Recently I attended a work shop on “Public Speaking”. It was an entertaining and yet educational experience. The key skill to be cultivated for public speaking would appear to be a comfort level with your audience. This set me into thinking:
With whom do you have the most comfort with?
For a child it would be with the mother. There is a special bond between the mother and the child. The child may kick, scream and throw temper tantrums. Yet, the mother is patient and persuasive in working with her child and molding it into a better person. Then there is that unconditional smile in the most unexpected moment that melts the mother’s heart.
Then there are the parents, siblings, relatives, spouse, community of friends, etc. Of course in this age of social media, our comfort level seems to expand with the many strangers, hardly known in person or within physical proximity, yet profoundly close and familiar with much of our personal details! More you are at ease with some one, the easier it is to speak and communicate with. Is that what a family is all about?
This set me thinking again: How large is one’s family? If our above discussion has any validity, then every one I have comfort with to express my views freely must be in my family circle. This will include relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers, in an expanding circle. The comfort level you experience in this expanding circle is like the gravitational pull: Inversely proportional to the square of your distance with respect to the person!
Is that what happens in real life? Our expectations, our fear of antagonizing some one close to us, our fear of losing the relationship, over a period hardens and our freedom to be comfortable with each other diminishes with time! Fortunately this down ward spiral does not extend to the mother and the child. But, as the child grows into youth and young adult, the comfort to be free with each other diminishes. There is a fear of “offending” each other more than the freedom to engage each other.
We see this in family circles. There is a greater sense of freedom to be candid with friends more than with the spouse and the relatives. Opinions are expressed and argued with, more readily with strangers and outsiders than within the “family” members.
We see this in work place as well. There is a preference to “put up and shut up” rather than “rock the boat”. It is easier to bring an outsider – the consultant – to air the laundry, rather than a willingness to bring them out internally for discussion and resolution.
The above is not always the case. In fact, as the freedom and comfort with each other grows with time, there is a sense of liberation and greater level of intimacy in the relationship. The purpose of relationship is not superficial, but a deep sense of commitment for a shared common cause. Indeed great public speakers connect with the larger audiences primarily because of the shared commitment to the cause or causes between the speaker and the audience.
Why does a relationship that starts with no constraints, fears and apprehensions – like that between the mother and the child or between two perfect strangers who like each other – become constrained and limited over time? Is it due to a fear of loosing what we already have? It is often said that only when we are afraid of loosing something of value, that fear sets in and imposes constraints in our freedom of thoughts, freedom in our expressions and our willingness to take risks and speak our mind. The deep roots of a good relationship – like that among family members or friends – become subverted in our false attempt to preserve and “protect” the superficial or surface level connections. Like a river set in motion, relationships take their own course. To cultivate a “family” with meaningful relationships requires sustained effort. It is like the constant effort required to channel the flow and harness the energy of the river.
Perhaps it is wrong to ask the question” How large is your family?” Instead it may be better to ask, “How well do you know your “family” and what you are doing to nurture it to grow larger and stronger?” When the deep roots of interconnectedness grow with time, the family gets larger as a full grown tree.