Mr. V.K.Talithaya is the President of Primacy Industries Limited an Export Oriented Unit at Mangalore. He is an HR professional both in Public and
Private enterprises. He has served with distinction in organizations such as Steel Authority of India, Metallurgical & Engineering Consultants, Deccan Herald group of publications, Kinetic Honda Motors, Bharat Electronics Ltd., Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. A thinker and practitioner, known for his transparent and solution based approach for long term benefits. His areas of specialization are Human Resource Management, Transactional Analysis, Communication and Neuro Linguistic Programming.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Mind your language - 3. The need to reinvent the wheel

Mind your language
3 - The need to reinvent the wheel every day!
By V.K.Talithaya

 Every day we see millions of things, hear innumerable noises and sounds, and are not aware of the feelings, sensations we experience in the course of daily chores. But at the end of the day if we try to recall all those things seen, heard or felt by us, we may hardly remember a small fraction of all that we experienced. Why?  If we have to remember all of them, store them in our minds and then use them as and when we want to use those data, our lives will be too difficult to live – with so much data to be processed by our minds. Hence the need for simplification.

We classify the information we gather into categories – all that looks like a cylinder, with a tip, and a contraption to conceal the tip when not in use is a pen. We do not store that information as Parker pen in blue colour with …etc. details.  We call (classify) people who look young and active as adolescents. We do not look at the birth certificates of every young man or woman we come across to confirm if they are adolescents. Nor do we test each cylindrical thing by running the tip on a paper to verify if it is, indeed, a pen. This process of classifying what we see, hear and feel is called generalization. Genralisation makes our lives simpler. We do not have to reinvent the wheel every day since we store information in classified manner, and save time and energy by not having to validate every data every time we come across them!

But there are hazards on the way. Too much generalization may result in our communication becoming murky. By seeing a few software industry employees if one comes to the conclusion that software industry employees do not have good work-life balance, the consequence of such a generalization to my communication may be far reaching. We communicate from the point of view of our perceptions. Our perception is influenced by the extent of generalization we make. So what is the fine balance between generalization and communication? The fact is that there is no definite rules for such balancing!

Suppose I generalize that people belonging to a particular community are mercenaries. There are two implications: (1) Even when I come across an individual from that community who may not be mercenary in his outlook, he may even be a philanthropist, I miss an opportunity to do business or establish relationship with that person because of the generalization I had done. (2) I communicate with that person with the generalization in my mind that he belongs to that category which is mercenary, so he is a mercenary.  To that extent my communication with him becomes obscured.

We generalize a great deal about ourselves – like, I am always unlucky, I am always in a hurry, I never take a person’s word on its face, etc. Usually such generalisations about oneself are clubbed with the adverbs always or never. We also generalize about other people, as in the case of the mercenary from a community, or about things and events around us. We said earlier that some generalizations are necessary to make our lives simple, and spare us the unending task of reinventing the wheel every day (like the generalization about pencil, adolescents etc.). But there are some generalizations which are disempowering us, or render us less resourceful (like the person from mercenary category, or the generalization that I am always unlucky). We need to careful about this second type of generalizations. It is such generalizations which often get us into problems – the kind of problems arising from the “foot-in-the-mouth” syndrome. One says, ”you people are always mischievous” (double generalization – you people and always), and some one objects “how can any one generalise the whole lot of us, he should take back his words”.

Asking a few simple questions mentally will keep us away from the pitfalls of disempowering generalizations. When such thoughts occur, we only need to look for exceptions to the generalizations by asking ourselves “Always?”, “Never?” or “No exceptions?”. These simple questions change our thoughts and with that the meaning of our communication.

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