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Honestly Speaking

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

I have had a few terrifying discussions in my life. I am talking about those instances when you have a conversation in which you have to tell someone something you would rather not, but feel you have to. Or like owning up to some transgression, not because you want to, but because you know you are going to get found out anyway. Something we all remember from childhood. 

That’s probably why they say an honest man is always a child because, although as children we are taught that honesty is the best policy, we soon learn to be frugal with the truth and admitting our mistakes, absorbing very early on that adults do not always appreciate honesty. From the mouths of babes comes the truth yet as we grow older we shut down this completely natural predisposition so that we are politically correct, socially appropriate, inoffensive or even just popular.  We learn to filter more and more what we tell others; the whole truth, part truth or nothing like the truth, so help me God!

I have just come back from conducting an assessment centre for a client. This is an exercise that companies undertake to ascertain talent in the business as it is considered one of the most reliable ways of assessing people’s capabilities. It is done by putting people through a series of exercises designed to simulate real work situations to see how they perform and in some instances identify leadership potential.

One particularly difficult exercise is when delegates are required to conduct a performance discussion with a difficult, hostile employee who has a blind spot bigger than an 18 ton truck, and a temperament similar to that of a pit bull and then give feedback on those areas of performance which they are unhappy with.  It’s no easy task and not for nothing is it named the Courageous Feedback Exercise.

During the exercise it isn’t unusual to see delegate’s mouths dry up as their fight or flight system is activated and these otherwise usually quite self-assured individuals, break into sweat-pouring, fear-induced anxiety as they have what appears the overwhelming task of, well, being honest really. The combination of the nature of the exercise and the inherent stress associated with the knowledge that you are being observed and assessed is in itself a nerve-wracking situation but add in that most of us find it hard to be truly open and honest (as if its consequence is surely to be disastrous) and what you are left with is an extremely testing challenge. In most of these simulated performance discussions I observe there are common errors:

The manager is passive or aggressive; he or she tries to win the discussion by heavy-handedly dishing out the feedback-call it fight-or completely underplays the problem entirety and avoids the issue, call it flight! Both are driven by fear. Rarely do I see an honest, productive discussion where one acts with ease within the situation. The irony of course is that while the problem is not the manager’s, he/she is the one who ends up so stressed that their angst goes through the roof. The problem lies with the underperforming manager yet he is often left unaffected by the discussion.

This week I was left wondering what is it about giving honest ‘negative’ feedback that makes it so daunting that we would rather stick pins in our eyes than come out and say it and where along the line did honesty become synonymous with ugly confrontation, rather than just being, well, frank?  If I knew all of this, could it somehow help me with my own fear of giving negative feedback and being honest?  Who are we or what are we if we know something to be an irrefutable fact and we don’t say it. Surely that must be one of the cornerstones of integrity?

Is what we have to gain from being honest less than what we have to lose? Indian author  Ritu Ghatourey says that “At the root of every large struggle in life is the need to be honest about something that we do not feel we can be honest about. We lie to ourselves or other people because the truth might require action and action requires courage. We say we don't know what's wrong, when we do know; we just wish we didn't”.

I don’t think I know if I answered my questions but I do know that many of the times when I have received ‘uncomfortable’ feedback mostly from someone demonstrating courage (I am told I am not the easiest person to feedback to), while it has been uncomfortable initially, thereafter its effect has been empowering. As it is precipitated personal growth towards being a better manager, father, colleague, friend and one who is more aware. I also know that when I speak my truth and give others honest feedback I feel lighter and more authentic. Of course I still get a dry mouth, and rush of adrenalin and mounting feeling of fear but that is not even half as bad as tossing in bed at night, wrestling with your demons, knowing you should have spoken out and you didn’t.

How come it is said that “the truth never hurt anyone” and we should “speak the truth and shame the Devil” yet when we do, it always offends the other party and we’re the ones who end up feeling like the bad guy?  And if honesty really is the best policy, why should it seem so antisocial?  Any inter-personal relationship that is founded on half-truths and white lies, no matter how well-intentioned, is doomed from the start. Perhaps the quest for honesty is a lifelong struggle, a full-circle journey back to those innocent days of our childhood when we told it like it was because nobody had told us not to?    To borrow from the words of singer and songwriter Billy Joel:

“Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.”

Even if I don’t always know it!

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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