Monday, February 15, 2016

Challenge the Perception

Me in a training session

This is one of the winning post for #IAmCapable at BlogAdda in association with Nihar Naturals :

Thank u BlogAdda !!!

We as human beings form opinions about others in probably 30 seconds of meeting them. And researchers say that these opinions or as we call it, first impressions are formed basically on the appearance. But the point which I want to talk here is that we should judge our own judgments about an individual. Just forming opinions, without any communication, simply on the basis of physical appearance, looks, or even the dressing sense other than ours can be disastrous and wrong at times. Having said this, I agree that, we shall definitely take care of our personal grooming. How we carry ourselves is very important. What we wear, how we wear, and our appearance everything is very important. It is indeed great to be updated about the fashion trends, but one must choose the attire as per one’s comfort and also on the basis of what suits.

Being a woman, it has happened many times during different phases of life that I have been judged on the basis of my looks, appearance and my attire. One such incident I remember which happened a decade back i.e. in 2006. It was in 2003 that I started my entrepreneurial journey as a corporate trainer. Being a Keralite, I was always fond of sarees. So, whenever I went for a training programme, sarees became my formal attire. And I must admit that wearing sarees enhanced my confidence. So, it was like any other day of a training programme. I had to speak on personal and professional excellence in an IT-enabled service organization. I chose one of my good bright cotton saree. As always, when I looked into the mirror, I felt confident in saree and got all set to conduct the session.

It was my first association with this organization. I reached 45 minutes prior to the programme and after reaching the training hall at the client site, I ensured to fix my laptop, projector etc. And slowly participants started coming. This organization had a casual attire culture and being a Friday specially, young professionals were dressed up in more casual bright colours. Being fond of colours, I was thoroughly enjoying young bright energy around me. Slowly the training hall was occupied with participants. Out of 25 participants, 20 of them were boys.

When I started the training programme, I got very lukewarm response from the participants, which was absolutely contrary to my anticipation. My gut feeling was that these young professionals would be actively participating, but in spite of introducing the topic in a broader perspective and to my satisfaction, energy was missing in the room. Although I was unable to figure out the reason, I thought to challenge myself and went ahead with the training programme. I learnt their name at one go during this introductory ice-breaker, which definitely did magic and the connect between us started happening. Slowly I saw the participants opening up.  I took the advantage of the new environment setting in, I shared with them a shayari:
नजर बदलो, नज़ारे बदल जायेंगे,
सोच बदलो, सितारे बदल जायेंगे,
कश्तियाँ बदलने की जरूरत नहीं,
दिशा बदलो, किनारे खुद-ब-खुद बदल जायेंगे I

This shayari earned me a big applause. Slowly, the session became more and more interactive. Free flow of conversations happened. They had lots of queries on success, excellence, balancing personal and professional lives etc. These questions made the session very interesting. The whole learning session became a great experience with lot of fun and activities. To my surprise, even the lunch table turned out to be interactive.

Now it was time for the verbal feedback at the end of 6-hours session. To explore what made them give me such a lukewarm response in the beginning, I asked them to give me response and feedback for the following three questions:
1.    What was their thought when they came for the training programme.
2.    And now, at the end of the day, what was their thought pattern?
3.    One learning which touched their heart.

Almost 15 boys and 2 girls shared honestly that they had come to the training expecting the facilitator to be dressed in western attire. Though they liked me in saree, their perception was that my training programme also would be conventional one. They confessed that their perception was absolutely wrong. They were amazed at the unconventional mode of conducting training with audio-visual slides, stories, activities, jokes, shayari. Most of them said that the very shayari, which I have mentioned above, touched their hearts.

I was really overwhelmed with their feedback. I was also very satisfied.

This incident was one typical experience of mine, where I was judged on the basis of attire. I was in traditional attire in an organization where the culture was different. I still continue to wear sarees for my training programmes, though I do take care of the fact that if I have to go to such organizations, where the culture is informal, I do try to fit myself into my comfortable formal western attire too. It is not a matter that which is the right approach, but the point which I want to highlight is that do we judge others specially women on the basis of what they wear.

One thing I do feel that it is not only men judging women on the basis of what women choose to wear, but at times, even women judge other women.

The research and survey done says that women get judged based on what look like, more than on what they do. Women don’t just have to worry about looking presentable, but also to worry about how they will be perceived. Every outfit carries a subtle message for people who pass judgments, and women are forced to adhere to the image that their appearance creates. Not just experience, but even statistics say the same. Please take a look at some of the startling figures that the Nihar Naturals #IAmCapable survey conducted by Nielsen India reveals:

a.   69% of men agree that their judgment of women is based on their looks.
b.   64% of women agree that the judgments passed on them have affected their ability to reach their true potential.
c.    70% of women agree that majority of judgments on women are from family members or friends rather than strangers.
d.   72% of women agree that working women face more judgments on their looks or their clothes than housewives.

Image Courtesy: from BlogAdda page 

I agree with this fact that one needs to look presentable and dignified. At the same time, one also needs to be careful about forming opinions about others. I also want to convey a message to us, the women fraternity, that we need to be sure and confident of ourselves and challenge the wrong perception and judgments of others. Let our performance and work speak against these unjust criticisms / false judgments and let us try to outperform ourselves. It is time for us women to excel beyond one’s own expectations and be an optimum performer in various spheres of lives rather than succumbing to these judgments.

Please watch this video (courtesy: NIhar Naturals)

I am breaking stereotypes based on appearance by sharing your experience for the #IAmCapable activity at BlogAdda in association with Nihar Naturals.