Archive for the 'Peace-making' Category


Spring is Here in the UK!

We have had a dreary winter so far.  After Christmas I felt like I was living in Finland but without the snow plows.  The rain makes life damp here and you feel it in your mattress when you go to bed at night.  But, somehow, Spring is here!  Well, virtually anyway. I am a lonely instructional designer who is holed up in my bedroom-office.  I am trying to get our business going since that is about the only way you can get work now in the UK–you got to do you own thing.  But of course, I’m in a Catch-22–no work–no money–no money–no business.  But then came iSpring to give me the leg up that I need.

You see, I am developing a new type of language learning concept — for Hebrew.  Since I am still learning Hebrew myself, and I’m doing the graphics, and I’m doing the IT, my mind is juggling quite a lot.

Once I got some prototype modules done for beta-testing, I needed a platform.  Who would host a powerpoint presentation and keep all my little animations and click when you’re done pages, and my sounds, and still give me quality.  And, who could keep it private for me?  For free.  Like I said, Spring came.  iSpring.

Not only that, when I had some technical difficulties, some one actually wrote right back THE VERY SAME DAY!  Yes, I said some one, meaning a real person like Helen.  A real personality.  No automatic email.

This is all for free.  Thank you, iSpring, for shedding a little bit of sunshine on the rainy UK.


Fisher-Price isn’t for the Fishermen’s children

Apparently, an anganwadi is a Hindi word for enclosed courtyard.  It sounds like a wonderful, safe place for children to play.  It would allow their mothers to work.

When the upper middle-class in India think of pre-school, they are like their neighbors in the West who think of many brightly-colored plastic Fisher-Price toys.  Children love to play games that imitate the grown-ups around them.  These were things that I was thinking of while taking a long walk on the beach.  Before I knew it, I was at the neighborhood koopum, or fishing village.  Because I was brought up in the sterile suburbs of Maryland, even after being in India for ten years, a koopum is still Disneyland for me.  The fishermen were repairing their nets; due to the bright sunlight, the nets clouded around them like fog.  They could be New York designers fashioning the latest gowns for the Oscars, but they weren’t.  Did Fisher-Price have any toys that emulated the work of a real fisherman–the fathers of many of the children that I would see later in the day?

There is still a cool breeze in South Chennai, so I walked to the anganwadi.  When you walk, only then do you see the real India.  There was a side-street that sold the fish baskets, ropes, and other equipment.  All was tactile and interesting–perfect for children who should develop.  These were real Tamil items that represent this culture.
Too many anganwadis have too few toys.  If they do get donations of toys–the teachers are almost afraid to use them–they are kept as valuable wedding presents.   But if they can’t get blocks, why not clean coconut shells as one local friend suggested?  And what about sand?

If you are from South India, what did you do when you were so very little and your mother was cooking or cleaning?  Let me know so we can keep the tradition going.  Perhaps you too played with priceless toys.


The Anatomy of Chaos in Grey’s Anatomy

I watched the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. In one of my life times, I was a respiratory therapist and knew what it was to walk around with a beeper and be summoned for Code Blue’s. From all over the hospital we would come running to the room where a nurse had noticed that a patient was in respiratory or cardiac distress. No matter how we felt about each other, we all had to move in concert. I would get the ambubag. The intern or resident would be ready to intubate. A nurse had the electric paddles to bring the heart back. We were all ready to take orders.

This episode of Grey’s Anatomy was an accurate anatomy of a disaster due to a lack of team spirit. No one was looking to cover the other. There was no trust. Personal rivalries were still cooking in the forefront of everyone’s mind. A young mother died in the process.

On the other hand, the firefighters who came in to see one of their own who was burned had a camaraderie that demonstrated a working unit of professionals.

At the end, it was shown that it wasn’t even the dysfunctional team’s fault. It was the fault of the managing surgeon. He had not fostered teamwork. Although he had highly gifted employees, he did not encourage them work together. He felt as thought he killed this woman.

When will managers learn to foster team spirit at work? Why does fear allowed to reign at the work place. Why do team members turn on each other as the enemy and work against each other? Logic would tell you that you get more accomplished working together. No one has all the gifts and treasured skill-sets. No one is 100 percent on their game every day. There is so much to learn from one another.

It is up to the manager to deal with egos. But first, he will have to deal with his own. He will have to face his own fears and stop hiding his weaknesses. The truth will not only set you free, it will make you stronger and more powerful. You just need some character. If not, there will always be a plethora of unnecessary suffering.


I am sorry; please forgive me. I was wrong.

submissive-tigerThese nine words don’t seem to be too common in colloquial Indian English especially in the workplace.  When preparing  material for an International Business English seminar,  complicated grammatical points and new vocabulary are not the main points.  These nine words will be challenging enough.  Yes, all the participants know what the words mean.  they know how to pronounce them. Then why do participants find it so difficult to say these words?

If I want to have fun, and I always want to have fun,  as the facilitator, I have the participants pair up for role play.  They must act out a scenario where one person has made a mistake and must admit it to the other.  Otherwise articulate managers will suddenly stutter and go silent when they need to say these words.   Some are able to articulate the words, it will be a little above a whisper and lost in the drone of the AC motor.  Others will say the words clearly but add many caveats on how it wasn’t really their fault and the cause of the mix-up was really the other partner’s mistake.

At times, I feel like I am doing speech therapy, helping the participants form the words, coaxing them to articulate.  For Indians, they will suddenly look as pale as an Englishman in November.  They will either freeze or one part of their body will start to jump–a whole leg will start to twitch, fingers drum on the table, and the eyes blink rapidly or stop all together to present the glazed gaze.  Suddenly a pen will taste very good.  One may suddenly need to go to use the facilities.

If I really want to challenge the participants, I will pair up a man with a woman, or a subordinate with an upper manager, or a Tamil with a North Indian.  There will be appropriate scenarios where the manager made the mistake and has to apologize.

We also do virtual team meetings reenactments with Western counterparts.  Participants learn that in business cultures where direct speech is common, they must outwardly admit when they have made a mistake. How much money can be saved when team members learn to say and use these nine words?  How many projects will escape long-term delays?  How many relationships can be repaired?  How much trust could be established?

So why aren’t these nine words heard more often?  Because the root meaning of these words have a different meaning in Indian English.   It’s a different value system.  Words have meaning in that particular cultural value system.  To some Indians, to admit that he was wrong is a sign of weakness, defeat, and vulnerability.   It would be taking on the submissive role of exposing his throat as when two tigers fight.  He feels as though he will lose credibility among his peers and with his boss.  He fears that if he takes the blame for that one instance, he might be the scapegoat for any problems related to it.  To admit that one is wrong, one can lose his status.

When American businessmen read this they could easily think that this cultural attitude is due to pride.  It is not as easy as that.  It is simply not part of the mentality, meaning that it is not a conscious decision.  Deep cultural characteristics are in the subconscious.  The participants are not aware that they are trying to pass the buck.  They are using normal negotiation tactics in their culture.

In most Western cultures, the person who needs to apologize will do so because he has faith that when he does, he will be repairing the relationship and perhaps making it stronger.  The Indian doesn’t necessarily have that assurance.  He may feel that it is safer for him to lie or cover the truth in order to keep the relationship.

This little blog cannot do justice to this subject.  I write it only as a talking point for others to add their wisdom and experience.  And if I have written something in error, then I’m sorry; please forgive me.  I was wrong.

(To learn how to write an apology email, see this sample: