The Sound of Silence

One of the biggest reasons attributed to sales people who continuously fail to convert sales is their discomfort during silence. Sales stars are known to use silence to their advantage by letting the customer talk and express all misgivings while the amateurs always try to fill up the air-space and end up losing the customer in the process.

How comfortable are you with silence?
For an introverted person who needs time with himself, I realized that I am actually not all that used to silence. While I’m used to spending long periods by myself working on ‘my stuff’, I typically have music playing all the time. So much so that I think I equate background music to the silent or ‘base state’.
I caught myself today as I found myself scrambling for my speakers to switch on music after 5 minutes in my room. So, I stopped for a few minutes and just sat in the silence, left to my thoughts.
I wasn’t comfortable with it as I was itching for the music to be back on. Eventually, I yielded to that temptation.
So, it is a question right back at myself – how comfortable am I with silence?
It amazes me that it has taken me so long to notice this about myself. So much to learn about ourselves, after all.

The Gift Habit

One of the big realizations over the past 3 months on project in Oman is that I don’t give enough gifts.
I’ve been struck by the hospitality of the Omani’s I’ve been working with. Every time a colleague has left the team after finishing his/her stint on the project, they’ve showered them with gifts and I realized this myself when I was given a gift by a friend here for Christmas.
And when I gave it some thought, I realized that gifting wasn’t even on my agenda/mind. I also know that it is a result of 4 years of penny pinching in university where friends’ birthdays meant extracting treats rather than giving them gifts.
Time for change.

Tweaking the ‘why’ question

I have been a big proponent of the ‘why‘ question. I can be annoyingly curious and I’ve always taken pride in my attempts to understand why things are the way they are. And I’m always amazed at how the simple word ‘why‘ can redefine our thought process. I’ve experienced it many a time in a deep discussion where we find ourselves lost in details – just asking the ‘why‘ often clears our minds and results in progress.

It was at a dinner conversation the other day when an experienced (and inspirational) friend drew my attention to the ‘other side’.
He took me back to his first big consulting gig 20 years ago when he was a young man about to interview an important CEO. He was all prepared with tons of good questions and when the meeting began, he asked one question after another. And by the end of it, he was feeling very good as he was sure he had demonstrated his competence. At the end of the interview, his final question was to ask the CEO how he felt the interview had gone.
The CEO looked at him, smiled and said – ‘The questions were all really good. But, the experience was very intimidating’
This friend was completely taken aback. This was a 50 year old legend telling him he was intimidated!
‘All those questions – they made me feel like I should have known all the answers. And, not knowing them was pretty embarrassing and intimidating.’
At this point in his story, he said something that rung a bell – he said that often there is a component of our ‘ego‘ present when we are deep into asking questions. Our eagerness to find the answer, to ‘figure it out’ often gets the better of us and we tend to forget the real purpose – to understand where the other person is coming from, what the other person is feeling and why the other person is feeling so.
This question led to quite some reflection on my part. I know of times in the past when I’ve gotten carried away with my problem solving ‘genius’ (in my opinion, of course!) while solving a friend’s problem without much consideration of what the friend was probably feeling. The excitement takes over, and before you know it, you are all over the person’s private space.. And it is this tendency that has lead to me appearing intimidating to many a friend when the intention was far from it.
There are some discussions in life that lead to breakthroughs in our own thinking. This was a big one for me. There’s a lot I’m going to be doing differently from here on in, thanks to this.
To demonstrate how it could be intimidating –
Imagine you asked me – ‘Why did you choose that dress?’
I would most likely start with a passionate defence of the dress and my decision before moving onto anything logical or really answering your question. The response is purely emotional.
An alternate way to ask is –
‘What made you choose.. this shirt?’
This question accompanied by a politely curious look, a smile and lots of humility could help meet the original point of asking the ‘why‘ question – to actually understand the rationale behind a decision or an action.
In short, when asking the ‘why‘, it helps understanding why we ask the ‘why‘ question in the first place.

Looking back, and then looking ahead

I finally finished my review and realized looking back was a great way to start this year.

I realized that my big highlights from last year were –
1. Transitioning into work life via a-connect
2. Sparkz – at NUS
3. Building systems to manage myself
And 2 of my Personal Life goals for 2011 are the following –
1. Self publish my book
2. Travel to 3 new countries
3. Build Alearningaday.com by improving it’s design and quality of posts
2011 promises many new ideas, new people, new goals, new experiences and many many learnings. I can’t wait..
GREAT year ahead! Looking forward to sailing through this together.. :)