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Handling Criticism

Let me point out the irony first – no one is perfect and yet each one of us has taken the time to criticize and ‘point a finger’ at someone else, telling them that they are wrong. Handling criticism is never easy but it is probably one of the most important and critical skills that each person must have. No one is criticism immune – as long as you are doing something or even not doing anything, there will be someone who will find something to criticise you for. With this premise, the sanest thing to do is control your reactions towards the harsh words directed to you. It is up to you how you behave when criticism is hurled your way – most often than not, it would be unreasonable and uncalled for. By getting angry or aggressive, you pile up stress and tension for yourself. However, if you remain calm and appear unaffected, you will keep your peace, self-esteem and the person criticizing you will realize that their words hold no importance for you.

The world is made up of all kinds of people – some are nice people who add positive value to your life and make you happy. Others are probably the critical kind, for whom taking a jab at someone or speaking harsh words mean nothing – they probably don’t even think that they are hurting anyone. It would be prudent to ignore such a person or at least not make much of their words – countering the harsh words would inevitably lead to conflict and ultimately damage relationships. You could try telling the person that their words were uncalled for and have caused hurt. If they are able to understand – great – you would have helped someone, if not, it is best that you move on. Persons, who unjustly criticize others and don’t give a second thought of how their words have caused harm, really deserve your sympathy and help.

Again, it would seem like a tall command but reacting harshly to a person, who is already in a foul mood and has highly charged negative emotions, is like putting a flame to fuel. The fact is that such situations can and do become ugly very soon and the persons involved end up feeling frustrated and also earning a bad name for themselves. This includes the person who was at the receiving end of the harsh criticism. It is best to remain stoic and unfazed and allow some time to elapse – the errant person would have ‘cooled’ off and it is much easier to reason with a person who is willing to listen and take feedback.

Such situations can present themselves anywhere – at home and most often at work. It gets tougher at work but even then it is best to walk away from the potentially explosive situation rather than walk right into it. From experience, I can tell you it is best to not allow criticism to get to you – it can destroy you, take away your happiness and cause you to feel miserable even though it is no fault of yours.

Instead, learn and remember never to be unjustly critical – provide feedback to people in a dignified and respectful manner. The other aspect of handling criticism is also that even though at the time, the criticism may seem scathing you could learn something about yourself. Maybe there is something you do or a manner in which you behave that is upsetting others. Take time and learn from the ‘negative feedback’ – it will strengthen your character and help develop better relationships with people around you.

Enjoy the Simple Pleasures of Life – Go on a Holiday

There is a saying – the simple pleasures of life, are free. When you are working and managing hectic schedules, nothing could be more far removed from this. That is why indulging in a weekend getaway holiday sounds like the best idea – one that would actually allow you to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. The many places to visit are akin to unexpected gifts allowing you to celebrate life in ways that are unique. Set aside the ‘usual’ and head to places that allow you to be at complete peace with yourself and the environment. The absence of names of places is intentional – use your imagination and put yourself to work to find the place that would let you have the best holiday ever.

Head to the gurgle of the water in the lakes, the majestic mountains and the merry chirping of the birds amongst the emerald expanses – the setting would be serene and feel like your sanctuary at that moment. Look up places that are blessed by nature’s bounty and where the sun feels softly warm on your skin and a crisp cool breeze lightly caresses you. You would have opportunities to do nothing at all or indulge in a host of activities that will energize you. The choice is yours – as it should be.

Are you poetic or creative minded head to places where the absence of rush or chaos is palpable and the sounds of nature touch your ears lightly, giving an entire new meaning to life and your thoughts. Imagine a setting that is inspirational enough to goad you to pen down some unfinished thoughts or create new ones to match the setting – adding a strange familiarity to the air. The scent of the forest would consume your senses without being overpowering. The blobs of color break the monotone of green –the abundant luscious fruit and flowers found in the region that will take you back to your childhood as you gently pluck them off the trees. Suddenly all the complexities of life take a back seat.

If being in the midst of wildlife, thrills you then head straight to resorts and hotels situated in the heart of the forest – where you can hear the trumpeting of mighty elephants, roar of the big cats and the call of other wildlife. Dense forests and the expansive landscapes with a backdrop of the mighty hills would seem to put everything in place, despite the chaotic city life you leave behind for a while.

Most of us can never get enough of the mysterious haze of the mighty mountains, where a clear sunny day also introduces you to the entire town that is possibly bright green and interspersed with cheery wild flowers. These place epitomize innocence and pristine beauty – always seemingly in a festive mood. When it is time, brilliantly shimmering snow covers these hills in a cloak of white leaving even the most skeptical and harried visitor, awestruck. In the hills, when winter gives way to summer, the snowy blanket gives way, albeit not completely as it still rests on the mountain peaks in a distance, to delicate hues of pink cherry and apple blossoms and jaded landscapes.

Take your pick – wherever you choose as your weekend getaway, nature will ensure that you return energized and eager to go – only until you find another excuse to escape to another location.

The Most Powerful Brand – YOU

Brands are ubiquitous now – everyone seems to be associated with or hoping to connect with one or another. With the rise of the entrepreneurial spirit, it has become imperative for individuals too to become known as a BRAND. There is perhaps nothing more powerful than a personal brand. A name – that people recognize, respect, and maybe are in awe of – one that people clamour attention from and would want to associate with it. While brands of companies may be known by their products, the colours and fonts they use – anything that makes them recognizable, even to the least discerning.

A personal brand may not have lines or colours, but it should boldly ‘speak’ of and reflect who you are. It should announce your beliefs and values – something that no other ‘brand’ has or can offer. The success of a personal brand, similar to a company’s – depends on its ability to make an emotional connection with customers and target audience. While it may seem like a tough ask, it is critical for the success of a personal brand to be viewed as unfeigned, genuine, and real.

Many a times we have read that brands with a humane side tend to have more success. The same is true for a personal brand – and staying human is a lot easier with a personal brand. It would be crucial to remember that ‘being human’ means allowing people to connect with you through your flaws, strengths, preferences, dislikes – the whole gamut that would make you human. It would be a lot easier to build a ‘community’ of dedicated readers and followers, when your personal brand authentically expresses the person you are.

Building a personal brand is not an overnight task and neither is it an offshoot of glorious pictures and ‘Selfies’. It is, rather, an arduous process that requires relentless and on-going effort. Staying true to oneself would mean not copying the style of another – it is acceptable though to learn and imbibe qualities. However, the expression of these traits, must be unique, truly ‘yours’, and reflects a deep understanding of you innate characteristics.

It is easiest to remain a true version of oneself – the most powerful method of becoming a recognizable personal brand. Stay confident – not authoritative and preachy – but someone who is self-assured in a positive manner. Develop your own voice and with time, it will emerge strong, authentic, and one-of-a-kind. It is time to get out there and let everyone know your ‘personal brand’ – it is too special to stay confined to you!


Dealing with Feelings of Failure

This is not one of those expositions that offer solutions or ‘miraculous escapes’, but is written with the sole purpose of being able to identify the feeling of failure. It should make you go “Yeah, I know the feeling”.

Life is unceasing in its ability to test us and will do so till we are around in its domain. There will be a day when you feel elated and the next one makes you want to run away, hide, quit – because you feel like a ‘failure’. The truth is – no one is spared and this is perhaps one of the great balancing acts of nature – of life.

I have discovered that it is important to accept failure – in fact stare it in the face and tell it “I am not afraid”. In reality, I am. Very scared, very hope less. But when you are afraid, you are driven to act – to counter that which scares you. I won’t deny that failure has ‘paralyzed’ me several times – enough to contemplate some very cowardly ideas. But then I tell myself that I have not worked so hard to let one instance label me a failure for good. What about my daughter? My husband? I want them to be proud of me – I want to be proud of me! Giving in to failure is certainly not the way to go.

Look closely – failure has ‘lure’ hidden within it – yes it lures you into taking the easy path – of giving up. I was a massively obese person – illness, emotional eating, feeling sorry for myself – everything ‘contributed’ to the generous layers of fat. I accepted defeat, and continued to wallow in self-pity and as a result kept piling on the kilos. Embarrassed by how I looked, I stayed indoors and even refused to go anywhere with my family or do any of the fun stuff with my daughter. It became overwhelming – that was when I stopped and kicked myself hard and worked at getting rid of this ‘failure’.

Failure is an option, a mind-set, which therefore means that we choose it and worse still let is remain with us. I had chosen failure too but soon decided that failure and I were not compatible. I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible to achieve those dreams that I would oft see even as a child. I may still not be close to achieving all of them, but at least I know I am trying – everyday. The example of being obese is just one of the myriad failures that have had me in their vice grip. But again – this is not a story but rather a ‘place’ where you can feel comfortable, be at ease and relax in the knowledge that failure is not ‘picking on you’ and if you look around you will see many familiar faces working through their own ‘failures’.

Ease up – take a deep breath and then kick failure as hard as you can. Everyone can do it and you don’t need a ‘guru’ or specialist or an expert to show you how. It’s there – inside of you!

10 Simple Ways to Create a Lasting Impression on Customers

There is an old expression – “You never have a second chance to make a first impression.”  True as this maybe, the fact is that a first great effect can wither away if a company fails to create a lasting impression on its customers. Giving the customers reason to return, to smile and to feel important is what insures a lasting impression on them. With a plethora of companies to choose from for business and a range of products and pricing – customers are in a much stronger position than before. However, only those companies can create a lasting impression that gives their customers something unique and distinct by which they will stand apart.

The key word is consistency in service, experiences and attention – the customers must receive all these in order to believe in the company’s commitment towards them. Lasting impressions do not just happen – a company must provide reasons repeatedly to establish a positive self-image in the eyes of the customer. As humans, we all need positive reinforcement and when a company is able to provide that to customers, they reward the company with more business and great referrals. A lasting impression would translate to a customer connecting a positive experience or great product to your company, irrespective of where they had the experience. This is what makes for a great lasting impression.

What are the things your company does to insure that lasting impression on customers?

  • Customers approach a company for different reasons. Emotional needs play a major role in buying decisions. Customers want to feel important, look good, display a status, show-off their success and a plethora of other emotional needs. A company that is able to intuitively understand these needs and cater effectively to them will be able to make a lasting impression on customers. Proactively responding to the unspoken needs of customers, makes them believe that the company is truly committed to them and this brings about feelings of trust and dependability. Anyone running a company knows that these are amongst the top reasons that a customer does business with any enterprise.
  • It is common sense that you would interact more with someone you like and anyone with a smile creates a sense of happiness and being involved. A company’s representatives that directly interface with customers should know the importance of smiling and being courteous with customers. It lets customers know that the company is happy to serve them and create experiences for them that they would remember with happiness.
  • Remember and address customers by name. Doing so will tell them that your company considers them worth remembering and that it would make every effort to creating positive lasting impressions on them. Addressing a customer by name, even if they are contacting a company after a while, would instinctively make them smile and remember the company as the one that is genuinely interested in them.
  • Active listening – this goes beyond merely hearing the words uttered by the customers. In order to build a lasting impression on customers, a company attuned to listening to their customers would ‘hear’ words, expressions and even body language. Sometimes people do not always say what the mean and mean what they say – an unhappy customer for example may smile but their body language and words would convey their displeasure and companies that actively listen would create a lasting impression on their customers.
  • Companies must make an effort to understand their customers. Doing so will enable it to create customized products and services, and prove to customers that the company understands what they consider important and of value. Putting customers at the centre of everything that a company does, will create a lasting impression on them and assure them of the company’s commitment to their needs and interests.
  • There a number of touch points and methods through which customers connect with a company. When customers receive top class service from each one, they would be sure to remember your company and be willing brand ambassadors as well.
  • It is important for a company to focus on the quality of each interaction with customers. Rather than collecting huge amounts of data of prospective customers, a company must focus first on the existing customers and a niche segment of prospective ones. Doing so will ensure that each interaction creates a lasting impression such that the customers spread the word of mouth, attracting more customers for you without added effort. Rather than a sea of customers, a company would benefit manifold from a small pond of highly satisfied and delighted customers.
  • It is very irritating for customers to repeat their ‘history’ with the company each time they connect with someone from it. Create a lasting impression on your customers by investing in a centralized CRM system (Customer Relationship Management system) that is accessible by anyone in the company. As soon as a customer interacts with a company all their information should be immediately visible – this would save time and effort for the customer and also let them know that the company has taken the trouble to save and update their information. Making it easier for customers to do business with you, is a great way to creating a lasting impression on them.
  • It is okay to highlight your company’s strengths and achievements from time to time. Not only does a company remain in the forefront with customers, but is able to educate customers with information that they otherwise might not be able to access.
  • Last but certainly not less important is remembering the common courtesies of please and thank you. It is extremely essential to let customers know that you are happy to serve them, that your company is thankful for their business, and that you would love to continue serving them.

It may be easy to create a great first impression but to create a lasting impression is a process that requires time and consistent effort.