Whatever We Do

1.3 Whatever We Do

         Whatever we do let’s try to do better. Our actions, our words, whatever it is, let us try to make them better and better. Success they say is a journey and not a destination. We can say, progress also is a journey and not a destination. Therefore, we need not feelcomplacent that we are doing fine. We must constantly be on the look for better performance.
         If I want to thank someone I can say, “Thanks”. But suppose I say, “Thanks a lot,” wouldn’t it be better? Depending upon the time and the situation, we can try and improve this even further and say, “I am very grateful to you” or “you’ve been of great help. I thank youfrom the bottom of my heart!” and so on.
         This is a simple case of expressing gratitude. But when we think a little more, we can learn to do or say things in a better way by giving some thought to our action or speech. I had an appointment with a person, who was senior to me in our erstwhile company. I was a bit late and trying to make amends I said, “I'm sorry I made you wait.” “Oh! It’s Ok,” he said and added, “It’s a pleasure waiting for you.” I felt flattered. One might argue that the other person might have said it without any thinking. Even then I would say that I like to hear such statement unless, of course, they were said sarcastically.
         When we speak about saying or doing better, a question arises about comparison, because better usually follows ‘than’.  Wise people say that we should compare ourselves with our own selves. I should compare my performance of last year and see whether I am doing better or not.
         One of the ways in which we can do better is by adding words to our actions and also adding actions to our words. Let me tell you about an incident. I was waiting for the lift. The lift come down and I found that two fellows (shouldn’t I say, persons or even better, gentlemen?) started removing packets which were fully occupying the lift. I noticed that they did the job fairly fast giving me an impression that they did not want delay me. In a little while they finished the job and got into the lift and went to my Training Centre. In the class I mentioned this incident and asked the trainees to mention how this particular situation would have been rendered better. A couple oftrainees did mention that the two gentlemen who were removing the packets could have said just something like, “One minute sir, we’ll finish in no time.” Nice answer. Don’t you agree? It would have made such a difference. But another trainee said, “You could have thought of lending a helping hand.”
You go to a shop and ask for something. Most often the shopkeeper or the sales person reaches out to the item you want and hands it over to you. No word, nothing. Suppose he were to say just two words, “Yes sir?” In posh restaurants the waiters or stewards do say, "Good morning" or some such thing and then ask for your order. But have you noticed how the waiters behave in most our restaurants, in spite of the fact that the food and ambience are quite good? They usually come and stand near you expecting you to place the order. Suppose they say just two words, “Yes, sir?”
         Doctors treating patients can make their jobs much better if they choose to talk nicely to their patients. A word here or a word there. Most doctors are serious or even stern. Probably they imply that they are doing serious work. True. But talking nicely and reassuringly is also a part of treatment, isn’t it? It is said that a couple of friendly words from the doctor or even a smile can go a long way in making the patient feel better.
         On a certain occasion I hailed an auto rickshaw and said, “City Hospital”. The auto man did not look at me but simply ‘downed’ the meter. Well, it was a clear indication that he was willing to make me to my destination, but wouldn’t it have been much better if he had said, “Yes Sir, please get in”, or simply say, “Come.” The least he could have done was to make a gesture with his face or hand. I did mention the point to him and to my good luck he agreed with me. On another occasion I called an auto and said, “Central Market”. He said, “Sorry, Sir, It’s time for me to hand over the auto,” And so saying he hailed another auto and asked,” Guru, Central Market?” That man agreed and I got in. This shows that we can say ‘No’ also in the most pleasant way.
         Even a very ordinary thing like giving alms to a beggar can be done a better way. “Here, take this,” we can say nicely and with some feeling. What do most people do? They refuse to look at the beggar. If he persists they indicate that he should go ahead. Some say, “Mundey, hogappa (Go further)”, or some such thing. Some don’t say anything but try to shun the beggar by their body language. And finally when the giving becomes inevitable they give grudgingly. If we decide to give alms, should we not do so gracefully? In Mumbai they have nice way of saying, “Maph karo” (Please excuse). It’s a nice way of saying, “Sorry, I am not able to give.”
         We have a number of notices; instructions and orders like ‘No Parking’, ‘No Smoking’, ‘No Admission’, ‘Visitors’ cars not Allowed’ and so on and so forth. Don’t these terms sound rater rough? True, people are trying to be brief because brevity is a genuine need in such public notices. But we have seen that that at least in the case of smoking, people have made some innovation. Nowadays they write, “Thank You for Not Smoking.”
Can’t we try to use better terms in other cases also? I am not suggesting that in every case we should say, “Thank you for……..” We can think of innovative methods to make our orders, instructions and notices sound more polite, more polished. In south India, some restaurants are famous for the tasty fare they offer. Naturally therefore, they have big rush and it is a problem for the management. In one such restaurant I saw a board, “Don’t sit Here for a long time.” How odd! Can they not say the same thing in better words? Luckily, I saw in another place a board, “Please make room for waiting customers.” In yet another place I saw a notice which read, “Kindly make room for waiting friends.”
         It is our practice to be brief while sending telegrams. Here again the reason is brevity. We want to save words in order to cut costs. So if someone wants to request his brother to receive him at the station, he might send a telegram somewhat like this, “REACHING MUMBAI THURSDAY (STOP) SHATABDI (STOP) MEET STATION.” Now just for the sake of one single word the telegram has become totally devoid of any courtesy. What could be the additional cost of adding ‘please’? Nowadays the telegram has been relegatedto the background due to the coming of the telephone and the Internet. But have we solved the issue of courtesy? Don’t we see (or should I say, hear?) people ask, “Who’s this?” instead of saying, “May I know who is calling please?” In a certain book on communication I found a very interesting method of asking who is calling. If you call Mr. Patel in his office, his secretary will receive the call and before connecting to Mr. Patel she would want to know who the caller is so that she can inform the same to Mr. Patel. What does the secretary say? She does not say, “Who’s this?” or even “May I know who is calling please?” She says, “Can I tell Mr. Patel who is calling please?” The idea is this - You want to talk to Mr. Patel. I do not wish to know who you are. But I must tell Mr. Patel who is calling him. Therefore, I am requesting you to tell me who you are.
         Consider how we respond when someone says ‘thank you’ to us. In the olden days people used to say, “Don’t mention it.” Later people started using the phrase, “It’s all right.” Nowadays people say, “You are welcome” or simply “Welcome”.
         One method of improving our communication with other is to put ‘you’ before ‘I’ as far as possible. Consider some words like union, united, building, guiding, trusting, communication and so on. In these words the letter ‘U’ comes before the letter ‘I’. This indicates to us that we should try to put ‘You’, that is, the other person before I. If I wish to thank someone for the nice party I can say, “Your party was so enjoyable. I thank you.” Another instance. “Your letter made me very happy…”
         It may be noted that there is no limit to the improvement we can make in our action or speech. Nor can say that a particular action of speech is the best. There is no formula. What is best may depend on the occasion and it may be possible to continuously make improvement. The whole idea is to be aware of the need and importance of doing and saying things better and better.
Clifford Martis