The Ordinary vs. the Impactful


It is a beautiful morning in Singapore – bright, sunny but not yet hot. The Chinese New Year week is coming to an end – it is the “Year of the Pig”, and hopefully we can look forward to peace and prosperity, much more than wars, conflicts, and poverty. Well that is my wish at least, and I am sure most of the world’s citizens would want a year better than what has gone by.

I was thinking about the folks that we meet in our daily lives, and during networking or social occasions. I am not personally a shy person, I stretch out my hand and shake hands with any stranger that I meet in such situations. But whether you already know the person or he or she is a stranger, it strikes me odd that very few people even attempt to create an impact on you.

What I mean is not the attempt on either side to start a conversation or engage in a meaningful chat (even for a few minutes); it is the effort to positively impact the other person with your ideas or thoughts on how some global issue can be addressed. When I leave a conversation or a meeting, I would want to be “impacted” so that I do not forget the person’s profile/face, the topic, or the impact that person caused on me. Otherwise, I think it is a waste of time for both persons who are getting introduced.

I believe I get only one chance to influence another person. I have experienced the fact (as far as it concerns me) that if I fail in that endeavour, I do not get another chance even if I get to meet the same person again. I am sure you have come across such situations. This shows that people make up their minds about you in few seconds, rather too quick for comfort, but that is the way it is………you get only one opportunity to create a positive impression on the other person and you better not lose that opportunity.

Many a time I have met slackers who either do not have anything to say, or focus on someone else while chatting with you. Both actions are not going to go down well with me (I am sure it is the same with almost everyone else), as here I am trying to make a conversation and create an impact of my own on the “slacker”, irrespective of his pedigree or status, genuinely assuming that there is something that can be gained from each and every meeting, but the slacker couldn’t care less. Looking at what other folks are doing during an intimate conversation is stupid, to say the least. That is actually an insult, a lack of respect towards the other person (here it is me!) who is working hard to keep matters in focus and generate an influence. Gradually, I have learnt to identify slackers and either avoid conversations or just move on to someone else that I know with a greeting that would slice off my time with the slacker in an unobtrusive manner.

Then you encounter the silent spectators who are usually difficult to penetrate – these are the folks who observe everything, grasp most of what is going on, keep their thoughts to themselves, and open up only to others who know them very well. It could be a challenge to get introduced to them, so I use a mediator (a common friend) – I just ask this mediator who is this silent spectator, what does he do, can he make an introduction for me, et al. I am always surprised that these silent spectators turn out to be the most incisive, impactful people that I have met. Not the garrulous, back-slapping folks working their way through the crowd, trying to please everyone around.

I would divide the people that I meet into several buckets: the ordinary people (more than 60% fall into this category) who are mostly good guys or girls who carry on with their lives in the usual way, not feeling the urge to generate an influence or impact on other people that they meet: they just greet, talk some shop, and then move on. They do not make an attempt to find out more about the others that they meet. They probably do not want a job! Or, they are not interested to build new network of new friends. I cannot figure out their general disinterest even on matters which affect all of us. They don’t even want to talk about President Trump! They probably do not wish to take a stand on any matter.

The slackers are the folks that you do not wish to engage because of a variety of factors – basically they are not trustable, generally they are boasters, they do not have respect, their attention spans are very low. We gain nothing out of any interactions with slackers. Again, these folks show very little interest in you or on global matters that should be of concern to all of us. They are not well-read, they just tend to slack off and probably drink through the evening instead of seriously networking with anyone they come across. Slackers constitute probably 20% of the people that you would meet.

Then comes the silent spectators – you should pay attention to these people. They carry a lot of stuff in their heads and generally they have a much better grasp of worldly affairs and even your own network of friends. It takes time to break through to such folks however. May be couple of meetings with your strong pitch on your own credibility and then you are on your way to a long-lasting friendship. Mind you, they are difficult people with their own views on every matter under the sun, and sometimes they do not take kindly towards conflicting opinions. Silent spectators probably constitute less than 5 to 10% of the people sample that you would come across.

Then, finally there are people who wish to talk a lot and contribute to every topic that is being discussed. One can gain a lot by listening to such people – they come through not as garrulous interventionists but as engaging thought leaders who peddle their views in a non-aggressive manner to anyone they meet. They believe that every meeting, even a chance meeting, should be converted into a productive engagement – it does not matter who benefits; otherwise there is no purpose in any meeting. It might sound a bit harsh, but I know a number of folks who fall into this category – I would designate them as thought contributors, for the lack of a better terminology. They take a principled stand on every topic that they raise or respond to, and are not afraid of potential backlash demonstrating a sincerity which is unusual. I respect these contributors as it is a huge learning opportunity to talk to them. Of course, these people expect you to respond, so we need to have some material in our heads to engage and continue the conversation in a meaningful manner, otherwise they will lose interest and move on. They constitute probably less than 10% of the people sample that you would run into, but combined with silent spectators, they are the most impactful people that could seriously impact your world views. So, where would you choose to put your emphasis on? Most people you run into are ordinary people with no vision or even a mission statement that they wish to propagate in any people-to-people engagement. They do not have a plan. Obviously, I would not want to spend more than the time needed for greetings or courtesies, with these people. I would like to focus on the Silent Spectators and Thought Contributors, both of who could add value to me for my own improvement. Likewise, I would like to be a thought contributor in every engagement – I am not a silent spectator as almost everyone who knows me can attest to!

Well, I thought I would pen my ideas on this interesting topic this morning, and I am just completing this post – it has taken about 45 minutes or so. Some new thoughts finally!

Have a wonderful weekend folks, and contribute some new ideas!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

09 February 2019

Author: Vijay Srinivasan

VJ lives and works in Singapore. He hails originally from Southern part of India, and has lived in Malaysia/Singapore for over 21 years. He loves networking, reading, travelling, amateurish golfing, badminton, and arguing on intellectual issues which affect mankind with his friends and colleagues. He also loves his wines and blogging !

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