Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Confining the 4 tools of social interaction

The 4 tools for better social interaction
In a couple of posts ago (might have been as long as a year back), I identified 4 tools for better social interaction: People profiling, expectation management, perception management and sincerity. They are tools which I do utilize on a daily basis, certainly not as mechanical as you could imagine, but they have somewhat, to a small extent, become part of who I am and how I function naturally. Initially, these so-called tools were intended for the corporate/professional environment where they might matter more, where sometimes a little mechanization is inevitable and necessary, in order to pave the way for desired outcomes. If I were to add a disclaimer to the tools, I'd advice not utilizing them in a social setting, especially amongst friends and family. I shall provide a short rationale for this, but I guess I might have to elaborate on this in another post in the future.

The short rationale for the confinement of such tools
If one should think about each of the 4 tools, there's a high likelihood that one would feel that they are actually quite natural for people to 'utilize' such so-called tools in their daily lives. However, these are usually kept in the background, passive rather than active. Most of us aren't really aware whenever we profile people, manage other people's perception of us, lower ours or other people's expectations of us, remind ourselves to be sincere. These are usually SUBCONSCIOUS thought processes. What I do propose with the utilization of the 4 tools is an ACTIVE utilization in the corporate/professional setting. This involves constantly assessing ourselves in situations where we are utilizing any 1 of the tools, planning ahead to ensure an effective usage of such tools etc.

As I have mentioned earlier, this becomes slightly mechanical, but in my opinion it seems okay for the corporate/professional setting where everything is slightly more mechanical in order to reap efficiencies and well, in order to constantly remain as polite as ever. However, bringing this back to a social setting, be it with friends or family might make them slightly uncomfortable or irked. They might not really know the root cause of why they are feeling that way, but they could possibly sense that it has got something to do with you. Upon some further analysis you might risk being called 'artificial', which is totally possible and well, true!

People like other people because they feel that can understand them. People like other people when they know that they are acting themselves, that they are actually themselves. People don't like people who put forward an artificial and pretentious front. People become uneasy around such people and keep away from them. In addition, not everyone wishes to be 'managed' all the time. People want to feel what they would feel if it was the real you NOT trying to manage them.

Therefore it is absolutely essential that the tools are confined to the working environment.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Burnt Out?

Perhaps this is what one would call a burn-out?
  • I know about the importance of value-adding to a project, but I can't seem to find anywhere to add any value to anything - in a sense I've somehow lost my sense of creativity? It somehow amounts to the fact that I'm lackluster, lacking the drive to succeed in everything that I do
  • I feel like just finishing up whatever project I'm currently in the midst of, not rigorously, but just for the sake of getting it over and done with. A+? I'd strangely be happy with a B+ (I'm really not someone that settles even for an A usually)
  • I know the importance of preparing for a project meeting, and I'm usually the one that leads the meetings and ensure that we don't spend any inefficient time during the meeting, but I just feel like going for the meeting, having not prepared anything beforehand (well, we're just discussing a presentation flow, and the slides are already done 3-4 days ago)...but usually i would have prepared at least an A4 of a rough plan so that everyone can discuss around that plan during the meeting.
I've always heard about this, but I've never really believed that it could actually happen. I've always honestly thought that it was just an excuse that someone would give if they felt tired of doing the work that they were doing...or a self-imposed mental state that isn't really there.

Well maybe I'm in the midst of a burnout, but I cannot afford to let it get the better of my mental state. I've obligations and commitments that I've made, and I still have a reputation to salvage...and I will stick through it all until it's all over.

I'll probably need to spend the December evaluating what went wrong this semester. I'm scoring plenty 90%+ for my tests and mini-projects, but at Week 12 of this semester, I somehow feel like I'm crumbling, with a pretty bad outlook of the weeks of project presentations and final exams looming ahead.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My associations with Music

Recently, I've been thinking quite a bit about how much I'd love to be in the music entertainment industry, specifically as an artist - a singer, a dancer or both. I think that I'm quite an expressive person and I sometimes do prefer to convey my emotions and thoughts through song, facial expressions, body and hand movements. There are also a lot of times when I feel like bursting out into song, or doing a whacky dance move in the middle of the library or on a pedestrian walkway.

To me, it's just another manner of expressing myself, and I'd want to be free to choose whichever way I wish to do so. I doubt that I have really done any of those crazy stuff in front of the public before, except occasionally humming or singing softly as I walk. Take away all the glamorous stuff about the entertainment industry, factor in all the hard work, discipline and training - I think I still would want in. The only thing that keeps me away from pursuing something that could be my dream (I wouldn't say that it has always been my dream) is the fear of the unknown - the fear of failure (hey cliche but true).

In my opinion, I've always been fortunate enough to be closely associated with music:
  • I started attending Yamaha Music School since I was 2, with my mother by my side.
  • I had private piano tutoring when I was about 5/6.
  • I completed the Grade 8 Practical Piano Exam with ABRSM.
  • I was selected to be part of the Music Elective Scholarship Program when I was 13 (Secondary One).
  • I picked up the guitar during then, and joined the school's Guitar Orchestra for 4 years.
  • I signed up for dance classes (hip-hop and popping) when I was 17, stopped when I was 18.
  • I picked up vocal classes with a performing arts school when I was 18, attending whenever i had the time.
  • I performed 2 short songs for a concert organized by the performing arts school.
  • I've also somehow managed to end up on a stage performing at 2 bars, once in Shanghai, and once at Cuscaden@Chijmes (Singapore), singing 2 full songs.
They say that even if you love music, you don't necessary have to be a singer or a dancer. In the entertainment industry, there are so many options available. So even if you pursue music performing as a career and you realize that you can't 'cut it out', there are still so many options available. But I haven't gotten the proper visualizations of me doing something else within the entertainment industry. I don't know how it will be like, and I don't think I'd like it as much as being a performer on stage. Really not for the glam, but for the full endorsement of my inner emotions outwardly displayed for all to see. So if I can't 'cut it out' as a music performer, if I've failed at trying to be one, what do I want to fall back on?

Of course I haven't given those other options a shot yet ('how would I know that I wouldn't like it if I haven't tried it out yet right'), but that's also because I've always pursued a somewhat safe path throughout my education. And by being safe, I've ended up pursuing my other safer interests - in the banking industry, the business/corporate world. To me, I've been able to find areas of those industries where my strengths and interests lie, minus music. To me, I'd probably be alright, or in fact, happy to do the jobs that I envision myself doing, minus music. And it sounds and feels safe, financially and it's what most other people are doing anyway. In exploring all those various options within the corporate world, I haven't had the chance to explore other options, like those in the entertainment industry.

I bet that there are various functions within the corporate world that overlap with those in the music industry. In these overlaps, there are also probably functions that would allow me to leverage on my strengths and interests. But right now, at this point in my life, I'd say that either I get myself a sweet spot in the corporate world where I love my job, or I get a sweet spot in the entertainment world - which is to be a performer and love my job.

But seeing as how things are going and with the increasing visualization (whether biased due to the current environment that I'm exposed to) of me doing well in the corporate world, I'll probably end up relinquishing my aspirations of being a music performer.

It won't be all bleak and gloomy though - I can always still pursue music as a hobby - indulging myself whenever I have the time and space - and KTV!

Friday, April 20, 2012

April Reflections

It seems like it's always during the exam period that I have the urge to write my thoughts out somewhere rather than keep it within the recesses of my brain. So here goes:

The Need for Self-Reflection and Self-Rectification
I believe that everyone does this every once in a while. I think I do it excessively - even to the extent that I constantly air my thoughts and feelings to people around me till (I feel) they get moderately annoyed and irritated. But I can't help it - I constantly rewind moments a few frames ago to study what I did right and what I did wrong, as well as the details that I notice about things and people around me. If there's something I don't understand, or something that I'm not sure whether I did right or wrong, I'd tend to want to talk about with someone.

In my opinion, I think that it is extremely important to do this. For me, I always want to be in a forward motion - I want to constantly improve myself and become better than who I am today. In order to achieve this, I have to make sure that I minimize any repetitive mistakes that I will make. This automatically means that I have to be aware of my actions and words at any one point in time, assess them after a few frames have passed and make the necessary mental notes.

However, doing this makes me highly self-conscious, which may err sometimes on the side of insecurity, if I choose to air my thoughts out. It also makes me somewhat vulnerable - opening myself up for attacks and criticisms, if any come my way. But that's how I know how I can improve myself - and I believe that I'm more than willing to lower my ego threshold just for this purpose.

But I guess I do have to control myself sometimes - depending on the situation or the people I am with, whether to air my thoughts out or keep them to myself and save that assessment for another time.

The Need for Acknowledgement (The Lack of Praise and 'Thank-Yous')
Having talked about self-assessment and the invitation for criticisms, I realized that I've been receiving less than an optimal amount of praises that I sometimes think I deserve. And people say that I'm hard on myself - when they aren't that easy-going with me either - at least not with the praises. I think we all need praises once in a while. Explicit ones - not in the mannerisms or nuances that I have to look out for. And yet, they must be sincere praises - not for the sake of motivation or as an avenue for self-praise. Praises help people move along - a form of feedback and the creation of positive energy - a good dose is necessary for everyone - especially for one that is so hard on himself.

Same thing with 'Thank-Yous'. It has become a common thing after project submissions that I thank everyone for their hard work and a good job well done - and then occasionally I get a reply with a Thank-You in return. But it seems like I've always been the one creating these avenues for affirmation and acknowledgement. It seems like I've hardly received gratitude initiated by someone else. And believe me, I've experimented well with the timing of my initiations. Well there could be several reasons for this:
  • Busy people
  • Conceitedness - people only really care about themselves
  • Undervaluation of the utility of expressing gratitude
  • None of my work with them deserves gratitude
If you ask me, yeah well as expected, probably a mixture of all those reasons. Praises make people feel good - a form of positive reinforcement. And they spur us do even better. People should just do it - all it takes is 5-10 seconds of sincerity and it could make a difference for everyone around them.

Recognition of Selfish Human-Beings
I'm not sure whether I've brought this up somewhere before, but I increasingly subscribe to the belief that everyone is really just selfish. It's not really a bad thing actually - it's just admitting who we are and why we do certain things. And not everyone has to believe that everyone else is selfish and inward-looking. But I believe that it helps me better understand the world around me. Not that the world has suddenly become bleak and hopeless - none of those dreadful thoughts really.

I am selfish - I want to do things for myself - prioritizing 'me' first. And that is important - not only does it help me focus on things that I really want to do and do them well because I'm doing it - the positive externalities are great. It goes a lot towards self-respect and self-love. In identifying all the good stuff about doing something (that's for me), I naturally tend to feel more energized about doing it. And I don't have to question my intentions - whether I am really doing it for someone else or for myself - I am simply doing it for myself. But because I am energized and pumped up about working on something for myself, I tend to do it well and everyone working with me during that time benefits from my positive energy and my good work. And that's a bonus - externalities of my self-centeredness.

So here's an example: Say I am working on a certain project for one of my courses at college. It requires us to do some research work, compile those into a report and make a presentation at the end of the course.

Most of us would start with thinking about the grades, the amount of work laid out in front of us, and then the inertia sets in and we get tired of even thinking about the project. We might start thinking about how much work we want to do, and how much work we have to do for our teammates that might be slacking off (free-riders).

Well, what if we start off the project by thinking about what kinds of personal benefits we can get from working on the project? Apart from grades, this is a typical list that I come up with:
  1. Improving leadership and project management skills
  2. Improving time management
  3. Improving PowerPoint skills
  4. Improving presentation and verbal communication skills
  5. Achieving greater internalization of course materials and gaining more general knowledge
  6. Improving people-skills
  7. Preparing myself better for work next time
And then I start to worry that the number of projects that I have to do at college is decreasing and there's going to be less opportunities for me to apply and improve myself. You know, this is really closely related to positive thinking. But it makes positive thinking more realistic by recognizing that we're doing it for ourselves. It works for me. And all my teammates have benefited from this as well, whether in terms of overall project grades, or even for their own personal development.

I acknowledge that all of us actually do this to a certain extent - identifying benefits. But I believe that most of this is done subconsciously.
I advocate an active identification of value - and where value is lacking - an active creation of value. I'll type more about this when I have the time in the future.

Limitations: 1) I might end up eating myself out. We are human beings after all - and we all have a limited amount of time. If I'm going to push myself to work on everything that I find beneficial to me, I'm going to end up sacrificing something else. It really boils down to prioritization. 2) And this self-centred motivational model should only be applied for work-related issues (corporate world). Porting it over to social life becomes dangerous - measuring and calculating social benefits during socialization is one sure route to insincerity and eventual alienation.

Amongst Other Topics
I would like to discuss the following topics that I've thought about for the past few years:
  • The Need for Ownership - I think that this is severely lacking in many people
  • The Need for Perception Management - We underestimate the implications too much
  • The Need for Expectation Management - Both ways - our own and others'
  • My Interests in Profiling People
Current Status Update
  • I'm about to complete my second year of study at college.
  • I've secured a 10-week internship with a well-known accounting firm - corporate communications department. Think that it's a good first internship and I hope to learn loads from it.
  • I'm also currently working with a non-profit organization that provides pro bono consulting services for other non-profit organizations. It has been a good experience thus far, and I've been scaling a steep learning curve.
  • My current work aspirations: Management Consulting, Commodities Trading, Private Banking (Hotel Management and Politics will have to wait till later in life)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

some writing, spliced (ramblings, if you like)

During the initial few weeks of the 2nd sem at school, i sort of came up with 4 important tools for better social interaction:

1. People profiling
2. Perception management
3. Expectation management
4. Sincerity

Let's go tool by tool:

People profiling
People profiling takes place before and during the first conversation, and continues throughout a prolonged association, a relationship, as well as future interactions. It's really a natural thing that people do whenever they meet new people. Perhaps a suitable word to be used here would be to 'suss' out someone new - gathering information about the other person in order to make a couple of decisions.

The first decision would perhaps be whether or not we would even want to talk or have any association with that person. The second decision would probably be the types of conversations that we would probably have with that person. The third decision that follows after a couple of moments of interaction would possibly be the degree of association or relationship we would probably have with the other person.

But i'd like to think that 'people profiling' goes deeper than that. 'Suss-ing' people out is something that most of us do subconsciously, most of the time. We would not normally go into a certain interaction 'blind' and simply begin it. What i am advocating (or currently am), would be an active 'suss-ing' out of people. Now how do we do this? (Perhaps i would elaborate on these in the future, but for now, some surface details)

On the first level, we would want to find out what kind of person we are interacting with. Is he a good person, is he a bad person? Now what i am probably doing here is actually asking people to 'judge people' upon perhaps their first impression. We all know that this is not always the best idea, since given more time, we would tend to understand the person better. Ultimately, whether or not we like it, we tend to make this subconscious read on people within the first minute of interaction. While i am asking is for people to actively give an initial assessment of the new person, with a pinch of salt, in that we should make allowances for changes to this assessment as the duration of interaction increases. This initial assessment is important, especially in a room of more than 20 people, since perhaps by the end of a meeting, a seminar, a conference, you would probably not have the chance to interact with all 20 or more people. Why is this important? To make informed decisions about people (as discussed previously). When is this important? Whenever we are called to make decisions about people, whether or not it would be to include someone in a project team, recruitment of sorts, or for invitation to future engagements, we need a measured impression of the other party in question. Not in all situations do we have to profile everyone in the room, just those that are important, and would become important to us in the future. In other words, we need to be able to first identify our potential partners of interaction, and then conduct an active profiling of those particular people.

The second level of people profiling would be to assess their capabilities, as well as their willingness to contribute and engage. I would not say that this level of profiling is as simple as the first, or if you would like, fair to the potential partners of interaction. Sometimes you can get a direct read off a potential partner's words ('i just want a job that i can relax, take it easy, and wait for the money to come to me') or hand actions (whether or not they are aggressive, demanding etc.). Sometimes you've got to read between the lines, look into his/her eyes and decipher certain nuances that you might have missed previously. Body language tells a lot and is essential to this level of profiling. Right now, i'd probably have to clarify that although this might seem like im advocating overthinking, and overreading of situations and people, people profiling is crucial in helping us obtain a better personal stand during a particular interaction, in that we are able to make decisions quicker and more efficiently when the time calls for it. Of course, sometimes we do not want to make our decisions that fast or hastily - what i am asking of people would be for them to actively keep an assessment of people around them, so that when the time calls for it, they would be able to make that informed decision quicker.

The third and deepest level of people profiling (in my opinion), would be to find out, as how i would like to call it, the 'backstory' of people. This is a form of emotional profiling, not easily obtained during the first or even second occurance of interaction, and is a huge privilege whenever given access to it, and should not be taken lightly. What do i mean when i say 'backstory'? Well everyone has their story to tell - be it their family, job situation, relationship status, personal feelings. Not often would you tell a stranger about these stories, personal issues. But whenever we hear of it, best would be from the person himself/herself, we immediately get a better understanding of the person standing in front of us - the potential partner of interaction. In a sense, there is a delicate emotional trust forged whenever this happens. However, i would like to say that whenever we encounter an occurance of trust-relationship, we immediately have to tread carefully. This level of people profiling would have to go hand in hand with my 4th tool of interaction - sincerity. Without the heart of sincerity, sometimes we would end up misplacing trust, misusing stories...we would become 'interaction beasts' with personal information about other people.

Finding out someone's 'backstory' gives a certain degree of 'fairness' back to this approach of interaction. It asks for us to understand someone better, before placing a certain judgment or before making an informed decision about someone.

People profiling helps us make informed decisions when the time calls for them. It is a tool that we can use to help us better understand people around us, and also a tool that helps us interact with people better in general. While this tool seems rather high-handed, it also serves as a key to my 2nd and 3rd tool of social interaction - perception management and expectation management.

To be continued...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Semester 2 concludes

Alas it's the end of year 1, semester 2. what a tiring semester it has been, yet an extremely fulfilling one i'd say. just had my last paper today - introduction to economics. hope that went well. Over the next few days, i'll be doing a couple of reflections (or rather musings) about the past semester, to document some of my thoughts and feelings. the aim would probably be to account for and analyze some of the stuff that i picked up, as well as to project my strategy for the next semester. I hope to address the following:

  1. 4 approaches to social interaction

  2. Social awareness and integration

  3. Presentation skills

  4. Meetings

Been actually looking forward to typing all my thoughts out. haha. we'll see whether i'll be able to maintain my motivation over the next few days. also, a couple of things that i plan to do during this summer holidays:

  1. Learn a couple of chinese songs on the piano

  2. Develop a sustainable exercise regime

  3. Obtain an internship or get a day job

  4. Prepare for the next semester

First though, i'll probably have to spend the next few days recuperating from the horrendous sleep cycles i have been having for the past few week! till next time!

Friday, December 31, 2010


2010 has been a very strange and eventful year. perhaps that's because it is the year after we've all completed national service. and gotten out of the protection of acs. and travelled a little here and there. it has been a year of so many experiences, and growth.

i have not many regrets in my life thus far. 2010 has not been one filled with it. my only regret...perhaps is letting something go. it was the right decision at that time. perhaps i will not regret it eventually. but i still think about it every now and again. and i miss it. alot.

2010 was also my first semester at smu. i didnt do so well. not well at all actually. but still enough to be on track to graduate with a decent degree. i feel that i could do better. definitely. and i want to. which will be what would be my main focus for the first half of 2011. i really have to limit my gaming. by quite alot. and i believe that i will do it. because i am a competitive person naturally. when i see my friends overseas doing so well...i feel that i could be doing more for myself. i dont believe that i am any weaker or less capable. i will score in 2011. that is simple and is my first resolution.

another resolution would be to construct a set of personal values and beliefs to hold true for as long as they are. and i will start with one. sincerity. i believe that i have always been, in most circumstances, a sincere person. and i will continue to be, to an even greater extent in 2011.

my thoughts stop for now. perhaps i'll continue again later.

happy new year everyone.