To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart. – Donald Laird
As social animals, we human beings have no choice but to live in society which implies that we need to interact with others, adjust to the demands of societal norms and yet maintain our own identity and independence. This poses a problem simply because the individuality that we pride on wants to break free of any shackles imposed on us while the social instinct in us forces us to toe the line that is determined by society and culture. It is reconciling this dichotomy that unconsciously poses a big dilemma for most of us. Our quote today, provides a glimpse of the option available to us to effectively maintain our personal identity while also ensuring we do justice to our social and neighborly role.
To begin with, we need to asses our own approach to our personal values, beliefs and actions. Being pragmatic would perhaps gives us the smoothest passage forward and that is possible when we don’t get overtly emotional and become a tinge more practical thinking out solutions, selecting logical options and making choices that suit our individuality. Eg. When we lose a loved one, grief would be obviously what overcomes us. Yet in that moment of grief too we need to get control of our emotions and if we always believed in organ donation should initiate steps for that. On the other hand if we are more traditional then there is no need to take on the guilt of pandering to the demands of those urging you to donate the organs for it is a very personal and private decision.
On the other hand when we play our role as social animals and discharge our obligations as neighbors, friends, relatives or as another human being, we need to listen to our heart and less to our wisdom which is often based on reasoning, logic and taken without any emotions attached to it. Eg. If we are firm believers in organ donation, we cannot impose our will on others who may not share our sentiments because of their personal reasons. We must respect the sentiments of the parties involved and try to empathize with their emotions rather than quarrel or wrestle with their flawed logic as we would be tempted to think. Take another scenario which is more prevalent the constant battle between parents who want their children to study and the children who are more keen to focus on their own interests be it games or computers or TV. Most parents use a hackneyed logic of equating studies with success in life which the children view as a bitter pill the parents are trying to push down their throat. On the other hand if the parents encouraged the children to pursue their own interests while setting some discipline to ensure that studies were also regularly done, it could be a win win situation since the children would perhaps see the parents as allies in their efforts to excel.
Criticism offers perhaps the best opportunity for us to put the above maxim to full use. When we are criticized we should suspend our emotional discomfort and attempt to see if there is any truth in the points raise by our critics. If the criticism is untrue simply ignore it. However if it is true then we need to be grateful that out attention has been drawn to something that impedes our effectiveness and we should work on overcoming those flaws. On the other hand when we have to be critical of others, then we must consider the emotional ramifications of our feedback on the other party and hence we must not be unduly harsh or hurtful. Instead we must handle their fragile emotions carefully and encourage them to overcome their flaws whilst also drawing attention to their strengths. This will help them maintain their dignity, reinforce confidence in themselves and at the same time give them the self belief that they can improve with effort and persistence.
Remember: The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing. Blaise Pascal
- Can you recollect the last 5 criticisms that came your way. Do you recollect who told them? Were the criticisms justified? What efforts did you do to learn and improve from those criticisms?
- Write down 3 strengths and 1 criticism you have concerning the following people.
- Your favorite high school teacher
- Your best friend
- Your neighbor
- Your own family members (list them out and write for each person)
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The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. Foe Ancis
The generation gap is perhaps the one of the most vivid examples of how there is a polarization in views for people in close proximity. The generation gap, is perhaps most obvious, amongst children and their parents and can encompass the whole gamut of daily living right from clothing, to leisure tastes and could include food preferences, study habits, career choices, friendships, keeping pets, choice of hobbies etc. While the parents insist that with their experience and foresight they can chalk out the pathway for their children, the kids often interpret this guidance and advice as overbearing intrusions into their lives. The children are invariably convinced that most ideas and views of the parents and elders are caught in a time wrap and are choices made based on minimizing career risk and maximizing security. Their objection is primarily that their individuality and aspirations are not considered and so is an imposition of parental expectations on juvenile dreams.
Similarly, both parents and children are guilty of selectively comparing other children and other parents and drawing the conclusion that while we at home are dysfunctional most times everyone else is normal. In the same way, be it at our social gatherings, our work place or classrooms we exhibit the tendency to compare and contrast others with ourselves. Invariably we end up seeing half truths, selective facts, surface polish and glitz & glitter in others and contrast it with our own limitations and imaginary demons. Obviously everyone else seems to be normal as compared to yourself. The truth is that most times the other party is too far for us to make an informed judgment, often we see things with the lens that we want to see it with and at every stage we move with the preconceived notion that we are abnormal while the others are normal.
Scratch the surface, then the gloss and polish in others would peel off quickly and perhaps then you will realize how much more better stuff you are made up of. What looked apparently normal and perfect now takes on a different hue of mismatched colors, confused mindsets, artificial bohemia and farcical appearance. That is when one realizes that closer home the differences are not so much; the polarization of views is actually individuality jockeying for spaces and the incongruence in action is symmetry of styles. Normalcy then is best appreciated when seen as controlled chaos like firecrackers that explode and yet dazzle the night.
Remember: Admiration and familiarity are strangers. George Sand
- If you are a parent write down 10 things that you appreciate in your child and your parents. Please write it down for each child and parent separately. The others can write 10 points they appreciate in their parents. What are the qualities you wish your child / parent had? Can you work on a ways to help your child acquire those qualities without forcing them into it?
- Choose and idol (preferably a well known personality). Write down his/ her name. Now write down all the reasons he/she is your idol. Now try to find out 5 things that people did not appreciate about your idol. Were you aware of these weaknesses in your idol? Now has your affection for your idol gone down?
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God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Reinhold Niebuhr
One of the most quoted words, this little sentence contains wisdom that is hard hitting, deeply invigorating and profoundly philosophical. Parents in particular can benefit a lot from this saying if they look beyond the words and see the depth of meaning in it. Most parents are obsessed by academic grades of their children and secretly desire that their dear ones stand first. Reality tho could be quite different and our children may excel in many different areas other than academics. sport, arts and craft, music, acting, mischief, creative pursuits of varied kinds. Yet, most parents fail to see these sparks of talent and instead focus on what they want to see in their children- frustrating the kids and the parents in equal measure. Teachers too are not far behind in having unrealistic expectations from their wards and they need to be inspired by the wisdom of Niebuhr.
We need to accept the reality with calmness and gratitude, for things could have been a lot worse – just look around and you will realize it.
Remember : You can make a difference – ALWAYS !
- Ask yourself am I being unrealistic in my expectations from others particularly my kids.
- Can I honestly list out matters that concern my society and environment and can I in some way take a proactive stand on it and help change matters for the better?
- What are the changes that I need to make in myself in order to benefit from the wisdom of Niebuhr?
Igniting your thoughts – Encouraging you to ACT SPOnTaneously
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