I tweaked 5 simple habits and reaped awesome returns

Small change in habits, big change in outcome

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Photo by Bryan Minear

Everything is real.

1. When someone says hello, we say hello back. What if you know their name? Do you add their name after the hello? My 5 year old does. I have adopted this tweak to great benefits.

I noticed something my 5 year old daughter does with perfection. When she sees her grand mom on Skype she says something more than — “Hello Patti” (Grandma in Tamil). She adds my mom’s first name between the two words. And my mom smiles every time with that extra chuckle reserved for saying her name.

Some along the way, as we grow older, our crisp communication axes the essential.

If dictionary is the treasure trove of words in the language, it is indeed ironic that the most powerful words in the world are not in it — our names.

We all have images of others in our mind, the word that encapsulates our imagery is the name. It is the first conscious choice by our parents for us when we enter the world. I had once asked my parents, why are children’s names derived from god’s name? My mom’s answer was a good one– “so that you can say it often and hear it often!”

Dale Carnegie, a man who lived his life in terms of other people, said it best in the classic How to win friends and influence people– “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”

The unanswered question is, how many times do we use the most meaningful word after a simple hello?

It is one thing to remember family members name. It is quite another to remember coworkers whom we bump into in the corridor. That leads to the second habit.

2) When you introduce your name — help others remember yours

fMRI scans indicate that our brains light-up when our name is mentioned. On the flip side, remembering names of other people is tenuous. The most abstract thing ever.

I do not know about you, it takes me effort. I can understand the predicament of others with my South Indian name.

I explain my name as “Car” — imagine me steering the imaginary steering wheel with my hands and “thick” like tree trunk. Almost always, people smile. They appreciate the help.

Some other ideas here to help others remember your name.

3, When someone asks — how are you? There are many ways to react. I respond with the word, ‘wonderful’. That positive thought has worked wonders in my life.

My friend Trent Selbrede, shared a wonderful article from Seth Godin. One line caught my eye. “It’s our narrative that determines who we will become.” I, for one, am a big believer of the small bricks of our daily narrative.

My daily chimes permeate through social ice-breakers. From water coolers to rare encounters, I hear “how is your day?” , “how are things going?” or variants of that. My response is invariably from the world of wonder. One word — Wonderful. The vibrato at the rolling r, gives me the perky joy. Every time.

The reaction from the other side follows a fairly predictable pattern. They get snapped out of their own thoughts, they do a double take and size me up to see if I really meant it. When they realize that I earnestly mean what I said, they immerse fully into the moment and break into a warm smile.

A positive narrative is set — for both sides.

Dr. Travis Bradberry, Emotional Intelligence expert, has this interesting insight to share. “Since human beings are inherently social, our brains naturally and unconsciously mimic the moods of those around us….. This process is called neuronal mirroring, and it’s the basis for our ability to feel empathy.”

4. When someone asks — how is work? My mantra is simple — banish, “busy”.

People do not shy from sharing the phrase, “I’m so busy’ as a badge of honor and hardwork. I was one among them for quite a few years.

Here is the flip side: It can come across as bragging and puts off people at home and at work. It can be perceived as an inability to balance tasks and new opportunities may slip away.

Instead of busy, I answer that question earnestly with one specific work item that matters. I have been short and respectful in my response and the connectivity has been exponentially better than the inane busy.

The biggest bonus — people reciprocate in kind. And it has opened up possibilities.

5. When you shake hands - match the pressure.

I have shared this before. It fits in context here.

When I was young I learned: A firm handshake was a rite of passage to strong first impressions.

Somewhere along the way, I started to make a mental note of others with weaker handshake.

As I got older, one incident changed me: someone squeezed my hands tighter than what I would consider firm. From that day, I understood: The best of them mirror the other person’s pressure in a handshake.

Relationships are about making the other person comfortable and less about ourself. It starts with something simple — learning more about that person by observing the pressure of their handshake.

Bringing it all together

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habits is big on modest behavior changes that can set off a chain reaction for better changes. He calls it, “series of small wins.”

Those small wins of human connectivity dole out spritz of dopamine. And I enjoy the joy the tweaks brought me.

What about you? What did you like the most?

Karthik Rajan

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Stories to fuel your mind. Theme: life’s hidden treasures in plain sight. Goal: Warm tone, solid content, crisp stories. About me: one google search away.

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