Lately I got in touch with someone from my special ed years. We hadn’t spoken for ages, but were in touch via social media. I was associated with her through the organization and we quickly developed a rapport. . When I quit, I promised to keep in touch with her, write letters and visit her every time I am in Chennai. This was 2007. Seven long years had passed and as much as I wanted to, visiting the organization and her always came as a priority that I would put as ‘later’, ‘maybe in the next trip’.
We exchanged numbers via chat. Truth is I did not expect her to send me her number immediately. I was anxious with questions running in my head – such as – “You really think she would want to talk to you?” “You haven’t called her once since you left?” “Are you sure you want to call her?” “What if she is monosyllabic or she gets upset with you?” “What if she does not pick your call?” I called her anyway. My mind was immediately preparing for defenses to let her know I have been so terribly busy in my professional and personal life.
I acknowledged and thanked my mind for trying to protect me from a possibly awkward call. But I also told my mind, that it is presuming a lot of things. Breathe deep, centre and call. It was like nothing had changed. We talked about our lives, what’s changed, what hasn’t and everything in between. It was a simple wonderful call.
This interaction got me wondering, what makes us like someone? What makes someone want to renew their contact with you? What makes one make an attempt to communicate irrespective of anxieties or fear of rejection? What makes us choose to take the call when in these times one can avoid, postpone or downright reject?
If I think of what my friend and I brought to the relationship, other than working towards a common organisation goal, it would be aspects such as respect, kindness, empathy, strength, trust shown through pro-activeness in helpful gestures, smiles, hugs, tears. This kept the relationship alive. The memories of my interaction with her are filled with these aspects.
It is my belief that it is the emotional experience that you bring into any relationship is what matters most. And the aspects remain the same irrespective of who the person is, but ‘how’ you show it may differ depending on the type of relationship.( I may not hug it out with someone whom I have a professional relationship with – A pat on the back, a warm smile, or perhaps a lovely mail acknowledging the person? )
So, suffice it to say, how you make a person feel is as important as how good your work is.
More often than not, this does not happen. I have happened to hear lines like, “Well, why should I be the first to do so?” “I don’t have to be touch feely and all nice to my employee; I am paying them for this”. “What you are asking is simply too weird, I don’t think I can” and many more. All valid reasons and yes! You can choose not to. Think of at least three people from all aspects of your life who you really like and ask yourself why do you like them so much. It’s possible you will be looking not just at ‘what they do’, but ‘how they do it’, the qualities they bring in the relationship. So the only reason we may choose to consider these aspects is when we want to think about how we want to be remembered.
The phrase about ‘six degrees of separation’ has never been more relevant as it is today. We live in a world, where for professional, personal and even hobbies there exists a network. And we may have found that in every network we may know someone who knows someone we know. In all ways we are leaving an imprint whether it is in the digital space or in real life interaction. So if that is the case, how would we like to be known? This is a question dear reader, only you can answer for yourself.
Archana Shyam is a therapeutic counsellor certified by Parivarthan, Bangalore with a specialization in counselling for individuals, children and adolescents.
Archana has a Post Graduate diploma in Special Education working with Vidyasagar (formerly the Spastics Society of Southern India) for over 7 years. Archana has extensive experience in working with multiple disabilities (physical and neurological) for people with varied social and economic backgrounds.
Archana also practices mindfulness and yoga which she believes enhances her skills to be a better counsellor. She is also looking to pursue certification in Dance Movement Therapy soon. When she isn’t called the counsellor, she holds titles like baking-fiend, mindfulness-obsessed, ocean-lover, passionate-dancer, and awesome-sauce-mommy.