Another Friday, and the consortium is back in business. For those readers who are mystified, please visit Grannymar, Conrad and Ashok for simultaneously published posts on the same subject.

Communication is the process of establishing a connection between two or more entities using words or signs using a variety of means. It has a great deal in common with the word communion. Common unity on a particular subject, value or idea. Communication is the process of establishing that.

Till I went to Business school, I did not realize the seriousness of the word as I had the “gift of the gab” and was a reasonably successful salesman/supervisor/human being. I did not need formal theoretical explanation for something that was already happening. The thought never crossed my mind.

In Business School, in the very first semester we had to compulsorily take a course called Written Analysis of Cases (WAC). It should not take a great deal of imagination to know what the students called the course! The lady Professor who taught the course was every student’s fantasy come true! So, we paid a great deal of attention to what she taught us and till today, I give credit for my writing ability, for what it is worth, to that lady.

In the process of teaching us how to write, she also introduced us to the concept of ‘Communication’ as a subject by itself. Subsequently of course it was a tool to use to assess abilities of people and to spend time being an effective communicator etc.

Like most people, I flatter myself that I am a good verbal communicator. What I mean is that, I go looking for captive audiences where I can hold forth on whatever takes my fancy. The trick is in finding that elusive audience. With experience, most people in my circle of friends and relatives, find ingenious ways of avoiding me. It is that singular lack in my life that prompted me to take up to blogging. Here too, I find that though I pontificate, some posts get a great deal of comments and some fall flat. It is however a learning experience and I am enjoying that.

I was once told by a Facilitator in a workshop on Effective Communication that my physique and the tone of my voice was very intimidating and strangers would feel hesitant to establish two way communications with me. I took him up on this and took him out of the hall where the workshop was being held into the lobby of the hotel. I walked directly up to the first person sitting on a sofa and extended my hand and introduced myself and asked him what he thought of my approach. He stuttered and stammered and said that he felt intimidated. That was my moment of epiphany. It was then that I realized why my employers had sent me to the work shop in the first place!

So, I had to reinvent myself and learn to moderate my body language, tone and bearing to be more effective in my verbal communications. The point of sharing this story is that there are many improbables in the art of communication and most of us do need some training to be more effective than we are.

I came home after that workshop and shared this incident with Urmeela and she asked “Have you noticed, I don’t criticize you any more?” I answered, in all honesty, “No, I have not.” And she continued – “Of course not, you never do!” I was completely taken aback and sat down and for the first time in perhaps twenty odd years of being married to her, discussed my behaviour with her and her impression on my communication skills with her and others. It is a measure of the kind of marriage that we had that we could have this conversation and I could learn a great deal from it.

Malcolm Gladwell in his fantastic book “Blink” talks about psychologist John Gottman who has spent a life time studying behavior patterns that establish whether effective communication between married people takes place or not and has developed an instinct for identifying marriages that are doomed to fail. He has narrowed down to four, from many traits that lead to ineffective communication taking place between husband and wife. He calls them the four horsemen! They are Defensiveness, Stonewalling, Criticism and Contempt. In fact, he identifies the last, Contempt as the most important factor leading to breakdown in communication and subsequent failure of the union itself.

When I read this, I was amazed at how true it is that these factors play a vital role in determining one’s own communication skills even outside the institution of marriage. If we can consciously observe our own action/reaction in any communication to identify if the inner emotion is any one of the factors, we can take corrective steps to ensure that we overcome this, what Gottman calls negative emotion override, by a positive one. Similarly, when we are at the receiving end, we can take such steps as necessary to identify the negative emotion overdrive, and react in such a way to make it a positive one.

Since reading the book three years ago, I have consciously tried to do that, and on many occasions have succeeded in turning around very nasty situations within the family and among friends. In the recent past, since my father moved in with me, it has been a great tool to identify my own negative emotion overdrives and to ease the inevitable tension that his presence and behavior has on my equilibrium. The root cause is the fact that he is the father. He expects to exercise power and control over me. Depending on the particular situation, I used to through one or more of the four horsemen without fail and have now learnt to identify such reaction and handle it to ensure that I do not tie myself into knots. A kind of communication with myself as it were. Which brings me to that wonderful phenomenon of communicating with oneself, as being of vital importance in retaining one’s sanity in troubling situations. This is an aspect of communication that does not receive the attention that it deserves and with this post, I hope to impress on my readers the importance of that.

If we can keep an open mind, we can learn many things from our near and dear ones and become more effective in our communications. What prevents that from happening however, is that we are so full of ourselves, at least I was then, that we think that we are God’s gift to mankind and we do not need to change our ways. I used to feel like that and occasionally do so even now.

From all that formal and informal training the one thing that I learnt is that to be a good communicator, one needs to take in more than giving out. Listening more than speaking, asking questions, seeking clarification and simply paying attention, makes one a great communicator than the opposite of all that I have written here. Difficult, but with conscious practice, possible to achieve.

Before my audience gets bored with my communication today, let me sign off with a fantastic statement from a fellow Senior Citizen. What great communication!

senior citizen

The USA and India.

As my regular readers know, the USA breaks many Indian hearts regularly, for the way they mess around in Pakistan. I am one of those whose heart regularly gets broken and I wait for the day when wisdom will dawn on the powers to be in the USA.

G L Hoffman whose blog I admire and who I cited in my last blog is an unlikely person to come up with some insight into why this should be so, but he readily agreed to my request for a guest post on what his take was about my angst.diagfordad

In his inimitable style, he has come up with this diagram which says more than an essay would. Thank you GL.

What is an MBA Worth?

What a topic to blog about! I am just being contrary and hope to get a lot of flak!

For sometime now, I have been pondering writing about the MBA degree and recently, I came across this interesting article in the New York Times. The article and the comments on it are very interesting in their range and depth of emotions that the topic has evoked.

After my post on “Ambition” was published, one of my non commenting, but emailing readers suggested that since I have strong views on the subject, I might like to post on this rather controversial subject.

A little background. I have been known to be a kind of a maverick in the field of management in India for openly advocating treating MBA qualification as just a filtering process. By this, what I mean is, that entrance examinations and hurdles to get into India’s premier and second rung schools of business management, filter out a great many aspirants. So, when someone goes to one of these schools for campus recruitment, what one really does is save a lot of time, cost and energy in weeding out useless applications for jobs.

The knowledge and skills learnt in these business schools, or online MBA programs, are of no real use in practical management which usually is industry or organization specific. What happens, after a graduate from one of these schools joins up, is that he learns how this particular organization runs, adapts, himself to it or not, and uses the limits which the organizational discipline and politics impose on him to succeed. I have seen that this is done quite successfully by non MBAs too, particularly, young hungry graduates from other disciplines and hands-on workers starting from the bottom of the pile. Where the MBA perhaps has an edge is in his written communication skills and this is not something that cannot be taught to the others.

For instance, someone can be taught to use the language used in the cartoon here, quite easily. Probability cartoon4809987.cms

Since this language, known universally as jargon, is so comic, there is usually antipathy between those that use it, read MBAs and those who use ordinary language to convey ideas.

So, my submission is that if an organization wants to pay a premium for an MBA, it must have people capable of understanding this language. Logically, it will be people with MBA degrees. So, what it really boils down to is that it is an old boy network that is in operation and not really any inherent advantage of a Master’s degree in Business Management.

This is the same network that is likely to come up with this as well. HR cartoon4796760.cms

Senior Managers and Proprietors of enterprises complain to me that the MBAs are the most complaining and the least loyal Why is it that this network is constantly whining?


A = Complains

B = Solves

C = Mutual Antipathy

D = ?

I have tried to depict the situation in a diagram as G L Hoffman so eloquently does in his blog ‘What Would Dad Say’. Being a first attempt, it is not as effective as GL’s is. I invite him to answer the Question Mark.

After this post went live, GL filled in the blank for D as being “What’s in it for me?”

A while later, Grannymar came up with a comment with this link:

What a blast! Please watch this. Grannymar, where do you come up with these priceless items of wisdom!?


Grannymar graciously allowed me to choose this Friday’s topic. Truth be told, I did not choose the topic, the topic chose me. At the end of this post, you will see why.

A joke to start off. A young widow gets remarried and is worried about the health of her couch potato second husband. She sees him lazing around and tells him that he needs a hobby. He replies “I already have one, I collect rich widows.” The wife responds, “Wow for coincidences, I collect dead husbands.”

I am kind of a couch potato though I spend more time on crossword puzzles and at the computer than the run of the mill couch potato does.

Bear with me this rather long post. This is a true story and at the end of it, you may well conclude with me that ‘Ambition’ too, is just an overrated trait.

The dictionary defines ‘ambition’ as:
1. an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment:
2. the object, state, or result desired or sought after:
3. desire for work or activity; energy.

I am and have always been totally without ambition of the first and last categories. All I wanted to do was to earn a livelihood, enjoy myself and be happy. It was enough that I should be independent and have enough money in my pocket for my indulgences. If I could havepossibly achieved that without doing any ‘work’, I would have been the happiest fellow on earth.

I had reached the level of achievement that I wanted, when I was about 18.

I had just secured an honorable ‘second class’ Intermediate qualification. I had done this, by what is now known as ‘distance education’. Those days, it was called, ‘Private Studies’. In our system those days, it was the first hurdle to cross after schooling, if one wanted to go to a college to study further to acquire a bachelor’s degree. I had joined a ‘Tutorial College’, euphemism for an education shop, so that I could spend time with a lady acquaintance who wanted to study, of all things! Quite how I managed to get that qualification is a mystery to me till today.

Since prior to that significant achievement, I had no ambition and was considered to be a good for nothing, this came as a surprise to many and my father in fact, refused to believe that I had achieved this! My mother used all her persuasive charm to cajole me into getting myself a Bachelor’s degree by once again the distance learning route. To keep her out of my hair, I registered for a Bachelor’s degree in Arts. Lo and behold, I once again surprised myself and a whole lot of others by succeeding in getting that degree too! I still do not know how I managed to do so. I am not being facetious. That is the truth.

This time, my father was a bit more careful and waited till proof of some sort was given to him by my mother. That she did in due course, and he was surprised out of his wits. I suspect however, that he was mightily pleased too.

While all this was going on, I was quite content with what little I was earning and quite happy doing all the things that bachelors with some money in their pocket do. I however was shanghaied once again by my mother, into applying for admission into a Post Graduate Course in Business Management. I did so, on the assumption that I will not get selected. I still do not know how, but the selectors, took a shine to me, and gave me admission. Doing this course however meant that I had to go to a residential program for two years and study! I had no inclination whatsoever to do that.

Fate however had other ideas. A lady friend of mine wanted to get married to me, and I was not in any mood to. Things became a bit sticky and I had to leave the town that I was living in for obvious reasons. The admission that I had secured came in handy. I exploited that and scooted off!

Quite how I managed to get my MBA too, is still a mystery. Here too a lot of factors helped like, I could type reports and papers for other classmates and make some pocket money and stay alive. Commissions earned from earlier sales made, kept trickling in. Some kind hearted Professors took pity on me and tutored me so that I could keep my head above water. Somehow, I managed to last the course and get the much vaunted MBA. One significant change that happened after that event is that, since then, my father adds B.A, MBA, after my name in all communications to and about me. My nephews and nieces call me Bamba! What knowledge I have about Management, was taught to me by life and employment.

I applied for openings through campus recruitment, and once again, one prestigious employment as a Management Trainee landed on my lap. I still do not know what the selectors saw in me. The rest, as they say is history.

I surprised myself and once again, a lot of others, and I grew. One particularly vicious Senior Manager who had to leave the company, aptly called my growth as being the result of “lack of alternatives!” Very likely.

That start in 1967 made me what I am today. A retired hippy, content to live off a pension and savings. I am still not ambitious. I do not have any lady acquaintances to goad me into new adventures.

I quote Gregory Vlastos – “We have tried the ways of ambition, of self-aggrandizement, of aggressive opportunism, and we have seen the kind of flimsy success to which they lead; we have tasted the bitter poisons they generate, we have known the conflict, the disgust, the inner division, the outer isolation that follow in their wake”.

I would just replace one word in that wonderful quote. I would change the third word of the beginning to “seen”. I did not try. The whole thing just landed in my lap. I just flowed along the stream of life. Serendipity?

By and large, life has been good to me and continues to be. I am wiser by hindsight. Now you know the inspiration for my tag line.

What has ambition got to do with it? Like the picture of Michael Speller’s sculpture above, it is by and large, a ladder without a top rung!

Conrad and Yours Truly.

A dear friend who is prone to flights of fancy has sent two pictures to me, more or less daring me to blog about them. I have little to lose and so here they are.

The first is of Conrad, who our mutual friend wishes to look like this:


The next is ardent desire that this fate will befall me, particularly after my recent posts, which are not, I suspect, quite to his liking.

Rummy Being Eaten

Friend, comments?

Skip And Gail.

After Gail came out of the closet, she has been very active on the blog circuit. Recently, there was one particular exchange in my earlier post on her coming out of the closet, between her, me and Skip, a first time commentator on my posts.

It went like this:

Skip: How can people let themselves get like that?

Me: Please see my forthcoming post on Pregnant ladies and Pregnant looking men.

Gail: Hey Skip, don’t talk. Let’s see a picture of your ‘beer belly”! Men always want their women to stay at 36-24-36, but men don’t respect their spouses,girlfriends, whatever— to control their own weight. Where’s Conrad’s whine bar, this pisses me off about men!
Sorry Skip, now go out and have a great day, as I go back to my Chocolates.XXX

Now we cannot keep Skip waiting for long can we?

pregnant ladies

Thank you Diane. And a big Namaste.