By Anupama Bhattacharya September 1998 Rooshi Kumar Pandya, a corporate workshop leader, believes that management is not just about getting things done but also about compassion and personal development ASSERTIVENESS QUESTIONNAIRE1. Do you feel that you must buy something if a salesperson goes to great lengths showing you things?2. Do you have difficulty starting a conversation with a stranger?3. Do you find it difficult to criticize a friend?4. Do you feel self-conscious when somebody compliments you?5. Do you feel exploited and pushed around?6. Do you find it difficult to ask a queue breaker to join the queue?7. Do you get ‘I should have said that’ kind of thoughts after meeting people?8. Do you have difficulty saying ‘no’ to a friend?9. Do you think people find you boring?10. Do you have trouble asking for an overdue increment?11. Do you feel uncomfortable when you are being watched at work?12. Do you find silence at social gatherings uncomfortable?13. Are you afraid to make mistakes?14. Are you always defensive when you are criticized?15. Do you feel dissatisfied with your vocation?16. Do you pretend that you know or understand a topic even if you don’t?If your answer is yes to four or more questions, you need to learn assertivenessMANAGE STRESSDevelop…• a personal stress profile by listing things that cause you stress: occupational, social, cultural and physical. • some hobbies and spend time with friends and family. • a positive and healthy self-image be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and look upon your mistakes as tools for learning. • an alternative reaction to stress-causing agents by being aware of them. Cultivate… • a sense of humor. • An observer within yourself who is aware of your motives, strengths and weaknesses, and listen to its feedback. Avoid… • perceiving every task as a challenge. • leaving several tasks uncompleted. • aggression and hostility by learning to be assertive. Learn… • to share your problems with somebody who is caring and nonjudgmental. • to compartmentalize and avoid taking your problems home. • To be kind to yourself. • To manage your time. Start the day leisurely, instead of rushing. A rolling stone gathers no moss,’ is an ancient adage parroted by parents, teachers and wannabe well-wishers. ‘But is moss—that gooey growth of stagnation—really desirable?’ wondered a speculating youth. ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss but it certainly gets polished,’ explained an out-of-the-ordinary teacher, changing the course of this youth’s life. Today, a renowned corporate trainer with a headful of silvery hair, Rooshi Kumar Pandya hasn’t forgotten the lessons of his early youth. ‘I was a stupid, hesitant, middle-class boy from the western Indian state of Gujarat. If I had settled for that, today I would have been a stupid, hesitant, middle-class teacher.’ Mossy indeed. But Pandya decided to roll, and polished himself to a degree where he could take the world in his stride without blinking an eye. Nobody comes out of his workshop without being impressed. A clientele that tends to look like a virtual who’s who of the corporate world including Indian bigwigs Godrej, Madras Refinery, Tisco, G.E. Shipping, and RBI, to Coca Cola India, American Express and UB group of companies, as well as assorted Indian celebrities such as Pandit Jasraj, Protima Bedi, Dr Prakash Kothari and Shekhar Kapur, Pandya tackles tricky questions with perfect ease and teaches various managerial skills with examples from Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata with interesting anecdotes thrown in.‘I came across this big burly American in a plane who told me that he taught eschatology,’ says Pandya and looks around. A roomful of white-collar executives keep mum. ‘Do you know what eschatology is?’ asks Pandya. No hands go up. ‘This is what I’m trying to demonstrate. We don’t ask questions, we are ashamed to say ‘I don’t know’.’ ‘But what is eschatology?’ asks a participant—the first step in changing the preset behavior patterns. Pandya looks pleased. ‘You should ask. Eschatology is the study of the after-death. The American used this word because he had seen Indians pretending they knew what it meant, which gave him a chance to ridicule them.’ That’s Pandya’s version of assertiveness. ‘For people like me who always equated aggressiveness with assertiveness,’ says Anand Arunachalam, team leader with American Express, ‘the workshop changed the entire perspective. For the first time I realized that assertiveness is not incompatible with politeness.’ In fact, politeness is the very basis of assertiveness, claims Pandya: ‘Assertive skills have to be developed keeping the cultural traits in mind. You can afford to be blunt about your feelings in the USA. Not so in India. Here, you can’t tell your father that you don’t like what he says so would he please not interfere in your life.’ In other words, assertiveness is the ability to act in harmony with your self-esteem without hurting others. But how do you say what you want to say without being blunt? ‘That’s where communication skills come into use,’ Pandya elaborates with his characteristic smile. Communication, according to him, is one of the most popular courses in the corporate sector. ‘They also want motivation and selling, but since communication plays an important part in both, it ends up being the most important aspect of management.’ Communication, however, can be both verbal and nonverbal. ‘What would you do if a person with shifty eyes, a slouching posture and nervous movements tells you that he is extremely confident?’ asks Pandya. ‘You’d either think he’s lying or you’d think there is something terribly wrong with his self-analytic faculties.’ In effect, we tend to rely on nonverbal communication more. No wonder actions speak louder than words. ‘As part of the workshop, I conduct self-image exercises where participants write down how they perceive themselves, their strengths and weaknesses. The idea is to find out the fallacies in people’s self-image,’ explains Pandya. For example, a person who believes that he can never speak up might discover that it is his self-image, which hinders his authority. ‘This can help them feel better about themselves and be more assertive. I also hold dialogues between the participants so that they understand the knowable aspects of communication. There is also a role playing exercise where each participant acts out personality types.’ But at a time when New Age corporate gurus are sprouting by the dozen, what makes Pandya different? ‘My initial reaction to him,’ says M.M. Bhatt, addl. general manager of Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers, India, ‘was cautious since I had attended a couple of corporate workshops and found them rather ineffective.’ But his first interaction with Pandya changed his mind.‘Being in charge of personnel, my job requires handling of sensitive matters. The workshop taught me how to retain inner calm even during moments of tension,’ says Bhatt. The sentiment is echoed by D. Sivanandhan, Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, who attended Pandya’s stress-relief workshop when he conducted it for the Mumbai Police. ‘Our profession is extremely stress-prone. But after doing some stretch exercises that he recommended, I feel fit for the whole day,’ says he.The most noticeable change, however, was reported by P.N. Venugopal, president of the life sciences division, UB group of companies, who has attended four of Pandya’s workshops. ‘It helped me realize all my dreams,’ says Venugopal, ‘I tried his self-hypnosis to secure a foreign job. In a couple of years I had a Singapore-based job, a terraced house and even a car matching the color I wanted.’For Pandya, the road to success began with a public speaking competition whose winner was to be sent to the USA for a year. Pandya, then a teacher of Sanskrit and music, decided to participate. As luck would have it, he was selected. ‘When I told this to an English-speaking friend,’ recalls Pandya, ‘he guffawed and said: ‘Rooshi, you can’t speak English, you don’t take liquor or eat meat, you’ve no table manners, what will you do in the USA?’ But he finally took pity on my condition and taught me some basic English sentences.’So Pandya set off, lock, stock and barrel, to big bad USA. Awed by the sight of plastic cups (they hadn’t arrived in India then), he collected them as souvenirs. ‘Those were the most exciting, learning and horrifying experiences of my life. I was struggling to come to terms with the language, the culture, the food. The Americans were friendly. But when they would ask me why Indians don’t kill and eat the millions of cows crowding Indian roads, I would only smile in return. Only two kinds of people reply with a smile: idiots, for they know nothing, and sages, because they know everything.’Initially, Pandya thought that he was being bullied because he came from a developing country. But later, he realized that this was also happening to American students who would go to developing countries like Mexico and Brazil as Peace Corps Volunteers. Dr Manuel Smith, who was then heading the team of psychiatrists in the Peace Corps, realized that these students required a different kind of training. They devised a training based on psychology and behavioral skills. Pandya, the course professor, felt that
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