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Monday, 09 August 2021 | Vinayshil Gautam


Every individual is different. This is what makes dealing with others a craft

The ability to work with others is one of the basic requirements of life. It precedes things like climate change, nuclear disarmament, world peace,or indeed handling a virus. The moment a child feels hungry, it instinctively knows how to ask for a feed. This means sending a message to whoever is willing to listen. Usually, it is in the form of crying or making a sound seeking attention. If the child didn't have this capacity to deal with others, it would never get feed.

Gradually, the individual learns to communicate with gestures and movements. Sounds begin to fall in a pattern. Language competencies emerge. People learn to respond coherently and a dialogue begins. Language is embellished withan expressive and larger vocabulary. When needed, body language or facial expressions replace words to make communication subtler.

The purpose here is to reflect how dealing with others is basic to human existence. Moving beyond childhood, the infant grows into an individual with identifiable preferences. The individual entersa higher level of personality development and is conscious about how one can gain support. A person needs clothing, a place to rest, and begins to look for comfort. The person's range of relationships grows.

In teenage and adulthood, the individual recognises some people are easy to get along with and some are not. The issue is not of pick and choose. It is basic and boundedbecause the needs of food, shelter, clothing, and resources are limited to finding it from a bounded environment. This isoften an institution such as a school or college or a social set-up like the family. The realities of society start surfacing. It becomes obvious that institutions and social groups are important. However, there is also a need to have contact with 'strangers' and the need to handle random, short-term interactive situations. One has to go out shopping and deal with a person at the billing counter for acquiring goods or fulfilling a need. One cannot risk being abrasive but one cannot also always marshal the necessary patience, attitude, or even the words to gain compliance. The art of dealing with others gets larger and bigger. Each individual has a distinct personality and expressions vary from person to person and even situation to situation. This is what makes dealing with others a craft.

Summing it up, one has to learn how to 'read' others and navigate very carefully to achieve one's goals without disrupting or annoying.However, temperament, ego, vocabulary, and above all the competency to think and talk becomes increasingly critical. One deals with others through words, gestures, eye contact. The list is long and dealing with others becomes complex. Tune and meter come in. Music and songs emerge. They get embedded in an environment of light and shade, comfort, and discomfort. The interplay of so many forces makes it challenging to stay in control.

Indeed, the only dimension one can have some control over is oneself: the choices of words, gestures, timing,voice inflection, and intonation matter. To be in total control is difficult but remains the ideal.

Gradually, dealing with others becomes an interplay of reflex actions and conscious choices. Communicating slowly could help at times and communicating effectively requires a melloweR personality. It requires a capability of simultaneously assessing the environment and consciously conveying what one seeks to convey. The range of excellence in doing so is often the discriminating factor between the quality of failure and the quality of success. This continuous journey is inherent in keeping life going. It requires skills of dealing with others.

(The writer is a well-known management consultant. The views expressed are personal.)

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