Effort And Sincerity

Once upon a time, me and my sisters were at a small hotel in KL, feeling hungry and needing something savoury to eat. The problem was, we didn’t have any transport and the only options were the food stalls around the area.

We are not picky eaters, exactly. We are not food connoisseurs or anything. We can eat at stalls, mamaks, or gerai tepi jalan, medan selera…. whatever. As long as the place is clean, then we will eat there. 

So me and my sisters walked around the many stalls around the area, trying to choose which stall was the best to eat at. I noticed a bunch of young kids at one of the stalls there had poured some water at the ground surrounding their stall so that the wind would not scatter the dust away into their small stove or bother their customers. They were just a bunch of teenagers but they caught my attention.

“Weh, jom makan sini.” I suggested to Alida

Alida agreed because she too had noticed what I noticed. Then all of us siblings ended up eating there. 

It was a simple effort. But it made all the difference in where we chose to eat.

And when one of the kids took our orders, we could see his polite respect, his effort to make suggestions about what was the best to eat at his small humble stall.

I could see his genuine pride for what he did as a living. He may not be able to do much, but he would do what he could. That was all it took to win our hearts.

***

I think that I am not exactly the most social person in the world, either in the social media or in real life. Social media to me is more as a tool to propagate a certain worldview, a campaign tool to get people to pause and realize how ridiculous society really is (my own paltry version of ‘kritik sosial’ just like in the literature that I read, hahha) or to stay connected with friends.

Mindless socializing is not my forte (even though I could do it, if I have to).

But when I finally do socialize, I make an effort. And I am sincere with the effort I make.

I am not only sincere with what I say when I am being nice, I am also very sincerely earnest in what I say when I am annoyed.  By reading my blog or what I wrote on whatsapp, you can tell whether I am joking, happy, annoyed, about to burst out or downright furious at something. Hahah.

My friend used to tell me “Afiza, you are so good with words. How come you cannot find a prettier way to express yourself when you are annoyed?”

I laughed out loud. Can you see how brilliant my friend is? That was a backhanded compliment at its best. Very diplomatic of her to compliment my literary skill (a sure way of warming my heart, making me more receptive to her suggestions or criticism) and in the next breath telling me in no uncertain terms that the way I express myself when I am annoyed have a lot of rooms for improvement. (She is a master at diplomacy without making it fake! And that’s rare!)

I don’t socialize much, but when I finally do, I try my damnedest hard to be genuine. The point is, you know that you are interacting with Afiza, as how she really feels and how she really thinks. If I am annoyed, you know it. If I am amused, you know it. There is no misunderstanding.

True, I could have found better ways to express myself when I am annoyed. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I can’t be diplomatic. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t have the skill to butter up to my superiors and be nice to authorities. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t have the mental capacity and the language skill to couch my words in a manner that is more pleasant while delivering my message, but I just don’t want to.

I. DON’T. WANT. TO.

Not because I can’t. But because I won’t.

If I had wanted to, I would have done it! Make me want! Or make me feel like it is VERY IMPORTANT in this particular context for me to be diplomatic, then I will do it.  I do it with my patients, for example. Counselling, Motivational interviewing…. it’s all about giving a certain message in a manner that the patient can see, understand and accept. Another way of looking at it is explained by Wilfred Bion in his Containment theory. We do it all the time during therapy.

Bion’s theory (1959, 1962) explains how a mother receives unwanted and/oroverwhelming projections from an infant, processes them and then returns the experience to the infant in a modified, palatable form. This process also occurs in therapy with the therapist acting as a ‘container’, taking in thoughts/feelings from the client and re-representing them so they are both more understandable and less potentially destructive.

When I am doing therapy, I am working. My working persona, as Jung would term it! Not my real personality.

But when I am not working, I have no reason to contain anything. Hahah.  You will get me all raw and unprocessed. My own version of being a straight talker (because I think normal people should be able to take the truth without me having to dress it up the way I did with my clients and patients. If I have genuine respect of your intellect, I would be straight and honest with you. The moment I think your intellect cannot handle it, then I will try to be more diplomatic. So when I am being honest and blunt, take it as a compliment! Hahah. It means that I think your intellect can pass muster. Being blunt is also my own way of weeding out who I can be friends with and who I should only bother to communicate when there is a need for me to do so. As a result, I surround myself only with people of similar wavelength as me. Real, genuine people who would not act like they are in a drama all the time. Hahha)

Putting a lot of emphasis on being real and genuine, I was quite affronted by people who simply copy-paste messages of birthdays, Hari Raya wishes, CNY wishes, congratulations or condolences in whatsapp groups!

Gila malas!!

For example, when someone’s mother pass away, the first person giving the condolence message in the whatsapp group is the only one who actually puts a sincere effort to write his message properly. The rest of the whatsapp group members then simply copy-paste the first message ad nauseam, ad infinitum. It feels like you are reading repetitive spam messages instead of a genuine expression of sympathy and empathy towards your friend who has just lost her mother.

How can the society be so insensitive and so lazy!

Orang cakap aku tak diplomatik! Tapi sekurang-kurangnya, when I do socialize and communicate, I am sincere about it and I actually make an effort.

Instead of copy-pasting the same thing, I wrote a different message of condolence into the whatsapp group! It was my way of saying that I actually thought of her while she was dealing with the lost of her mother, that I had bothered to compose something out of my own heart and mind.

A minute later, the rest of the other members (who had not yet said their condolences before) copy-pasted MY message and turning it into another set of spam!

Adoiii!!  *tepuk dahi* (By the way, when did I give anyone the permission to plagiarize my message? Haha.)

What the hell hangpa semua ni! Pemalas nak mampus!

To be honest, aku pernah jer tak wish birthday and tak ucap takziah in whatsapp groups. Maybe because I am not particularly close with that person and therefore my wish (or lack of) would not really mean anything to them one way or another. 

But when I do finally write something, I compose my own! 

Maybe it is the writer in me that makes me so fastidious and fussy about showing some effort when you are making your greetings and wishes. Maybe this is just my personal pet peeve because I am so used to communicate my thoughts in writing, so that I become quite particular about the lack of genuine effort and warmth in what is supposed to be a sincere, personal wish of condolences by your so-called friends and colleagues.

But heck, this is not supposed to be my own pet peeve. Anyone with common decency should have thought about this too.

When I scrolled back the messages in the Whatsapp Group, I took note of people who actually bothered to compose a different message or insert their own personal message in the Whatsapp Group. And my INTP mind started analyzing the pattern (as it tends to do all the time. INTPs like patterns) People who I noticed had written different messages are either people of genuine kindness and warmth to everyone (one of my female specialist is like that), or people who are actually really close with the person suffering the lost (even though in other occasions, they too are copy-pasters).

So my mind came up with these conclusions/patterns: 

1)If you are genuinely saddened by someone’s lost because you are close to this person, then you would show an effort to express your feelings properly because you honestly feel sorry for them in view of your friendship. And because of your close friendship with this person, you feel compelled to personalize the message because you WANT this person to know that you SINCERELY share her sadness. Generic copy of condolence won’t do justice (in the context of your close relationship with this person.)

2)And if you are someone with common sense and common decency even though you yourself are not personally close with the person suffering the lost, you would also bother to compose your message properly. (this is because being a nice person is who you are and you would extend the same kind of thoughtful personalized message to everyone suffering such a great loss, regardless of the intimacy of your relationship with them. One of my specialists is like that. She is genuinely kind-hearted and nice.)

3) The rest are just actors and players (or perhaps robots that have been programmed to repeat or plagiarize) pretending to do what the society expects without having to really think about it or making any real mental effort. (And these are the ones that annoy me. At that specific  time, I don’t respect them or their sentiment).

I do personalize my messages and wishes. But it’s not because I am a nice person all the time. It’s because I am so rarely nice that when I am FINALLY being nice, I will make a real genuine effort. Or else I wouldn’t even bother.

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***

Please don’t bother to wish me anything (birthdays/ condolences/ congratulations) if you are just going to seem like you are suffering from echolalia. The writer in me do not feel anything (no joy, no gratitude, no respect, no real warmth) with such messages. I wouldn’t even remember the people who copy-paste the same darn wish over and over again like uninspired spammers with nothing better to do. If I am ever tested with the loss of my beloved mother, I don’t want anyone to display such a lackadaisical attitude with the way they express their condolences to me. (I might not even announce the matter in Whatsapp group and just personally call my boss to inform the matter privately and quietly in order to avoid reading copy-pasted messages and having to pretend that I feel thankful??! about what you so effortlessly and thoughtlessly plagiarize. Gosh!) The loss is devastating to me! And you are just copy-pasting like you don’t really care? How dare you! (I understand you may not mean it that way. Maybe you do genuinely think of my mother when you are copy-pasting that message, but how would I know that… when your effort is so paltry?!)

To rub salt to the wound, you are annoying me by spamming the group.

I appreciate genuine effort! That’s all! It can be small, it doesn’t need to contain bombastic words ala Shakespeare or Chaucer, but it can be genuine and real. At least!

Even if it contains grammatical errors/misspelled words… I would appreciate it a thousand times more than a thoughtless copied message.

I leave you today with the facebook status of someone whose idea and intellect I actually respect who had said the same thing I am trying to say. Maybe his facebook status could convey better what I really think when I write this post. He wrote about the unfortunate rampant spamming that has become the ridiculous trend in our society during festive season. I agree wholheartedly with what Tai Zee Kin in his facebook status had said. And below, I copied his very thought provoking facebook status into my blog post.

I think, this facebook status deserves a standing ovation.

Until next time, my dear readers.

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