Sunday, August 21, 2016

Are Men More Forgiving Than Women?

Yes - according to a Harvard study.

Analysing videos of various sports (tennis, badminton, table tennis and boxing), the research team found that sportsmen spent more time than their female counterparts in friendly physical contact (handshakes, hugging, etc.) after the end of the game. This seems to confirm the long-held suspicion of many people (at least, by men) that women are more prone to hold grudges.

Of course, one could argue that the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions about men and women in general. Maybe the nature of competitive sports attract and breed specific character types beyond the norm. Maybe a few milliseconds delay don't mean much of a difference. Maybe an outward show of sportsmanship does not necessary reflect what people really feel inside.

But the study is too compelling to dismiss. So for the sake of further analysis, let's assume the theory is true.

The next question - one which the study did not resolve - is this: why do women find it harder to forgive and forget?

Best Friends Forever

Fight Club

One reason could be that men are quicker to get into fights that they later regret. Adrenaline rush, alpha male ego, anger management issues - we've heard the excuses before. Whether valid or not, it's true that men get into more fights than women, almost as if fighting is in their blood since the primitive days of hunting and killing. Which means that the number of wrong fights that guys get into are also higher. And it's easier to make up and laugh over a fight that shouldn't even have started in the first place.

Whereas women don't simply pick up fights, and when they do, it's a conscious choice made after much careful deliberation. A woman is not going to smack you in the face just because you called them fat; they'll just walk away, find a quiet corner, and pour their hurt out on Facebook. Women fight only when they really have to, when their backs are against the wall, when they can't take in their pent-up rage any longer. And when they fight, it's for real. They've crossed a point of no return. No remorse, no redemption.

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned

Another reason could be that men fight for all kinds of reasons - ego bruised ("That bastard made a fool of me in futsal!"), rule broken ("You can talk smack about me, but don't ever dare touch my hair! NOT THE HAIR, OKAY?") and losing their shit for imaginary reasons ("Did you just stare at my girlfriend? DID YOU?"). Reasons that are spurred by purely primal instincts. And when primal instincts die down - as they so often do in a matter of minutes - the reason for fighting is gone, replaced by regret and embarrassment.

Whereas when women fight, their reasons are deeply emotional. Breaking of promise. Betrayal of trust. Lack of concern. Reasons that cannot be excused. Reasons that leave irreconcilable differences and irrecoverable wounds. When women fight, they invest lots of emotion, not just energy. And emotional scars, unlike the physical kind, are not easy to erase.


Don't Look Back In Anger

So to say that a women is more spiteful and vengeful than men is not necessarily a black mark against them. It could be that women don't pick up fights easily, and in the rare occasions that they do, they have a good reason to. To say that men are more forgetful and forgiving than women is not necessarily a point in their favour. It could be that men are fighters without a cause, and surrender too easily.

Or maybe men and women do eventually forgive and forget, but women just take more time to calm down and find closure. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It means that women seek to understand and learn from every fight they get into, in hope of avoiding similar fights in future.

Or maybe I should just stop here, before I ruffle more feathers. Already I can sense the shrill of daggers.

Sorry, ladies. Don't be angry. Please forgive me.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Definition Of You

Who are you? What defines you? What makes you you?

You can probably write an essay - or even an autobiography - to answer that. But there's no need to. Just test yourself using this simple exercise:
"How would you introduce yourself to someone you're meeting for the very first time?
What would you say in the first few sentences?
Your workplace and expertise? Where you stay and come from? Your hobbies and interest?"

You may think that the opening introduction don't matter much, because you still have plenty of time to describe yourself fully, covering all angles of your life.

But in fact, those precious few lines matter the most. They represent what's at the tip of your tongue and top of your mind. They represent the first impression that you want to leave on others. They represent who you think you are.

If you drop your company name right after yours, it means that your job defines you.

If you enjoy talking about your kids, then family matters more.

We All Wear Masks

And yet, we all wear masks. Different masks, in front of different people.

I'm guilty of that too. I will introduce myself differently to different people.

So in office, when I'm meeting a co-worker, I'll automatically go like: "Hi, I'm Raphael! From Legal. Sitting on the 36th floor."

But why so serious? If we are going to work together for a while, shouldn't we be getting to know each other closer on a personal level? Must I turn on Raphael the Lawyer, and switch off every other character mode? Am I nothing more than a program, to be turned on and off, when people require my function?

Same thing when it comes to our family and friends. We feel reluctant - almost embarrassed, sometimes - to discuss about work.

But why so trivial? Are we not proud and passionate about our work? Is there nothing interesting to share about? Is family all about the leaky pipes and picking the kids from school? Is friends all about happy hours and shopping?

Why the need to divide our lives into personal and professional? If we can bring our work back to home, why can't we bring our kids to office?

Why the need to wear masks?

Batman needs a mask. You don't.

No Mask, No Shell

I find that the best relationships are forged when I drop all masks - even at the workplace.

For instance, I got a great job at Shell, after a few rounds of gruelling interviews. But it was the first interview which I thought made all the difference - a phone call with my then future (and now former) boss. He was new to the country, being an expat. And most of our conversation was about the differences between America and Malaysia (like whether he had a hard time adjusting to the gear being on the left and driving on the right side of the road).

It was a connection that carried on into our working relationship, as we frequently chatted about politics, culture and entertainment (and less about law). And it was one the happiest period of my life (and not just at work).

Even back when I was in Shell, I rarely introduced myself as working there (until directly asked). I even failed to mention it once at a student forum years ago, to which one of the other speakers (who happen to be a good friend) gently scolded me for not disclosing.

Was I shy? Not really. At that moment, I just didn't think it was relevant. My stories and advices should speak for themselves. Does my word carry less weight if I worked in some unknown company instead of Shell? Perhaps, in the eyes of some, but I certainly hope not. As long as my words make sense, that should be enough. And the last thing I want is people to listen to me only because I worked for Shell.

Moral of the story? Take off your masks, come out of your shell. Just be yourself to everyone and anyone, and you will be appreciated for who you are.

Define And Reveal

Today, I am no longer with Shell. But a lot of people still introduce me to others as having previously worked there. They have good intentions, of course. The name does add weight to my credibility - no denying that.

But it's strange, is it not? That we let the past define us so much. Shouldn't what we are doing now and about to do in the near future define us even more? And shouldn't we be doing the things that we want to do, instead of the things that others expect of us?

When Bruce Wayne says "It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me", it's because Bruce the billionaire playboy is (ironically) his mask, whilst Batman is his true self. Of course, he can't reveal that to people, as Batman needs to work in the shadows.

But we are different. There's nothing stopping us from revealing our true self - except the fear of embarrassment. There's nothing wrong introducing ourselves as a proud father of five or flashing a business card that says "I'm CEO, bitch!", if that's what we strongly feel about ourselves.

First, define yourself. Then, reveal yourself.

Honesty, not modesty, is the best policy

What I Do Is Who I Am

Not too long ago, I bumped into an old colleague, who said "Heard you left Shell. Found a better job?". And I instantly replied "I found a better life."

Now, I no longer have to switch between masks - professional and personal. I'm working on what I love, so work doesn't feel like a job at all. My work is my life, my life is my work. What I do is who I am.

Who I am? What defines me? What makes me me?

If I were to introduce myself now, it would sound something like:
"Hi, I'm Raphael. An explorer. A creator. A mentor. What I do - which is what I'm deeply passionate about - is educating, entertaining and empowering people."

What about you?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Why Do I Write And Who Am I Writing For?

Few days ago, my good buddy Razif Nasardin shared an interesting quote from English writer Hilary Mantel: "You always have to assume that your reader is at least as intelligent as you are, if not more."

The quote hit me like brick. Troubling thoughts boiled to surface. Doubts bedevilled my soul.

Do I assume that, when I write?

I guess I do, to a certain extent. I take style and substance seriously. Then again, I do wonder at times if I have got the balance right. Some readers have complimented me on how well I write. But some have also found my writing too dense and complicated.

Should I dumb down my language? Write more shallow topics? Cut down the preaching?

No, I won't. I'm not chasing for a thousand likes, as much as that would warm my heart. To compromise on my writing is to defeat the purpose that I set out to write in the first place.

An example of a reader's feedback

So why do I write?

It's not your attention that I crave. Attention can be won and lost in a matter of seconds. I want you, instead, to think deeply about what I have to say. To understand. To care. And to have something deep to say in return.

It's a conversation that I want. A connection. A collaboration. I'm telling you things not just to teach, but to learn from you as well. To draw strength from each other. To grow together.

I do not expect you to agree with me. But I do expect you to speak out boldly, should you ever disagree with me, so that I can assess my views, and adjust them if necessary.

So who am I writing for? 

For you, of course. Whoever you are, wherever you are. Friend or stranger. Nice meeting you. Drop me a message. Let's have a chat over coffee someday.

Yes, I'm writing to the world. As we all should.

So don't hold back. Write what's on your mind. Write honestly. Write with passion.