People skills? My reflection after attending Watson Institute (2018)
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It’s a journey of discovery. It’s a journey of finding and understanding myself and how I choose to show up in this world. This is my reflection of the perfect balance between my morals and my way of interacting with others after coming to college and attending one of the classes – Leap of Faith. Part of the introspection is knowing my integrity, such as recognizing my boundaries and honoring my commitment. The other part is mindfully approaching people in life with a genuine attitude to understand them and appreciate their values; as they come in all walks of life with a breadth of different values, traditions, and cultures, having a beginner’s mind to learn from their knowledge and experiences. (Artist’s Statement)
My first integrity – establishing boundaries – including what I will do and what I will not do. To achieve that, I mindfully practice both “give and take.” I am not quick to reject an offer, because if I can find it valuable and it’s something I can pay back in another way, accepting it will help me build a relationship “cash flow,” where human emotions are flowing in, and trust is built. On the other hand, I am not too quick to accept an offer. I don’t believe that there is free lunch in this world, and I believe that human relationships are this way too. Many times, the person who does me favors may not expect me to “pay back” their generosity, and I can take them for granted. This, over time, may give me the reputation of a person that people might seldom want to help any more. So, personally, I evaluate my situation of whether I can somehow echo back someone’s generosity in a way they will feel that the help they gave was meaningful. The healthiest relationship is always a moving but a balanced one.
My second integrity – honoring my commitments – such that I do what I say. I start that by learning to say no. If we say yes to a thousand small things, we will have to end up to say no to a handful of more important things. I started this by limiting the number of items on my to-do list to usually 3 to 4 things per day, and I commit to finishing every single one of those items on my list every day first. Moreover, something else I do is to make only small and easy commitments to change my behavior. For example, I dedicated myself to read at least one chapter of a nonfiction every day. Instead of having that as a goal, my goal is to simply open the book every day. By the time I open the book, I might as well read. By honoring the commitments I make to myself, it conditions my brain to follow through as much as I can, and that is a fundamental virtue and part of my integrity. There is a certain power that we can gain with our words when they mean what they are supposed to say. Further, I honor the commitments that I have to others. In the past, I made the mistake of telling someone that I’ll show up at a specific time but actually show up ten mins late. Once or twice, it might not be catastrophic. But over and over, simple commitments like this, not honored, can make others lose trust in us. They start to see us as not trustworthy nor reliable. They can stop taking things seriously about us and just completely lose respect for us. Trust is always the hardest to build and easiest to lose. I start building that trust by merely telling others what I will do, and do it.
My third integrity – having the curiosity to understand other’s passion and share genuine interest and gratitude. Such that, I intentionally ask questions that lead me to understand the other person’s everyday life, their vision for the future, to their most important passion and deepest fears to spark a genuine friendship. A good set of questions I refer back to is New York Time’s 36 Questions that Lead to Love. These questions range from “given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” to “of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing?”. The philosophy behind these questions is to establish closeness through fostering vulnerability. So next time if you hear me asking these questions, you know that I am trying hard to understand you and make you fall in love with me. Furthermore, if the person has helped me in ways in our relationship, I will always think of action steps to honor their help. From simple things like saying thank you and hug them, writing thank you notes, connecting them to people in my network who I think might be of help to them, to cooking food for them, depending on the person and the occasion.
In essence, I discover “good people skills” that fit me through introspection and execution. Such that, I begin to realize what is my integrity, enforce it; seek to understand other’s integrity, respect it. This, in the long run, could give me direction in finding my fit in the world when I start seeing myself and make the world a better place by being aware of those who are different. As Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi once mentioned, “yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” My people skills stem from first honoring my integrity.
With Curiosity & Gratitude, Always,