In one of my meetings in the USA a few years ago, as a true Indian salesman I rattled off my company’s achievements and for sometime did not even notice the appreciation expressed on every point by my potential American client. I was meeting him for the first time and was keen on impressing him in the short time that I thought I will get. For every point I made I got a response like “hey that’s great”, “that’s wonderful”, “wow”, “it’s interesting ” and so on. In between my potential client told me some nice things about his company and relevant to the points I made. I waited for him to finish and then I finished the balance points I had to tell.
Little did I know that I had lost half the battle. I had not expressed any appreciation nor shown my willingness to listen to his point of view.
Several visits to the USA on business taught me a lot of the American psyche which is not necessarily to do only with business. There is a big difference between how an American thinks and how an Indian from India does. The interaction Indians have is to win anything they enter in and actually they lose a lot in the process. We think we are special. We think our brain is superior and our math and science and general computational skills are out of the world. We feel we are exceptionally great in many things.
The reality is that we are not trained to think that there are more important things in life to worry and think about. Bhai… “Hum..hum hai”….”Mein Mein hoon”….we have been brought up that way from childhood….. Our schools produce “talent” is what we think is 99 percent marks! When we enter a developed nation like the USA ,that is nothing…. They have achieved a lot more with a lot less of this “intelligence” stuff. Their achievements are far bigger. And we are yet to realise that actually we have to build a great change in our systems very soon, “to succeed”.
The training in India from childhood is a lot different right from beginning than that given in the USA. Ours is missing out on so many things practically, not necessarily academically or theortically. We are not trained to listen patiently to others, big or small , older or younger. We are not trained to appreciate the points others are making. We are not trained to say “hi /hello”, ” how you are doing”, “good bye”, “have a good day” and “drive home or reach safely”. Our culture says respect elders but practically what that means is when a boss enters the office, the juniors have to say ” hello sir” or “good morning sir ” and not the other way. Why can’t the boss say “Hi Ramesh” or “Hi Deepa” before they wish him? . In fact the story in many Indian offices is that many a times the boss does not even greet his deputy back. The peon is supposed to salute the boss but the boss need not even smile back at him !
Actually all this stems out of our upbringing. We have never changed our upbringing. We think our old culture and grooming is great, based on our mythology and history. No it is not always that way…. Let us change. Let us greet, appreciate, respect everyone… not just your superiors or elders or clients . Let us gradually retrain ourselves…..many small things happen to be actually big issues elsewhere and could lose you goodwill, lose face and lose even business if we do not retrain.
Do you rush in to a lift before others or get in even before those inside come out? Do you jump a queue even accidentally? Do you walk into an office and not say hi to the receptionist? Do you have adequate driving manners and road courtesies ?
The American education system and parental training trains you a lot about this. It’s all about respecting others- big or small, elder or younger. We have to take their good points and incorporate in our training in school. Our schools emphasise to learn more and win…. Other school systems train you to live well and let others also win. They achieve many things even before winning. We lose so many things while winning or trying to win.
I had an important meeting going on in the USA when my client got a call on his pager from the Fire department and left the meeting immediately after apologising for his sudden exit. He was a volunteer in the FIRE department of the local county. He was on call that day as a trained free paramedic to save heart attack patients. His training and upbringing …. Someone’s life is more important than making money.
Another client I met had left engineering to move into farming. My Indian colleague questioned him immediately … “Is there more money in that?” His answer: “don’t know…. but it’s more enjoyable.”
We need to retrain our children into how they look at life. We should stop being achievement oriented and being possessive. All these have resulted in huge problems in our society. We have also created monstrous corruption in this process. Our “I” is more important than “we”. Actually in the process “we” are nowhere as a nation despite creating wealth and gathering fancy degrees. We are still not able to have proper support, education and life skills and help to the blind, physically handicapped, mentally retarded, students with learning difficulties and others. We don’t even have a ramp for the wheelchair bound for entering public spaces. Why is this all..? Because “I” or “Mein” is more important than “we”. As long as “I” am O. K., all is O.K., unfortunately.
A huge amount goes into charity in developed countries like the USA . So many small and large businesses contribute to the community in different ways and whatever way they can afford. People contribute personally to many causes in terms of time and money. Where do we Indians stand here? We contribute a lot to temples ! That money lies unutilised. Why is this happening ? Because the money contributed to God was actually done for seeking God’s blessings for ” me and my family”….. once again “I” or ” Mein” has come in here …..just thinking only about oneself. All this originates actually from our upbringing and training to think about himself or herself first , right from childhood.
A lot of effort needs to go into our educational system to make our children think that life is far bigger than what is there for “me”, “I” and “Mein”. This actually will enrich their lives and make them really happier and more successful in the real sense, even successful internationally and become a real winner .
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