Father Sez

From and to parents - parental advice to our children on personal financial management and life.
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Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Did I spoil someone’s rice bowl or did I do the right thing?

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

In Malaysia the term rice bowl is often used to describe one’s livelihood or avenue of earning a living. A job is a rice bowl, a investment paying returns might be another. Spoiling someone’s rice bowl is to negatively affect the person’s livelihood.  

I was put into a difficult situation last week.  Everyone already knows that the economic environment is getting harsher, jobs are being shed left, right and centre and that lots of people are looking for jobs now.  I have often been asked to act as a character referee by my friends when they send out their CV’s. I always agree, since they are friends, which by definition means that I should be able to vouch for their character. 

A former colleague called me out of the blue a few days ago and told me that he had submitted his CV to a head hunting firm and listed my name as a reference. That was fine. He went on to add that he had listed a particular year as the year he started worked in the organisation and that he had been involved in certain types of projects. He ended by telling me that I should know how to weave some story around it. Some story I would have to weave, since the basic facts seemed a little too far from the truth.  

I was stunned. My immediate reaction, which I mentioned to my wife who was with me then was that this guy must have a very low opinion of me. I asked her what I should say should the head hunter call, since it appeared to me that I would have to stretch the truth a little too much for my tastes. 

I am all for helping others in anyway I can. In fact, this is one of the affirmations I read daily. But this grated a lot.  I thought deeply about this issue, as I truly wanted to help him, but not by agreeing to what I considered to be something a little too far away from the truth. I would have been more than happy to work around some little embellishment, though. 

My wife gave me a solid piece of advice. She told me that if the headhunter called, then I should evade questions that might expose the untruths, but instead just talk about what I was involved in. And let the headhunter piece things together.  

Well, the head hunter called, and that was exactly what I did. I just told him that I would tell him what I did and then he could ask me about my interactions with the applicant. I don’t know if the head hunter detected or would consider the discrepancies as “technical errors” or would put a question mark on the whole application. That has to be his decision. 

As for me, my conscience is now clear.  I sent the former colleague an email and told him not to use my name in this manner again. I would like to help him but not this way. He has not replied, either to state his side of the story or to apologise. Well, what he should do is for him to decide.  

The CV Store has an article on whether we should lie in our CV and also the results of a poll conducted on the same topic.

I am happy to know that the majority seems to have the same view as I do. 

A penny for your thoughts

Friday, March 13th, 2009

This is an often made statement in everyday conversation.

Have we ever wondered how deep a meaning this statement holds? 

Last week, a lady currently embroiled in a highly public spat with her former mentor, a powerful Malaysian politician made this statement: 

“I was given a party post. At the various meetings, I’ll just keep quiet and watch the rest of the faces at the table, and wonder just exactly what they were thinking about.” 

This statement made quite a deep impression on me. No one knows what anyone else’s thoughts are.  

For example, I may be having a discussion with my daughter. My feelings are that she is weak in a particular subject in school and should ask for help. She refuses and keeps on saying that she is all right. I get more concerned and become more forceful in my “persuasion”. She on the other hand just clamps up. 

I may be at a bank and see some old people coming forward with a tattered and well worn savings book to either deposit or withdraw some money. I may think that these people must be living very frugally and be very careful with their money. In actual fact, this person could be the owner of several acres of banana plantations and make more money in a month that I would in six. 

Yesterday I spent some time with a dear friend who is about to undergo some delicate surgery. He has done all the required tests and the surgery is to be done by the best surgeon in Malaysia. He is well taken care of in the hospital with his wife and his 3 sisters by his bed all the time. I did wonder exactly what his thoughts were, just as he might have wondered what mine were. 

I was praying for the best of what is good for him. I have no idea what his thoughts were. Last night I tossed and turned again wondering about this. Perhaps he was thinking of his family (he has provided well for them), thinking about the uncompleted parts of his dreams, and thinking about what he should do differently after his surgery. 

Daily we go about our lives, each of us with our own thoughts, thoughts about our problems, thoughts about our successes, thoughts about the next pressing things we should do etc. The people standing next to us or even the people nearest and dearest to us have no idea. 

We are told, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood”. “We have been given two ears and one mouth, there is a reason for this”.  We are told to ask and slowly draw out the feelings and real thoughts of the other person.  

Well, I for one am going to make a stronger effort to adopt Dr. Covey’s 3rd Habit as a daily affair. It may not be of much use in a case of understanding the person next to us in a bank, but should help us when we deal directly with others.  

We all should!    

Do you think I like to do this?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

This is a statement that I have lately found myself repeating often to my younger children.

Children are quite forthright when it comes to listing their likes and dislikes. And the problem is that quite a number of good things are usually in their list of dislikes. 

Take for example, washing their shoes. They wear white washable canvas shoes to school. And by the time the school week is over, the shoes look as if they have been in a concrete mixer. Getting them to wash their shoes is a hassle. All they have to do is to soak the shoes in soap water on Friday night, clean the shoes with a brush on Saturday morning and dry them. And on Sunday, apply a coat of shoe whitewash and the shoes are as good as new. Maybe all-in a 20 minutes job spread over 3 instances. 

Yet it is not so easy to get them to do it. Because they don’t like it! 

My younger children are at an age where I feel that I have to reason with them and win them over. (I remember those days when I would be given a nice clip on my ears if my shoes were not as good as new on Monday morning.)  

So now my mantra to them is “Do you think I like to do this?”  

I mention things like : 

-         Driving them to and from school,

-         Taking them to the doctor when they are ill,

-         Buying them stuff they need for school on Monday, that they forget to mention all weekend and remember only on Sunday night, 

as things I do not like to do. I also mention that I would much rather sit at home and watch TV. I tell them that I still do these tasks anyway because I love them and want the best for them.  

I follow up with the statement that some things have to be done even though we do not like to do it.    

This mantra seems to have some effect. Their spirited arguments falter somewhat and they nod in agreement. Whether my mantra would sink into their unconscious minds remain to be seen.  

But for the time being, this is the best retort I have. 

Note:  

Doing things that we don’t like to do (and by logical extension, others most probably don’t like to do) seems to be rewarding for adults too.

Read how: 

- Brooke saves time by taking the earliest appointments possible.

- and in fact this habit is acknowledged as a “common denominator for success”. 

My son, a gentleman in waiting

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

472704_arbitrum_elegantorum.jpg

We have five children, a boy and four girls. The boy, at number 3 is sandwiched between his two elder and two younger sisters. Since his birth, my wife has given him the title of Tuan Muda of our household, which in our language means Young Master.

He is now 14 years of age. Isn’t it time he started becoming a Gentleman? I read up and asked around for some advice on what I could do to help instill in him this very important skill.

I have read that boys imitate and emulate their fathers.

Boys want to grow up to be like their fathers. “The human brain is wired for imitation. Every boy loves his father and wants to be able to do what he does, both to honor him, to earn his praise, and to compete with him. . .

Men are extremely important in giving boys messages about being a man,” notes Geoffry Canada, President of the Harlem Children’s Zone. “Boys want to grow up to be like their male role models. And boys who grow up in homes with absent fathers search the hardest to figure out what it means to be male.”

It appears clear that I would be the first role model my son would be looking up to.

I searched within myself and did an inventory of whether I was being a good, or rather not bad, role model to my son. Though I am no Theodore Roosevelt, I do believe that I have not done any serious damage in this area.

Being a good role model is the foundation for preparing my son to be a man.

And here are five things that I can and want to do to be the role model my son needs as well as to bond better with him.  

1. I have to spend more time with my son.

I have to tweak my time management a bit. Though I take pride in being an organized guy, it is clear to me that I am not scheduling my priorities as well as I should. My weekly calendar has no specific provision for activities with my son. I’ll have to work on this.

It’s not going to be a case of finding or creating more time, rather I have to focus on how I can do some of my planned activities for the day together with my son.

For example, recently I took our son along when my wife and I went to the Land Office to collect a title deed for one of our properties. On the way back, we talked about title deeds (I was a little surprised, but it seemed that it was the first time he had seen a title deed) in general and I explained to him how our land title system worked. (This chore is something I would have done on my own. I am happy that my son agreed to join me.)

My son helped me draw a map showing the way to the farm we are setting up, a distance of about 90 kilometres. I drove, while he marked down the key landmarks and distances etc. This map has been distributed to the guests we are inviting for the opening of the farm.

2. I must take him out more often

By this I mean not only taking him out for outings like picnics or vacations. I also mean bringing my son along for my chores and duties as a husband, father, and friend in order to show him how a responsible and dependable man behaves.

Examples could be visiting a recently bereaved family friend or relative, going to the bank to sort out some issues etc.This approach is based on advice given by a friend. He remembers that his father took him out often and he learned a lot about manly duties and responsibilities watching his father during these times.

My son has often joined me when I visit the goat farm and the rubber smallholding. I hope that as the goat farm develops further he would agree to shoulder some of the small responsibilities.

3. Treat and respect him as an adult and reason with him rather than adopting the “I said so!” approach

I already do this and I believe that my son appreciates it. Having conversations with him at a reasonably adult level will help strengthen his confidence and make him more open with me.

4. Make him read motivational and inspirational books

Here my wife and I are lucky enough to have found a system. My sons (and his two younger sisters) have to write a couple of pages from a book on Saturday and Sunday. They then read out to me what they have written. Our intention is for the children to have a better grasp of English.

By making my son write and read pages from a motivational / inspirational book, like Anthony Robbins’ “Notes to my Son” and Sean Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” I am hoping some of the ideas and good advice will seep into him.

5. Learning some life skills jointly with him

This is an interesting thought that has just come to my mind. Maybe I should sit with him when he is in a talkative mood and try to find out if he is interested in picking up some skills. It is possible that he may say no. I just have to work on this.

This blog was started so that my kids could learn on managing their personal finance and some other aspects of life from the mistakes I have made. While he is not an active follower of my blog, I am sure he will read those articles written specifically with him in mind.

My son is now entering a stage in his life that can be classified as a little tricky for parents and young teens alike. This is the called the “My Mommy has no clue” stage. I did not do enough to strengthen my relationship with my son when he was at the much more malleable of “My Mommy knows everything” and “My Mommy knows most things” stage.

Nevertheless, I believe I still have a chance to make amends and make him a better man than I am. 

Photo Credit: Bendis

Aircraft carriers and personal finance management

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

What does an aircraft carrier got to do with personal finance?

For me, everything. Hear me out, please.

Habits are built up by repeatedly doing something over a period of time. The more often we do something, the stronger the habit becomes. Until it become second nature.

Same with personal finance.

The more often we are careful, the more often we are careless, the more often we spend wisely, the more often we spend unwisely, thus shall our habits be. We become a creature of habit of good personal finance or a creature of habit of bad personal finance.

The good thing is that habits, since they are made, can be unmade.  Subject to the general rule that stronger the habit the more difficult it would be for it to be broken and new habits formed in its place. (The exception is the switch.)

Some people, (like me, for instance) have operated for years without budgets and without clear and SMART goals for savings / investments etc. Somehow we have survived. Once it dawns upon us that this is not the right thing to do, we then work on correcting and changing our behaviour and habits. Try to put a stop to current practices and change direction.

And this can be compared with an aircraft carrier traveling at full speed and the captain then deciding to make a “U” turn or a left or right turn.

Well, the aircraft carrier does not stop on a dime. I have no idea how long it would continue traveling before the instructions to change direction actually start showing results. I would suspect that the lumbering giant would go on chugging away for quite a distance, though the slowing effect would be felt not too long after.

(If you want some laughs, you can read how Yahoo answers this tricky question.)

My family and I have only recently started to instill better personal financial management practices. Like most current day people, I have been expecting immediate results  and have not found any that I can trumpet about today. 

Then I remembered the story of the aircraft carrier and its turning circle.

Now I feel better.

Our family’s financial aircraft carrier which has been moving happily into the wrong direction for years and years is now beginning to make its “U” turn. This turning circle may take a while.

I am now happy that the right instructions have been given to our family’s aircraft carrier of personal finance and am confident that, God Willing, it is now moving along the right course. 

Now I hope you see the connection between aircraft carriers and personal finance.

To those of us who have made consious efforts to change and have not felt the results yet, take heed of this parable.

Stay stout in your resolve and by God, the ship will turn!

The power of indirect communications

Monday, February 11th, 2008

The purpose of communication has been defined as getting our message to others clearly and unambiguously.

I am not an expert, though, like a great many of us, I have been communicating for a considerable number of years . The experts talk about various processes in communications and how all the barriers should be removed so that the purpose of the communication is achieved.

A very important chain in this link is the “preparedness of the receiver of your communication”.  This is something that we never know for sure. The feedback we receive is a a good indicator of how our communication was received and understood.

How do we better our chances at getting our communication better received and understood?

What about “indirect communications”?

The U of San Francisco talks about indirect communications. My idea of IC is actually more like “lobbying”.  Wikipedia’s definition of lobbying refers to this as all attempts to influence legislators, organised groups etc.

I am talking about the same principle here. The message that we want communicated is sent indirectly through another channel to the intended recipient. The recipient being more receptive of this “new channel” receives the message in a more willing and open manner, gives good feedback and the purpose of the communication is more effectively achieved.

We do this all the time, don’t we?

For example, I pride myself that I have great communications with my wife. We tell each other almost everything about our lives. However, there are somethings that I can convey much more efficiently by telling some of her close confidants to tell her. People like Ungga or her uncle, Che Lek for example.

This is no indication of failure to communicate between me and my wife. My wife is a people person while I am a number person. My idea of great communication is direct to the point. This fails in a number of situations. Ungga and Che Lek on the other hand are also people people, so they know how to convey the same message in a much better manner.

Now you may ask, how did I manage to convey my message to Ungga and Che Lek in the first place. I don’t really know. I can only suspect that this has something to do with the relationship between the receiver and the sender.

This blog is another example. The primary objective of this blog is for me to communicate to my children, especially the two senior girls, the life and pf mistakes I have made and ideas on how these could have been done better. So that my children do not repeat my mistakes.

By using blog posts the need to have both of us mentally and physically prepared at the same time is removed. My girls can read the posts alone or with their friends and whenever they want. 

I think the messages are better delivered this way.

What about you? How often, if at all, do you use indirect communications? 

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