By Col Bakhtiar Hakeem
We all have friends, relations, colleagues, neighbors, subordinates, bosses, acquaintance and servants. One can easily add the family doctor, the favorite shopkeeper, the newspaper boy, the dairyman and the brother of brother’s friend in this list. The parents of daughter-in-law or son-in-law, the cousin who is also the best friend, the teacher who loves you, the college administrator who has reprimanded you many times and the traffic police officer who booked you last month are the genuine additions to the same list. Those with whom you interact can include the beggar you come across daily and the good old lady who is now all milk and honey for some short-lived interests. We act with these people, influence them and get influenced. In some cases we are active in some passive. Sometimes we are on giving end and sometimes on receiving end. And the ends do change, howsoever; brief or long is the span. The relationship of husband and wife needs a special mention. It is closest of almost all, deeply interwoven, yet so fragile.
The plethora of interpersonal relations exist in seven colors of the light and all possible shades which arise out of the combination of any two of these and any possible permutations of these and their products. Therefore, each relationship has bright potentials to become a unique bondage, very different from rest. A more objective and deeper look will unfold some pattern and some kinds of tentative hypotheses. And an exercise through inductive thinking will help us formulate certain hypotheses. One may call these the principles; the principles of interpersonal relations. It is an effort to develop some kind of generalities so as to analyze, interpret and predict the quality and health of interpersonal relations of two persons. The cream of aim would be a very happy, durable and long lasting relationships all around you.
The principles, rules, regulations and parameters that govern these tens and hundreds of relations, however, are a few and can be counted on fingertips. Would you like to know these? Surely the answer would be yes. Every normal human being would like to have best of equation with his or her near and dear ones. All of us would like to have well-wishers, those, who at least smile when we laugh and offer a shoulder when it is our turn to cry. Somehow sometimes these simple bondages of mutual respect, love, trust and faith turn too fragile. The relations become acrimonious and grow too painful to bear. The result could vary from ten minutes depression to loose stomach, acidity, migraine, sleeplessness, backache and the like. Or it could mean a tragic suicide or a cold-blooded murder. That is the scope of this dreadful continuum.
Let us work together to minimize these troubles growing out of interpersonal relations. Let us do it to extend friendship trust, faith and a general feeling of well-being. Let us do it to have contended and smiling faces and medicine free side tables. Let us do it to have hoards of guests and dozens of greeting cards on eid and every happy occasion. How do we go about it? Here the set of principles, referred to above.
Principle # 1 Keep your Promises. A simple, innocent running sentence, ‘see you latter’ is in fact a promise. Say it when you mean it. Once you have said it fulfill it. Be mindful it is a principle for maintaining good relations. So keep your promises. Make promises to hold them and do your utmost to honor these. Then there are significant statements like, will give you rupees hundred thousand by next Sunday or accepting a proposal of marriage. All of these, big or small, are very important. To be in time for a cup of tea or a meeting is equally important. Keeping promise is manifestation of your character. And this provides the most stable and sure foundation of your interpersonal relations.
Principle # 2. Equality. Respect the people as equal human beings. It includes your wife and children as well. Look at the person addressing you, talking to you as the son or daughter of the prophet Adam (PBUH). Yes, Adam is your father also. And you are no different by pedigree from the person who is in your audience. Are you? This is the start point and common platform to begin with. Treat all as equal. And always make a new happy and promising start with a new person.
Principle # 3. Price Tag. Your value or the price tag is equivalent to the benefits you accrue to others. May it be a solacing smile, gifting a Ferrari or offering a hot cup of tea. Give ‘hope’. Giving hope is sometimes dear like life. Believe in giving and not in grabbing and collecting. Based on the benefits you accrue, you can be rated good, better or best. Let me use Urdu word, ‘faiz’ for goods you deliver. Last prophet of Muslims said,’ the best amongst you is the one who studies and teaches Quran. Then he said best amongst you is the one whose conduct is the best and then he said, best amongst you is one who is best for the people.
Principle # 4. Judgment vs. Evaluation. Do not pass the judgment but appreciate and evaluate. Defer the judgment as long as possible. You may use the neutral phrases. You may say ‘interesting’, ‘intriguing’ or simply ‘nice’ when you do not like the idea or the thing one bit. Check your gut reactions. Take time to express negation or rejection. Reinforce the person to think further, yield and grow. Do not block him or her. Your immediate disapproval will kill the creativity or at least drive the person away from you.
Principle # 5. Act and do not React. Make right decisions for right reasons. Do not make decisions to counter the bad decisions of your friend or relation. Make persistent efforts to minimize your ego. Avoid enjoying negative symmetry. This is the most common malice. And many people simply enjoy their triumph, when they act as bad as they thought the other was to them. It is a pity, rather. When you delay the judgment you always find time to act and keep the initiative with you. While reacting you lose the initiative. Act to support, to generate a hope and to reinforce goodness.
Principle # 6. Who is Right? You could never be absolutely right in matters of opinion, interpretation and diagnosis. Do not grant yourself more than 90 % when you are dead sure and hell bent in your inferences and conclusions. Do not be cruel to exterminate the birth right of being wrong. The bottom line is that you may be wrong, very much like others can be. When you are a complainant do not become the judge. Being a complainant you are party. The one you think has wronged you might have a heavier complaint against you. Listen to him or her and let him or her to listen to you. If you can settle very fine, if it looks impossible consult a common friend. Let him or her adjudge. Please do not be a judge when you are a complainant. And when you are asked to be a judge, do not become a party.
Principle # 7. Hearsay. Do not draw conclusions and inferences from hearsay. Do not base your judgment on hearsay. Do not be misled by some one reporting negatively on some one. Let that absent some one, be directly talking to you. If you feel time is at premium, talk to the person being reported upon yourself. Ask direct questions and seek the opinion or clarification, one to one. Won’t life be simple and easy if you do not conclude from what you hear from your wife about the mother and what you hear from your mother about your wife? Similarly let the opinion of your boss be reaching you directly rather than through a colleague. And let friend ‘A’ talk to you directly than you hearing and believing and, worst, acting on what you heard about ‘A’ from friend ‘B’.
Principle # 8. Elder and Younger. The concepts of ‘elder’ and ‘younger’ and their selective and preferred application create serious problems in the interpersonal relations. While simple equivalent of elder is ‘older’ and should not be anything else, it is never so for the one who is ‘elder’. Simple characteristics describing and indentifying a ‘younger’ should be the one with lesser number of years of age. However, it is taken to be ‘chotta’; which generally implies one deficient in something, lesser in knowledge, raw, relatively wrong and one who has yet to learn. Thus the interpersonal relations are taken to be between a ‘barra’ and a ‘chotta’; thus it becomes a tie between two unequal. It is a straight and square contradiction of divined rule of equality of mankind. And it is an opposite of Principle No.2 of this article.
The matter of fact is that no two individuals are equal in knowledge, information or data; in skills i.e. how to do, how to perform or in attitude i.e. whether to perform or how much to perform. Thus irrespective of being ‘elder’ and ‘younger’ out of the two, one is always better, by merit on a particular issue or subject. By no means it, makes one ‘barra’ and the other ‘chotta’; both are equal human beings, whatever be the age. Of course we will have to keep infants and babies, teachers and pupils; out of the context of interpersonal relations.
Another complexity arises when the focus is on the inter-personal relationships of opposite genders. Although there is no Mrs. Muhammad, Fatima Muhammad and Mrs. Ali in Islam, ladies world over, irrespective of their religion, would be happy to be carried by a male’s name throughout their life. Ladies would happily take a back seat in a difficult situation, handing over to a male. Ladies would love to take a gift, receive ediee or let some one else pay for their bills including zakat.
If you are a male and wants a female to act and behave as an equal there would be problems. She would be at peace to be dependent, with none or a little responsibility. She loves to be a follower and the one being taken care of by a male or males. So, far the sake of good inter-personal relations and keeping her happy,please let her be in the place of her liking.
Five years ago when I undertook this assignment, I could enumerate only six principles. As I grew and revisited this article I could add another one. Now peeping through the window opening into sixtieth year, I have added one more. These are the eight principles, as of now. These can provide the foundation on which you can engineer the Taj Mahal of interpersonal relations. Ponder over these. You may find a couple already being actively and vigorously followed by you. You may find a couple of these, most suited to solve your problems. In case you find the practical translation of these principles too cumbersome write to me or wait for my next article.