Passive learning happens when we reflect on human behavior. ‘People watching’ can be an amazing learning experience especially in crowded beaches, parks, etc. We are able to take a back seat in our own lives for a short while and observe the body language of the people.
We can tune into the tone of their voice and the way they are conversing. We can listen to snippets of their conversation and try to gauge the lifestyle that they lead. Their gait, the panache, and finesse of which they speak, the way they are dressed and the way they carry themselves can give us an astute estimate of the kind of lives that they may be leading.
We can spot confident people immediately. We are able to gauge the depth of love, care, and concern amongst people. We can even decipher insecurity if we are astute enough.
Some people seek attention. Loud talk and drama is their forte. Others are simply happy go merry folks – gregarious, outgoing, fun loving people who want to spread joy and cheer amongst the group. Observe also the quiet workers amongst the same group, who go about distributing the snacks from the well-packed picnic hamper. They are the ones who will pick up all the litter too as the group listens in rapt attention to the star performers.
Hmmm……yes – people watching can be a real learning experience. Passive learning can help us put a lot of things in perspective. We have a globe full of people. We are all blessed with different permutations and combinations of negative and positive personality traits. A wise and mature person will accept the negative traits of other people and do his/her best to complement it if they are living or working together.
Such people are leaders in the truest sense because they respect people for a particular set of attributes and skills. Such leaders realize that the skill set and the character traits of their team or family members far outweigh a couple of negative traits. And then such leaders are leaders in the truest sense because they know that all of us have quite a few negative traits that we are struggling to overcome.
Let us derive our own learning from our own lives by taking a small break at this time. Just a few seconds of your time to take a trip down memory lane. Just think about some real life people whom you really respect or respected in the distant past.
Not role models. Not movie stars. Not some fictitious character. Not some great personality. Some person whom you interacted with personally. Just the mere mention of their names will bring a smile on our faces. We respect them so much because they touched our lives in a memorable manner. Perhaps we are still learning a lot from such people. We love interacting and learning something new from such people. We love the way they deal with people. They know how to talk, softly and gently but firmly.
They know how to get the message across subtly without hurting anyone. The way they complement the flaws of the team is remarkable indeed. They too are learning something new every day, and they will openly admit it. They will openly appreciate someone’s work. They will quietly talk with someone in private over work that is not up to the mark. Such leaders are rare gems, and we should really consider ourselves fortunate if we have met a handful of such people in our lives.
Such leaders may be in our list of personal contacts. Such leaders may be a part of our professional lives. But they are a class apart. They generate respect with the way they interact with other people. They do not use their position or their brand name to intimidate others. They treat a professional title as just that – a title. They may be our seniors – but they treat us as their equals. More importantly, they treat us as fellow mates who are still in the learning mode. They do not sit on the pedestal of their expertise and give sermons to others on how and what to do when. They accept the fact that they too are in a constant mode of learning.
Such people generate a lot of respect from us and we hold them in high esteem. At any and every stage of our life, our only aim will be to emulate such people and be like them in all respects. We will want to think like them and work with them because we respect them so much.
Think and ponder for just a few more seconds. This time round think of all those people whom you simply HAVE to respect. It is conditional. If you want your job and value the money that you are getting from this organization, you better do what is asked without raising that questioning eyebrow. Such leaders will demand and command.
They are ruthless and aggressive in their approach. Even their emails will be peppered with all caps and bold and underline. Even the tone of their writing will make you wince in pain. You have a strong dislike for such people. And you are already looking out for another job. This time round you will ensure that the atmosphere of the company is a positive one.
We feel like working for people where we are empowered with certain liberties. Too many conditions, too many rules, too many deadlines, absolute rigidity and nil flexibility is a sure shot recipe for fouled up relationships – professional or personal – it simply does not matter.
Which now leads us to a set of questions – Can we teach anyone to respect us? Why do we really respect some people so much and simply pretend to respect some people? Respecting seniors in our family or seniors in an organization is something we will willingly do if their behavior and attitude create that respect in our hearts. We like them for certain attributes – we like the way they deal with others – so we will respect them. BUT WE CAN NEVER TEACH ANYONE TO RESPECT US. We can never command respect by force – that is equivalent to bullying – and will only create the opposite impact on the other person.
But then there is learning to be gleaned from even bullies and aggressive, demanding people. Such people are basically insecure. They may also be highly under-confident about their own capability and success. They may also be leading highly dependent lives.
They cannot survive without their teammates or family members. They will crumble and collapse like a pack of fragile cards without them. But they refuse to acknowledge their own weaknesses and insecurities. They become defensive when someone points out their gross errors of judgment to them. So they camouflage it using a higher volume and a sharper dialogue when they talk.
They toss a rule book in front of their employees and ask them to ‘toe the line’ with a warning. Sadly, such leaders will not have very many happy employees or happy family members around them. Such aggressive leaders are like the dementors in a Harry Potter movie –they suck the joy out of our personal and professional lives.
Working or living with such aggressive people imparts valuable passive learning to all the people involved. For a while we will be confused, then we will become under confident, then we may become bitter because we see no way out of the situation. And when we are finally forced into a corner, we will opt out of the adverse scenario.
The best and the most beautiful part of the entire bitter experience is we will never be like that aggressive person. We have been through hell and back – and know how painful the whole ordeal was. So, we will never inflict such pain on any other human being all through our lives. And so one bad leader has given birth to several good leaders. That is passive learning for all of us.
People who are willing to learn will learn from their own lives first. The learning that they accrue through all their negative and positive interactions molds them into better human beings. And for a person who is in a constant mode of learning – life itself promises to be a learning journey!