Before GPS days, I was the chosen one.
When we (family or friends) got lost in our ways while discovering the interiors of South India, I was the favored one for asking directions. To be honest, I enjoyed the interactions with strangers. There was something about the rural earth that brings the best in people.
I had the privilege of being at the receiving end of warmth that you have to experience to believe — roll down your window shield and ask them for directions, they stop their bicycles, alight, remove their mundhasu (rolled up cloth on their head to protect from sweltering heat) as a sign of respect to the wanderer, bend down to meet my gaze at the window and share the directions in earnestness like a first grader. At the end, when I share back an earnest thank you, they showcase a brimming smile that registers in my long-term memory. A simple interaction brings out the positive energy baked in the country side where interactions take precedence over time — a feeling, I so enjoy.
I never knew that I would find those feelings back again on the digital world — well by accident. I was casually asking a lady working at a place I consulted before, “how did you land your current opportunity?” “I heard about it from my neighbor” was her reply. Her answer got my attention. What struck me as counter- intuitive was the non-obvious professional connection between the referrer and the employee! I started to ask this question more often, answers along the lines of “A fellow parent at my child’s school shared this opportunity with me” were more common than I had foreseen. What were the odds? I wondered. I researched — 58% more likely to be helped by acquaintances than good friends (famous study by sociologist, Mark Granovetter).
Tactically, I did not know what to do with this information. For most of us, our daily routines keep us busy. With people we interact daily, we stir the same informational pot, more or less! As much as I liked interacting with the farmer on the road, I needed a purpose to initiate a conversation– finding a way to reach a destination.
As I thought more about what I liked most about those interactions, I liked the person on the other side of my car door silhouetted by the green paddy fields. I liked what he/she represented.
And those feel good feelings, came flooding back when I got a comment, a private note from someone I did not know after reading one of my blogs. As I ponder why, I imbibed what I liked in those simple interactions.
Instead of being the car rider asking for directions, without realizing it, I ingrained the persona of the rustic villager — happy, respectful and useful.
In my journey, I consciously chose to bicycle through different roads for purely personal reasons — I liked the feel of the wind on my face — the topics fascinated me and the interactions brought joy.
Little did I know that those passers by would create a world of bliss for me — great friendships, great referrals, introductions — you name it.
What works for me, could it work for you? I cannot say for certain. Do you naturally prefer to respond than initiate? Do you cringe when you see people who push their agenda with intensity? Do you want to grow your network in pleasant ways? If my experience is anything to go by, the art of drawing in people with blogs is a feel good option.
When I was young, as a car rider, I often loved those interactions on the roads meandering through the paddy fields. My biggest aha today, I could be the one on the bicycle and experience the same feelings and also reap rich dividends in pleasant ways never thought possible.
I would like to share my favorite words that I often shared with the delightful folks on the road who helped with my directions — “Nandri aiyya”(thank you, respected elder). Today, those words are a tribute to those great folks for keeping me grounded to what matters — building respectful relationships in ways I am naturally comfortable with.
Interested in your thoughts in the comments section.