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Be aware of where you are

Being sensitive to your surroundings and respectful to people helps one grow and build relationships as well

September 25, 2022 12:09 am | Updated 12:09 am IST

One must develop awareness of one’s surroundings.

One must develop awareness of one’s surroundings. | Photo Credit: Freepik

As inhabitants of a constantly changing world, the privileged among us have experienced staggering innovations in the way we communicate. Much has happened in the area of communication technology, and many of us have adapted to the perceived advancements. As a result, most of our day-to-day interactions and transactions are online, these days.

We are constantly warned by banking and financial institutions, media and many other well-meaning sources that we need to be wary and cautious of online fraud. ‘Be careful of what you say, what you text, and which link you click on’, we are reminded.

However, it is not just in the online reality where we need to be careful. It is also about being aware of where we are, quite literally; the places we go to, and who is around us in our everyday life. It is just being back to the basics, especially so when we work for an organisation and then become custodians of that company’s identity and of confidential information. Because as dramatic as it sounds, walls do have ears. And we never know who is on the other side. I think It all comes down to three Ws.

Where, Who and What

Where: In the office, unless we are in a secure meeting room or a boardroom, we need to consciously have our conversations with colleagues and friends only when we are confident of not being overheard. Elevators, corridors, and pantries are all common spots where we often let our guard down and get swept into conversations. In the flow of our chatter, we forget that there is a lot that can be picked up from words we drop quite unknowingly. Someone who is listening could turn that into unwarranted gossip. We often talk about ‘water cooler chats’, but these should be nothing more than casual chitchat: saying hello, discussing the weather, enquiring about health, and so on. Anything more than that must be restricted to a secure space. We also need to apply the same common sense and caution when speaking on the phone, when in an office. Often, loud voices spill across walls and an entire floor and the employees occupying it become privy to confidential discussions.

When traveling alone or with colleagues, while sitting in an aircraft, cab or train, this alertness becomes all the more crucial. You will be amazed at the kind of conclusions intelligent strangers can come to, based on clues we drop in our telephone conversations. Recently, there was a fellow airline passenger discussing a sensitive performance appraisal of his team member on a call. Unknowingly, he ended up talking about the situation of his company, the financial challenges, and so on.

Who: Wherever we are, who we share details with becomes important. If it is a trusted colleague, then it becomes easier. But what if we are new to an organisation and don’t know whom to trust? Then, perhaps, the easiest way to develop this awareness is to slowly build a network of colleagues, and earn their trust by collaborating. Volunteering to work on company initiatives, taking the lead, and respecting others’ views can all be humbling but highly enriching ways to know who to trust, and who to talk to. But, like all good things, this too takes time and calls for courage, good faith and oodles of patience.

What: Finally, in an office environment, there are definite do’s and don’ts about what can be discussed. No matter how secure the environment and how trustworthy our colleagues, we need to be aware of what we talk about.

Does this mean we need to be suspicious constantly? No, it is all about being sensitive to the environment we are in and respecting others. This awareness will go a long way in building a strong and reliable self-image and contribute to our work relationships as well.

The writer is a poet, novelist, translator and literary journalist. She is also a communications professional and works at UST, a leading digital services company. Views expressed are personal. @anupamaraju

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