Category Archives: psychology

Difficult Conversations and How we avoid them?

Conversations, how we love and hate them(at times). Our lives are filled with conversations of sorts, some meaningful bust mostly meaningless. Even the most introvert people can’t do without engaging in conversations and there’s little chance that one can do away with not having any conversations at all.

Conversations, like money matter more in certain places than others. So much so that in certain situations conversations are the most crucial element. Running a business is one such case in which having conversations is one of the core aspects of operation.

Day in and day out, an entrepreneur needs to engage in conversations of all sorts with their fellow co-founders, investors, employees, partners, vendors and others. From the vision of the company, its direction, targets to execution plans these conversations not only discuss the functioning of the company for also decide how even the smallest of peg in the machine called a company will run. Since these conversations are that important one needs be really good at handling them (kinda like story telling).

It’s fair to assume that all great entrepreneurs must be great and doing conversations across the wide spectrum of their stake holders.

Over the last few months I’ve noticed that certain people (including business owners and well to do professionals) are noticeably bad at handling *difficult conversations*. By a difficult conversation here I mean a conversation which involves either saying “NO” to something or “to negotiate” its details. I’m excluding the cases where one has people below them in the ladder to play the bad cop or do detailing/negotiation.

Certain conversations by their nature or the nature/situation of people involved can be difficult. Think a girl wanting to break the news of ending her relationship with a guy because she feels she doesn’t love him (anymore?) or a manager who has to tell his subordinate that he’ll have his paycut or worse be fired from the organization. The examples of difficult conversations are abound, they vary across the personal and professional lives.

From saying No to something/someone, breaking bad news or negotiating terms for a deal, difficult conversations often find very few takers. People’s response when faced with a difficult conversation could range from avoidance till limit or experiencing emotional turmoil and more. Many a times, people’s response catches many by surprise and keeps them wondering what happened.

To keep things succinct, we’ll limit the scope of the post to that of ‘Difficult conversations’ related to work/business.

Consider This: A guy from a services company approaches a business owner to offer their services and after a couple meetings and deliberation for whatever reason the business owner decides against the deal. Quite a few people which I know (including myself sometimes) would stop answering the calls/emails from the services guy.  This I feel is totally weird and uncalled for. The most obvious and the best way to go about this is to simply communicate the reason (briefly maybe) on why you have decided against their offer/proposal and clear the air instead of leaving them guessing and needless to say feeling treated badly. There are many more cases like these and I feel having a lack of confidence in breaking the bad news or the fear of someone forming a different impression about you could be the reasons.

Are there more reasons for this? Why do you think people avoid difficult conversations?

Perspective is Everything

For some time now I’ve started thinking more about ‘Perspectives’, particularly about my Perspectives.

Everybody has a way of viewing things and mostly your views about various things would be different than mine. Perspective to me is a deep and thought out opinion about something. The more you think about something, chances are the better you understand them and the more you understand things, the more you like and enjoy them.

I believe most people tend to have perspectives on only a handful things, particularly things that impact them. For ex: Not everyone will have a strong opinion on the design of things or  internet freedom or climate control or the way cities should be planned etc. I strongly feel that it is very important to have a perspective on a few things if not a lot. Having a perspective on certain things opens up your mind about them, it helps you deconstruct the current state of things, particularly what’s wrong and also on how they can *possibly* be fixed.

You need to deliberate deeply about something and be emotional about it to be able to have a perspective on it and to me having a perspective on something is why/how most innovations and disruptions happen. You feel passionately about healthcare for the poor, you feel motivated enough to change things around, you figure out a way to get things moving and bang your idea becomes a reality and ends up changing someone’s life for better.

Think about it, if an entrepreneur doesn’t have a strong perspective about their new startup idea/product what are the odds that their product will be different(and maybe an improvement) from others, will add some value and end up becoming a sustainable business?

Unless you really want to change things around and have some idea on what the change should be, you can’t be good at it. Not only this, my perspective is that we as entrepreneurs need to have perspectives on not just one but a lot of things. Say as a start-up entrepreneur I should have perspectives on disruption/innovation that I want to bring to my industry, building a profitable and sustainable business, hiring, customer service etc etc. The number of these aspects I feel strongly about would determine to a large extent to how I fair in this journey.

Also, I feel that the person who has perspectives on more and possibly varied things the better positioned they are to change things and have an impact. I have certain perspective on usability, product design, health care, education, independent artists, social media, publishing/media among a few other things. I have spent fair amount of time analyzing some of this things and have some idea of how I can add value in these domains. Hopefully soon enough I’d get a chance to move things around in them.

Till then, what do you think about this? Do you Agree/Disagree with what I just said?

 

The Power of Routine

Getting into a routine of doing things is something I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with. Someone who is successful/achiever or great at something might have a tough time at doing something regularly say as *simple* as going for a 15 minute walk.

There is a lot more to the routine (doing things repeatedly over a period of time) than what meets the eye. So much so that you can judge someone to a fair extent but knowing if they follow any routines. If they follow a routine for anything (except watching TV, reading in the loo etc) they have

  1. Discipline/Will Power
  2. Will or Desire to learn/get better at something or help someone
  3. Comparatively better ability of plan/utilize their time
  4. Some level of resourcefulness

So, if you want to be better at the above mentioned things, you know what to do.

I’ve pondered a lot on how to improve an individual’s intellect or widen their horizon( especially about understanding how they and to an extent the world around them works) and I strongly believe that to get someone to improve or move to the next level in their personal or professional life, one of most effective and doable things is to make them get into a routine. This routine could be for anything. Anything they like or want to learn. Not only these, even if they are able to get up in the morning everyday and go for a walk/job I believe it would be of definite help.

Also, I feel if a person is in a habit of doing something regularly, and they add more items in their routine they can evolve and become better.

Want to start a new routine/habit? Check this presentation out

[slideshare id=6411687&doc=3stepstonewhabitsv2-101230181501-phpapp01]

Thoughts on Reflection

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Humans, I believe are not very good when it comes to reflecting. Reflecting about time, relationships, events, patterns and deviations from patterns. I, myself am not significantly better at it. Not sure why but for me(and maybe a lot others) the act of reflecting is connected to certain dates/events.

“Some nights are made for torture, or reflection, or the savoring of loneliness.” ― Poppy Z. Brite

I am highly likely to reflect and introspect on/around my Birthday, around New year’s eve or a few other dates while I am highly unlikely to be looking back in detail on most other days of the year. Possible reasons for the same could be

    1. The Power of Habit: I am used to take out time especially to think on my birthday but not used to doing this on other days
    2. Rut of the Routine: We are so busy doing zillion things on normal days that it becomes difficult to be thinking deep
    3. No Clue: Going by the ratio of people I am close with and the number of people who talk to me about reflecting I guess most people are oblivion to the concept of reflecting.

“Reflection is the business of man; a sense of his state is his first duty: but who remembereth himself in joy? Is it not in mercy then that sorrow is allotted unto us?” – William Shakespeare

I feel thinking deeply about the past and what it was like is a great tool in understanding oneself and where/how one’s life is progressing (if at all). There are many a times important realizations about oneself, and others which are invaluable if worked upon.

Maybe it’s time we integrate the various elements of internet/startups in life. Maybe we should have

    1. Life Model aka Business Model or Happiness Model aka Financial Model
    2. Key Performance Indicators
    3. Dashboard
    4. Goals
    5. Monthly/Quarterly Reviews

What do you think?

The Idea Zone

I am one of those whose minds are mostly occupied by something or other related to their work. It’s something I’ve grown into ever since I stopped working for someone else about three years back . Whether it’s execution details about a feature/project or a new idea all together I am mostly thinking and when not thinking something in particular I am thinking about thinking. While doing the  latter, I’ve realized that I like many others have some favourite spots for specific things i.e a preferred place for watching a film, having chai or taking a stroll.

most of my thinking/ideation happens in a cafe
(Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31383314@N03)

When you are at this preferred place doing what you like doing you are at your natural optimum best. For some strange reason I’ve always felt that I could brainstorm better/longer if I am at a different/unusual place. Not surprisingly it has turned out to be the case indeed. From reading a business book to ideation on a business idea Cafes and open spaces(esp Parks) seem to work very well for me. I’ve spent quite some time by myself sitting in a cafe sipping cappuccino  reading a book or scribbling ideas with a pencil at a park.

Another place where lot of interesting big/small ideas pop in my head is while having bath. It’s been quite a few times now when I have gone to shower with a thought seed and have come out with a cool idea ready to be detailed and execute. Obvious as it sounds, most of us need an optimum environment to be at our productive best but despite it being so obvious we tend to not take it seriously. I for one don’t go to a cafe everyday/every other day.

Maybe we all should try to identify such zones and try to visit them more often. What do you think?

Empathy: The Secret Sauce For Mind-blowing Customer Experience

I am a sucker for remarkable, awe-inspiring,  mind-boggling customer experience and can’t think enough about it. The more negative experiences I have as an end user (with consumer goods companies, mobile operators, eating joints etc) the more determined I am to offer the best possible customer service for my business. Obsessing about customer service has had its share of good and bad realizations and continue to help me in connecting the dots. It was in one of these moments that it occurred to me that Empathy or the lack of it could be an indicator for good/bad customer service.

Sometimes while taking care of Dial-a-Book operations I find myself in a situation where I have to deliver an order (because of urgency of the situation and unavailability of other designated resources). Last such case happened 4-5 days back when a student ordered a book in afternoon on a condition that it should be delivered the same day as he had an exam next day afternoon, Fair enough. There was however a little problem in this, we didn’t have the concerned book in stock and it had to be procured locally. After a few hours and towards the end of our office hours when we managed to procure the book, we had no one left in the office to deliver it. Now came the last resort, for me to deliver them personally, when I told this at home that I’ll be at home late as I had to deliver a book, pat came a reply, “You can get it delivered tomorrow by your delivery team”. While in normal course of action that’d have been except in this case it was urgent as the customer had an exam due next day and thus wanted the book the same day.

The reason why I shared the above mentioned case was because I felt I could take care of this case because I could relate to the customer and their problem ( a student needing a book desperately for an exam scheduled next day) . Empathy with the customer had the power to drive me to go out of the way and make sure that the book is delivered the same day.

Isn’t this how this generally works?

If everybody from product designers to the customer service executives could empathize with their customers they would be in a position to offer much better solutions to their problems.  On the contrary if the person in question can’t feel the pain of the customer they might not be able to offer exemplary customer experience.

What do you think?

How is Social Software changing us

The invention of a tool doesn’t create change; it has to have been around long enough that most society is using it. It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen.

Social Software has been around for quite a long time for us to ask the question “how has its use changed us” or rather “how is excessive use of social software changing us”. To crowdsource views , I asked this question on the social networks I use i.e LinkedIn,Kwippy, Twitter and Facebook. While a lot of people took the question in a different light and shared how is social media helping them etc,  here are some of the interesting replies(network wise)

LinkedIn:

“While I was a very private and secretive person before, I’ve found that opening up on social media via non-threatening means has given me the ability to be more open in my real world relationships”  – Shamoz Shah

” With increasing interaction over social media my faculty for thinking and rationalizing has increased. Because of my writings, discussions, posts I have a ready audience who interact. As a result of it I get motivated and write/discuss/post more and it’s a cycle. It has definitely improved my writing skills, thinking skills, rationalizing faculty (being open to various thought processes).

In negatives, I have become more reclusive because I am glued to my computer for more number of hours. Impacted on eye-sights (natural I suppose).

Thirdly, the anonymity provided by cyber-media and through certain Social Media sites, such as ‘fropper’ you tend to fantasies or possibility of personality distortion.” –Devasis Chattopadhyay

I communicate more. Like now. It is good that this communication is non-intrusive and you have more choices to connect personally or professionally.” – Bama Ramesh

“The thing I noticed I started doing more and more, is to double check if I am not offending anyone with my replies / posts. I’ve learned that there are some quite sensitive topics, where it is not appreciated if you express yourself in a frank way, even if there is no purpose in attacking a certain group” – Ives De Busser

Sushaantu Mathur repeated the same thing  – “Living an online life just makes you more accountable in public eyes”.

Shawn is right when he says “Social networks have lessened my patience a bit . Think about how fast information flies around the web and the speed at which we receive breaking news. When we’re plugged in, we’re able to get what we want almost instantaneously. I have to sit back at times and remind myself that many things in life don’t work that way”

“Bigger bags under my eyes!” – Mark Porter

“The evidence we do have from reliable studies is that social networking software is helping people become more social. The most active people on Facebook, for instance, are the most active socially in the “real world”. And as some of the answers on this page suggest, people who have social fears or difficulties are finding that online social networking is helping them overcome such issues.

Overall, it is clear to me that social networking software is a substantial help to people. It deepens existing relationships, makes people more social (not less) and helps individuals with social anxiety come to terms with their condition.

So, I’d encourage people to use it even more.” – Graham Jones

Kwippy

“My friends don’t tell me anything directly anymore. I constantly hear “Oh, you didn’t see my post about it on myspace?” and “Well, I invited you on facebook!” I can’t keep up, frankly.” – Tarasa

Facebook:

It definitely has. Soon there will be internet/social media rehabs! – Riputapan Singh

The virtual world has made me more real. I was in an island before, now i know of the ocean. – Harish Iyer

Twitter:

“Its ensured my ‘breaking news’ sources are not the newspapers or the websites anymore.  Also, I am more clued into ur life” – Asfaq

To each according to their own,  while for someone it’s about opening up more, for someone it’s about being more visible and ultimately more accountable. Here are a few inter related ways in which I think Excessive/Continued use of social software is changing us.

1) Increased thirst for knowledge:
The use of social software has not just helped us meet new people easily and regularly or stay in touch with old friends. It has made us more hungry for knowledge/information. Thanks to the exposure(over ?) of  information on most social sites(think no of hyperlinks/update in your twitter/friendfeed stream) and various social pressures of sorts, most of us have become addicted to know more and more.

2) Increased Voyeurism:
Facebook Feeds and Twitter Streams are best examples of the increasing levels of voyeurism as a side effect of our increased usage of Social Software. People who replied to my question on various social networks, directly or indirectly touched upon this facet. It’s a lot easier to keep an eye on what’s going not just in one’s personal life but in their overall/complete life. The underlying principle of social networks is to keep people in your network updated about what you are doing. So not only your actions but those of your friends that invole you(for ex: you being tagged by someone) will be broadcasted to your entire network. Such things further fuel people’s voyeuristic tendencies. Whose single or whose relationship status just went to “It’s complicated” was never more visible or sought after.

3) Increased Sharing:
We might not realize this but due to easy of sharing and the culture(s) of most social sites, we are  increasingly sharing more stuff with people in our online circles. Hyperlinks, songs, videos, pictures,news we now share pretty much everything that we get our hands on and like(dislike too in some cases). “Sharing anchors community”, while most of us don’t realize this consciously, we have a sense that sharing adds value(or gets you attention) and thus you’ll find more people over sharing than under.

4) Increased Transparency:
It is one of the interesting ways in which social software is transforming us. What started of as a small change with people starting to share more about themselves and other people, things they know has gradually raised our expectations to the level that we now demand more and more transparency/openness from our friends and others on the network as if it’s our right to know what they are upto. Not only this we now expect much more transparency from public organizations and governments.

5) Compulsive Broadcasting/Life Streaming: Everyone’s an exhibitionist
If you are active user of facebook, kwippy and twitter like me chances are you too might have those moments when you are out somewhere doing something and you think in terms of what should be a relevant status update for it. For ex: While watching a movie, I tend to think and come up with the most relevant update for this experience, which in a sense distracts me(as I divert my attention from the movie to say updating my Facebook Status that my friends can see) from the experience. That’s not it, this habbit of continously throwing up on the web what ever comes to your mind is a really addictive habit but not without any side effects.

6) More Social:
If man was a social animal before than he’s now become a social beast. There will be very few people who would feel/say that they’ve become less social after using social software because the whole set up is geared to make you socialize. You get social objects which act as ice breakers, you get automated updates on people’s activites and a lot more. It is really difficult for someone to not make new friends or to not get more involved with one’s existing friends.Friends of Friends are now a lot more discoverable and accessible thus adding more links to your network.

7) Bloated Egos:
“Social Media is all about your ego” casually remarks a friend and I won’t say he’s completely wrong. Being in the space for about four years now and you sorta know what works for Social Software and what doesn’t. It’s not just Twitter or Facebook ,every social site that you use or have used has some inbuilt features to let the system massage your ego(think featured users) or let other members of the system massage you(think testimonials by friends). Be it the follower count, number of retweets, number of comments and likes your posted items receive, it’s all a big boost to one’s ego. It’s human, whether you like it or not most people prefer sites/networks/people/lifestlye(online or offline) that massage their egos to those who don’t. I believe if there’s something called a threshold or default level for bloated ego then we’ve left it miles away as a result of excessive usage of social software.

8.) Rise of the Marketers:
You are a marketer deal with it. That’s indeed the case, with the tools we use and how we use them we all are much better positioned to spread the word about ourselves or our products. Though the scale at which we all do things may vary we all atleast are better equipped than what we were before social software.

These are some of the ways  in which social software has changed us. How do you think has social software changed you ?


Twitter and Ego Massage

Warning: The content below might hurt your sensibilities as a Twitter Addict.

Twitter is the most popular microblogging service out there and saying its users swear by it would be an understatement. There are undoubtedly very few services in this space(or any  other) that are this high on customer love and even fewer services which have an entire industry surrounding themselves.

There was a time when Twitter was experiencing major issues staying up/running and there was a spurt of other alternatives with some offering new features all together or some simply adding features that some Twitter users always felt should have been a part of the system, but none of them really caused a mass exodus and Twitter is now back with a bang and is growing like crazy.

Being a Twitter user myself and a passionate social media enthusiast I’ve always wondered what really makes Twitter click. Being the first kid on the block, being simple and neatly designed, getting attention from early adopters is all critical to get a service started but to keep it going is another ball game. Many other services in this space or other have most or all of these pre-requisites but Twitter offers something at which others aren’t any where close. Yes, I am talking about the “Ego-Massage”. Nothing works in web 2.0 like the Ego-Massage(EM). The more you offer(or happen to offer) it the more you’ll find your users going head over heels for your service.

While it cannot be said with certainty if the emphasis on EM was their right from the start or it picked up some time later or its all due to various 3rd party tools but its for sure one of the unconscious reasons that makes people stick to twitter, talk and care about it a lot. Lets see how it works.

1) Follow not Subscribe:

Let there be Followers

Let there be Followers

In Twitter if you have subscribed to someone’s updates you are following them and in the same way if someone has subscribed to your updates they are following you. Functionally they might mean the same but both words have way different associations, while subscriber is a neutral word a follower is certainly isn’t. 100 followers is not quite equal to 100 subscribers or 100 friends for that matter. Who cares about friends if you have followers ?

2) Follower Count does Matter:
Don’t believe anyone(leaving maybe Louis Gray) who tells you they are not bothered by their follower count or they are just interested in people they follow not the one’s who follow them.

This is the reason why there are numerous articles like this telling you how to have more followers on Twitter but hardly any on how to have more friends on Facebook or articles like this which highlight the pressure one feels to follow back their followers which basically is derived from the pressure to keep them pleased and ultimately keep them chained. While there were people loosing sleep over a drop in follower count(organic or courtesy twitter) some one saw an opportunity and thus there was  Qwitter . A service that informs you every time some one un-follows you and the last tweet you posted before they un-followed . So now you can question people who unfollow you, seek reasons, introspect your tweeting and a hell lot more. The stage is set for an endless game.

Having lots of followers is one thing but what’s the point if you cannot carry the follower count as a crown and show rest of the world ? That’s what folks at twittercounter were smart enough to realize and their usage stats confirm this (In total we generated 171,281,809 counters since we started tracking). Hundreds of thousands of blogs now sport these.

3) Tools that Further Inflate your ego:
As if having a huge(and portable) “follower” count was not sufficient for one’s ego, somebody came up with Twitter Ratio. So now its not just about how many followers you have its also about your Twitter Ratio i.e follower/following ratio. Those who need constant ego massages can be found tirelessly indulging in maintaining( or should I say increasing) their Twitter Ratio .

Then there’s Twitter Grader

Since more is always merrier especially when it comes to ego boosting we also have twitterholic . So what if you can’t be a topper when it comes to follower count or twitter ratio. You just might be a topper or a top Twitter user from your region, which most certainly adds to the ego.


Want to know you Twitter Influence ? You can apparently do that too, here

Other people’s thoughts on Twitter’s Ego Massage

I would really love to hear what works for you and to what extent are you affected by the above mentioned factors, it at all you are that is 🙂

Here’s a fun “Twitter Whore” video:

Social Media: Handle with Care

It’s been more than 36 hours that India’s financial capital Mumbai is under seize. In the ongoing battle with the terrorists in one of the biggest terrorist attacks on India ever,  Mumbai has demonstrated “citizen journalism“, in the real sense. While the role of social media and its contribution in the current situation cannot be denied but there’s more to it than just that.

What’s true and what’s not ?
What’s original and what’s not ?
Whose genuine and whose not ?

A cursory glance at #mumbai tells us it’s all happening on the web but lets try to not add more noise and rumor

Do NOT
1) Spread something without verifying the source
2) Spread hate against someone or a community
3) Spread information that could be used negatively
4) Say something just for the sake of saying

“social media dispenses gossip as well as truth, see the mumbai stream on twitter search” –  GregoryLent

List of Terror Victims

Critical Take:
Mumbai: flash mob or social media in action?

Tracking a Rumor:
Indian Government, Twitter and Common Sense

Code of Ethics for journalists: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Various shades of Tweets:
1) http://twitter.com/jeremyclarke/statuses/1026483093
2) http://twitter.com/mikewhills/statuses/1026358690
3) http://twitter.com/arjunghosh/statuses/1026295741
4) http://twitter.com/Sweetnote/statuses/1026551347
5) http://twitter.com/shahpriya/statuses/1026602197
6) http://twitter.com/kapso/status/1026608870
7) http://twitter.com/skepmod/statuses/1025822277

Obama’s campaign and the power of email

Email is not one of the things that comes to one’s mind when it comes to social media marketing. A world where shiny web 2.0 objects like facebook and twitter are at the center stage most people tend to think a bit too less of the classic email and the possibilities it offers. Lets see how Obama and his team leveraged the power or email to the hilt.”

Here’s a post I wrote on the appadom blog, read the full post here