In These stressful times, How to be a “Cool guy/girl”, a “Class Act” Acharya Sudhakar V.Rao MD Everyone knows a “Class act” when they see one, but to describe in detail, what it could mean may be difficult. In Gita, second chapter, Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna about “sthita pragna”, how to be a “class act”, always calm and undisturbed and do the right thing!!
Here is an attempt describing in simple terms, how to be a “class act”, a “sthita prajna” , especially in these stressful times. It’s not about money or prestige. It’s all about behavior. Merriam-Webster defines it as “An example of outstanding quality or prestige.” This definition is not very helpful to increase our understanding of the word, “class act”. We recognize someone as a class-act when they exhibit specific behaviors. Even the classiest among us are not perfect, but it looks like the class-act people live by certain rules as a matter of principle. Here they are:
1.Always make people feel welcome: Have you ever felt tolerated but not welcomed? It hurts, doesn’t it? A class-act goes out of his/ her way to make sure everyone feels like they’re the most important person at the table. One of the qualities of Sri Rama was He was always “poorva bhaashi”, meaning, although He was royalty, he never waited for people to come and talk to Him. He was not proud. He was always the first one to approach a stranger or an acquaintance in a gathering and talk to the person to make him/her feel “important”. He was cordial to even the lowest person in society and treated every one, like Sabari, Ahalya, Jatayu, Guha and even His enemy, Ravana with respect!
Sure, it takes some charisma to pull this off. But a little bit of effort will get you 90% of the way there. Be gracious. Show genuine interest in others. Avoid playing favorites. Act as though you’re lucky they granted you an audience.
- Do classy things: One of the great qualities of Sri Rama was that he would remember even a small help with immense gratitude but tends to forget any harm done to Him. Ramayana is replete with such examples. A word of praise, even to the opponent does not cost anything, but adds class and shows that you are cognizant of, and grateful for even a small favor. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. Pay attention to the little things that brighten the day of your friends and the people you serve. Take a few minutes of your time to add a personal touch to your interactions. That’s class!!!
- Show sportsmanship Win or lose, act with graciousness towards your competitors. Don’t throw temper tantrums or belittle others when outcomes defy your expectations. And making excuses when you lose? I saw this often in our tennis matches: (“I was too tired!” or “Sun was in my eyes!” or “you know, the lines calls were wrong!! “ etc. etc. …. Yeah, that’s poor sportsmanship too. Remember! It’s okay to recognize that someone performed better than you on a particular day or a particular project. Smile, compliment their effort and get on with your life. Like many other of these behaviors, the secret to good sportsmanship lies in the rule: “Ignore your initial impulse, take a deep breath, and think about what action will serve you best”.
- Defend the innocent: A good example of a real class act: Michelle Obama’s recent defense of Greta Thunberg is a great example!! I bet she felt anger over Trump’s disparaging Tweet. But she let that initial impulse pass, stuck to her principles, stayed above the fray, and defended Thunberg by showering her with praise. Now that was a class-act. Michelle Obama stood up for 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg after President Donald Trump mocked the teen Thursday for being named Time magazine’s Person of The Year. While “So ridiculous,” Trump said on Twitter. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” The former first lady had words of wisdom to share with Thunberg and took to Twitter to share her support. “Greta Thunberg, don’t let anyone dim your light. Like the girls I’ve met in Vietnam and all over the world, you have so much to offer us all. Ignore the doubters and know that millions of people are cheering you on,” Obama tweeted.
I remember a few years ago when I was in active medical practice, in a department meeting, the department chairperson was putting down a colleague; about the way he practiced Pediatrics, giving free treatment for those who did not have Medicaid or any insurance and fighting with insurance companies. The chairman threatened a disciplinary action because he claimed, it affected the relationship of the hospital with insurance company! Another colleague immediately stood up and defended the pediatrician. The accusation was he was seeking popularity. Instead of engaging in a street fight, he praised the pediatrician for his efforts, refuting the bully’s arguments without saying anything derogatory about him.
- Stay above the fray of fatigue: See yourself as a mediator rather than a combatant. A class-act never involves themselves in petty squabbles or even big ones. Instead, they play the role of peacemaker. They bring calm and clarity to tense situations. When you’re the one to get both sides to agree on a mutually acceptable outcome, your reputation soars. You win respect and admiration for acting in a way others wish they could in a similar situation.
- Control your initial impulses: A class-act never loses his/her cool. Like everyone else, he/she feels the initial impulse to lash out when attacked or engaged in emotionally charged situations. But he/she allows that impulse to pass, and somehow, in the aftermath, always comes out as a winner.
Take a pause, consider the circumstances, and craft a response that de-escalates the situation. Sacrifice that burst of euphoria you experience from settling a score. Instead, aim for the long-term satisfaction of acting in a way that serves as model behavior for others to follow.
- Act with integrity when it is challenging to do so: Most of us act according to a set of morals and principles, even if we can’t articulate them. Do you live by those principles when it’s more convenient to make an exception? It’s easy to tell yourself, just this once, I don’t want to make enemies, or I need the money. The class act puts principle over personal gain. His/her peers will admire this decision and envy the ability to sacrifice reward, convenience, or acceptance to live by the values.
8.Do kind things when nobody is looking Why do rich folks donate obscene money to get their names on university buildings? It’s a sign of status. Is it a generous thing to do? Sure, but how many of them would give money if their donations were anonymous? A class-act never flaunts their good deeds. They do it as a matter of course. Compliment others not to get something, but to brighten their day. Go ahead and pick up a piece of trash on the floor, even if you’re alone. There’s nothing wrong with desiring recognition for your kind actions but think of it as a side-effect of a life dedicated to this principle. Do it enough, and others will notice.