Friday, June 24, 2011


I have been reading & researching about truly developed personality and found no better description than the ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. I wish I could have read it to you in person. It is awesome. Even if you have read it earlier, it is pleasure to re-read this great piece of work by Kipling.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

               If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
               If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
               If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
              And treat those two impostors just the same;
              If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
              Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
              Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
              And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
               If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
               Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
               If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
               If all men count with you, but none too much,
               If you can fill the unforgiving minute
              With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
              Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
             And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!
                                                                                       –Rudyard Kipling 

Friday, June 17, 2011


If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.                   - Turkish Proverb

Business means building relationships and I never came across a better tool for this than giving a patient ear to your ally. The ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships through reducing conflicts, strengthen cooperation; make you more productive, get growth in career and fosters understanding. Success depends on listening.

Give an ear, harvest gold of wisdom.
Listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to understand, interpret and evaluate what he hears. When interacting, people often are not listening attentively. They may be distracted by mind chattering or thinking about what they are going to say next (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements). Active listening is a structured way of comprehending, retaining and responding to others. Suspending one's own frame of reference, suspending judgment and avoiding other irrelevant internal mental activities are important to fully attend the speaker.

Active listening ensures that you not only hear but listen to the speaker and he knows that you are listening what is being said. Here are four golden points of active listening.

Point #1: Pay attention
Prepare with a positive, engaged attitude, give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also speaks loudly.
§ Stop all non-relevant activities beforehand  and focus your attention on the subject
§ Put aside distracting thoughts and things like daydreaming and cell-phone etc.
§ Follow and understand the speaker as if you were walking in his shoes.
§ Avoid being distracted by environmental factors.
§ Listen to the speaker's body language.

Point #2: Show that you are listening
Use body language and gestures to convey your attention.
§ Nod occasionally, smile appropriately, make eye contact, lean forward and use other facial expressions.
§ Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, ok, hmm etc.
§ Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.

Point #3: Defer judgment
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments and beliefs can distort what we hear.
§ Set aside your prejudices, opinions and try to learn what the speaker has to say, not the other way around.
§ Don't agree or disagree rather encourage the train of thoughts from speaker.
§ Allow the speaker to make his point.

Point #4: Respond appropriately
As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said and make the speaker believe that he is successful in communicating the message across. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.
Interrupting and making counter argument is a waste of time; it frustrates the speaker, at the same time limits your learning.
§ Ask relevant questions but let the speaker finish first. You can't really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next.
§ While asking questions, quickly express appreciation and briefly summarize a preliminary point before you ask.
§ Give feedback. You can do it during the entire talk by using small verbal and non-verbal signals.
§ Be candid, open and honest in your response and assert your opinions respectfully.
§ Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing periodically.

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. But it is possible and you can do it. Be deliberate with your listening and remind yourself frequently that your goal is to truly listen what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message. Ask questions, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message.

Remember what Carl Rogers said ‘One's inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively.’ Start using active listening today to become a better communicator, improve your workplace productivity, grow your career and develop better relationships.

 Stay tuned to the blog for tips on other communication skills on Fridays to follow.

Friday, June 10, 2011


The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites and it gives you knowledge of the world & experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination. 
                                                                                                                                                    - Elizabeth Hardwick
 ‘I was really most stupid kid in fifth grade. Other kids in the class used to laugh at me when got zero in Maths and English, most of the times.’ But my mother constantly encouraged ‘you are smart Benni, you can do anything you want to do; just get into the habit of reading. Education is the only way you are going to get ahead in life and be successful. Limit your time on TV and start reading.’

Dr Ben Carson with President Bush
Today Bennie is known as Dr Ben Carson, the most successful pediatric neurosurgeon in the USA. Nelson Mandela was right when he said ‘Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world’.   After reading so many biographies of successful people I conclude ‘Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways, in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting.’

Here are three significant serendipities that reading furnishes us:
1.  Activates and exercises the mind
2. Forces the mind to analyze and discriminate
3. Pushes us to use our imagination and be creative
My summer feast

Reading is a fundamental part of one’s education and integral part of communication skills. Habit of reading makes one a good receiver and this helps to become a good sender too (remember communication process from previous article). People who learn to read early are generally more successful in academics and post that. By developing a reading habit, one can instill a love of books that lasts a lifetime and brings wonder, joy and knowledge. It makes one more creative, analytical and expressive for the outside world. And I would say, expressing yourself is a part of communication. 

 If reading is a habit you would like to get into, there are a number of ways to cultivate it. Few of them being as follow:
  • Set a goal - Decide from core of your heart that you are going to become an avid reader and set a goal to read a fixed number of books in next three months. Explore area of your interests; get to know the best book in that area. Buy one and get started. Getting started is the secret of getting ahead.
  • Set time - You should have a set time every day, when you read for at least 30 minutes. These are times that you will read no matter what - triggers that happen each day. For example, make it a habit to read just after waking up in the morning (definitely that’s a great start of a day) of before going to bed in the night. This will help you read minimum 15 books a year.
  • Always carry a book - In India every person spends average one hour waiting each day. We waste lot of time in waiting for our turn at bus stop, railway station, cafeteria, people to come in the meeting (if you are punctual), at hospital for your turn, movie to start and traffic jams to clear. If there is a time when you have to wait you can always whip out your book and read. Wherever you go, take a book with you. Technology has progressed, now you can go for audio books and utilize your commuting time, too. If you start utilizing this one hour you can read minimum 30 pages a day which translates to another 40 books in a year for no extra time.
  • Make a list - Keep a list of all the great books you want to read. You can keep this in your journal or on your system. Be sure to update it whenever you get to know about more great books. Keep a running list, and tick mark the ones you read. Once you make progress you can keep a book log. Where, you can maintain title of the book, name of the author, start date, finish date and your learning from the book on your system. Believe me it is satisfying and at the same time improves your documentation skills too.
  • Reduce television - If you really want to read more, try cutting back on TV consumption. This may be difficult for many people. But this could create hours of book reading time. Moreover, now-a-days TV has become an instrument which feeds only negative things into your mind and fasting from it saves you from lot of energy drain. I decided in the beginning of last year (yes, 2010) to not let the idiot box snatch my time and it has made lot of difference to my energy levels & accomplishments.
  •  Read to your kid - If you have children, you must, must read to them. Creating reading habit in your kids is the best way to ensure they’ll be readers when they grow up and it will help them to be successful in life. Find some great children’s books, and read to them. At the same time, you’re developing the reading habit in yourself and spending quality time with your child as well.
Start reading today. Stay tuned to the blog for tips on listening, writing & speaking on Fridays to follow.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Communication Skills...

The ability to communicate is the primary factor that distinguishes human beings from animals. And it is the ability to communicate well that distinguishes one individual from another.  The story of human evolution is all about developing skills of language and communication.  Human beings are creatures of communication and communicate with colleagues, family, society and themselves too. Communication skills are integral to human existence.  Once mastered, it can catapult one to great heights.
At present effective communication has become a predominant factor in recruiting employees. As per result of many research studies managers in this knowledge era spend their 70 percent time in communicating. Hence great communication skills have become a necessary weapon in the arsenal of high productivity. All employers, irrespective of the industry look for the people who are good in communication skills.  Academic organizations have already identified the need of this necessary skill and have been working on many development plans.  But not much is achieved; NASSCOM study still points out that most of the graduating youth is unemployable, as they lack job oriented skills, communication skills being a big one. Good quality communication is not only necessary for a good job rather it is a pre requisite to live a good life.

In nutshell communication is ‘exchange of information and ideas’ and often takes place verbally and non-verbally. It is a set of skills which enables human beings to convey information so that it is received and understood. Many people assume that communication is all about words but that is misleading notion. In writing/reading still, the content is the king.  But research points out that in speaking/listening words just constitute seven percent of effective communication. The rest is contributed by the way you communicate; here your intent is definitely the queen.

A typical communication process involves two parties: Sender and Receiver. In this process one either sends a message or receives the one. If one sends a message then it has to be easy and lucid enough so that the receiver interprets it correctly. If the message is interpreted wrongly then it is taken as sender’s failure too. Responsibility generally lies with the sender and which is why trainers and authors pay more focus on speaking or writing. But it is two way process at times we are senders but at other times we are receivers as well. And one cannot be a good communicator if he is not good enough in interpreting messages sent by others. Feedback also plays a vital role in making sure that the message is interpreted as it meant. Feedback is one of the best tools for improvement as it opens your eyes. It is a breakfast of champions but it has to be instant and constructive.

In holistic approach verbal communication can be divided into four different but interdependent skills:
·   Reading: The reader plays a role of receiver. One needs to be good at interpreting message.
·   Writing: The writer plays a role of sender. One needs to be good at drafting his thoughts and pour soul in the words.
·   Listening: The listener plays a role of receiver. There is a Turkish proverb ‘Listen a hundred times; ponder a thousand times; speak once.’  Listening makes one a better receiver and sender too.
·   Speaking: The speaker plays a role of sender. Words are of course, the most powerful drugs used by mankind. But it is the responsibility of the speaker to make them healing drugs and not the ones which hurt.

I am a sender when I write this blog and now when you are reading; of course you are a receiver. Write comments for this article and the roles will be reversed.  If one is really interested in building communication skills, needs to work in holistic manner and understand all the four areas.

Remember, Communication works for those who work at it’. Decide to master this art of highest importance. Stay tuned to the blog. Look forward to getting help on all the four areas on Fridays to come.