relationship. What is common to both types of interactions is that there is some common ground for dialogue, discussion and decision making. When the area of common ground expands professional associations migrate into friendships and we forge stronger bonds and ties. The undercurrent that is flowing all the while is in the interchange of ideas, thoughts and interests that the interested parties have in common. If there is no commonality of interest the possibility of that relationship sustaining is very minimal.
The big trouble of communication in any relationship is that we cannot always find common ground that interests all parties. There is always at least one topic which one party loves and the other party finds it hard to appreciate. If a person is passionate about something he/ she will always be gung-ho about it and would love to find an ardent listener, alas if we do not like the topic we would make all attempts to indicate so. The reason for this is that we are selfish by nature and find it painful to put up with what does not interest us. If we are prepared to see things from the other person’s point of view and be patient we would make the profound discovery that we can forge wonderful relationships.
Do we fake interest in others interests? Good salesmen are quite adept at doing this, for they have with experience learned to initially fake attention, pretend to show interest and try to pry into the passions of the buyer. They are well aware that if one can pander to the interest of the buyer, it won’t be long before they can get the potential buyer to be interested in what they have to sell. Notice that the salesman has a long term motive that drives him/her to start off by faking interest but then quickly reorient their mindset to actually participate in the potential buyer’s interest. Each one of us must make this effort when we are clear that we have to be interested in the other party. Mark McCormack in his bestselling book What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School gives an example of how he paid attention to the secretary in the office of a potential sponsor, who was cutting stamps from the inward mail envelopes, for the bosses son who was an avid stamp collector. The next time Mark visited the sponsoror, he carried with him a huge collection of stamps for the potential sponsor’s son. This little gesture of paying attention to an innocuous activity paid rich dividends for Mark who bagged the huge sponsorship deal.
One can really benefit by paying attention and taking interest in others because, we establish common ground, draw people to ourselves and forge new alliances. In the long run, it is to these relationships that we can safely turn to and leverage whenever we need to. This is because we have unselfishly made the effort to draw people to ourselves and by taking in interest in them we have reinforced the bonds of friendship. In being unselfish we have not laid any conditions nor kept any expectations and so the relationship is spontaneous, genuine and endearing.
Remember: “A person with a hundred interests is twice as alive as one with only fifty and four times as alive as the man who has only twenty-five” Norman Vincent Peale
- Try to learn a new sport/ card game./ card trick/ skill. How easy was it to pick up the new activity? What contributed to the speed of picking up? Did you get frustrated initially and how did you motivate yourself when frustrated?
- Identify 3 boring people who you prefer to avoid. Analyze why you find them a bore? Make an attempt to meet one of these persons and spend at least an hour with this person. Have you made any new observations about the person? Identify 3 strengths of the person that you never knew.
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