Capital Talk:Be yourself, please

  • Madhusheel Arora, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Dec 13, 2015 10:26 IST
Aamir Khan’s comments on intolerance attracted the wrath of politicians as well as his Bollywood colleagues. (IANS)

Communication remains both an art and a science and there are few who can actually say what they mean and mean what they say.

So, Aamir Khan’s comment on intolerance can invite reaction and counter-reaction. As far as effective communication is concerned, stretching the issue beyond a point, serves very little purpose for anyone. If we have spare time, of course, the discussion can go on till the cows come home.

The Aamir incident, does however, remind one of the importance of articulation of thoughts in a specific and clear manner. This is especially true when your statement is likely to invite strident (but ultimately defensive) reactions, as in the case of Aamir, who was bluntly asked, “Which country will you like to go to, Aamir?” or words to this effect.

So, even as improving communication skills to get the desired impact on action continues to be a fascinating area of study, we do have the much older field of business communication as a tool of study.

At the end of the day, the words we speak, the sentences we utter, have to be placed in a context. We aim to achieve a purpose and what can be better that they end up generating a business transaction involving money, perhaps in a direct manner.

The most critical parts of business communication for economic activity remain the interview for a job, and negotiation for a business establishment. These two are present at all levels in all fields from retail to land acquisition to politics.

Interview and negotiation have spawned training schools and self-help books that attempt to make cracking these a cakewalk. Especially for interview training, we have a lot of claimants and yet the idea seems jaded.

Even as most of these institutes do make a lot of money given the flaws in our education system and the complexes it ends up generating in our youngsters, but whether they are actually needed deserves to be discussed.

I have lost count of the number of engineers who, over the years, have approached me with the plaint, “I …just flunk interviews due to my poor communication skills and inability to be fluent in English.” For them, of course, regular practice interviews are the short-term answer to getting over the fear of communicating in English and the inability to be at ease during the interview.

I shamelessly repeat the cliché of ‘Be Yourself’, something that is now part of legend. The funny thing is that no one knows or can explain what ‘Be Yourself’ means and therein rests the major limitation of communication.

Negotiation, of course, remains quite another cup of tea (for non-English speakers reading this, my apologies, I have not been drinking tea as I write this article, believe me, I am simply being myself) (emphasis added).

Can you teach negotiation? Perhaps yes. However, in the Indian context, and to a limited extent around the world, nothing perhaps negotiates as seamlessly and as silently as power.

Noted and …erased

“Noted please,” pat came the message from an MC engineer three months ago to a request for an additional streetlight at a poorly lit intersection. Since then, the gentleman has simply refused to take calls. Will negotiation work here, any ideas?

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