Proverblog # 2: Hear ye! ‘Berries’, anyone?
By Ishita Ray
First, a huge thank you to all Proverblog readers for engaging so meaningfully with the first sortie of the series. Proverblog is happy to announce that it has received a spot of its own on the BCFAI blog. So, stay tuned every alternate Friday for a fresh release with new insights, new perspectives and of course, new proverbs. Age-old proverbs and their implications in the 21st century communication context – this has got to be one exciting journey!
Today Proverblog travels to western India. “Bole tenaa bor vechaai”, in Gujarati, literally means the one who speaks gets to sell their berries. How true, I have to agree! Coming from the Indian community that boasts of the most successful businesspeople, this is one proverb that sure carries a lot of credibility.
“Bole tenaa bor vechaai” is sound advice, one would say, especially for an Indian audience in business communication training. Several insightful responses to Proverblog # 1 mentioned, that when training a predominantly Indian audience, when to speak up is not as much a problem as speaking up itself is. A comment that was particularly relevant in the context was that for the Indian professional in most cases, “Silence is the enemy.”
Indeed, in the times of digital transformation and Industry 4.0, communicating is key to not only doing business but also thriving in practically any profession. In his bestseller ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’, Yuval Noah Harari mentions the 4Cs that are key in 21st century workplace and thereby, in classrooms – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. If we give some further thought to the 4Cs, we would realise that it is communication that links the other three Cs – unless we are able to communicate our creative ideas and our critical thinking, collaborating efficiently in a world that is getting increasingly digital and virtual is practically next to impossible.
In a compelling webinar hosted by MIT Sloan Management Review in January 2021, Professor Amit Mukherjee from the IMD and Hult Business Schools, distinguished the concept of “work” in the 21st century from how it was in the earlier centuries. His fundamental distinction was that most of the “work” in the 21st century is required to happen in a person’s mind. In the day and age of digital transformation where innovation is the key measure of success at work, disruptive ideas are of much higher value than hard skills. Times have changed since the assembly line production days when work was visible. And disruptive ideas (or any idea for that matter) is of little value unless it is communicated to others. Unless one communicates, or is willing to communicate or, in some cases, is able to communicate, the “work” done is not shared by the others. An idea communicated to the world is worth a million others that remain in our heads. And thus indeed, “bole tena bor vechaai”.
What is important to determine in any context, however, is what is the purpose of communicating? To borrow the analogy of the proverb, what are those ‘berries’ we are trying to sell? Or are we at all trying to “sell” any at all? Is the purpose of communication always trying to drive a point home? And is the expectation of ‘speaking up’ or ‘getting your ideas on the table’ always an equitable expectation?
A senior colleague of mine who shared this proverb with me also shared the following anecdote to go with (and I quote her with her permission):
“My father was a lawyer, though because his personality was quiet and introspective, unlike most in his profession, he veered more towards law reporting. A senior, very successful lawyer, a Gujarati, who was his friend, admonished him for his reluctance to speak about his accomplishments, using exactly this proverb: "Bole tenaa bor vechaai!". Very softly and deftly, my father responded to him: "Pan mane bor nathi vechva!" The meaning of his rejoinder was: "But I've never wanted to sell bor!”
An extremely critical point – one that is often lost in the fast-paced, hands on world we function in. Another significant point in the anecdote is a question it raises: what about those people who are not comfortable speaking up – whether it is their personality or their culture or whatever other reason? Or who don’t wish to speak up at that point of time? Do we want to exclude those in our team who might not speak up because they are shy or introverted or scared of losing face because of cultural issues or for any other reason? At a time when workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse, stopping to think about why some team members are quieter than others, how to include ‘ideas’ from the quieter members or in what ways to make these members feel heard might go a long way in making workplaces inclusive at the very core.
What is your take on today’s proverb “bole tena bor vechaai”? In what ways do you think learning or reflection points from this proverb can be used in business communication training? Would you like to share your stories? Proverblog is all ears…and eyes!
*All graphics and visuals created on Canva.com
Ishita Ray is a Learning Consultant with more than a decade of experience in academia and corporate sectors. She has formerly worked at Tata Consultancy Services, where she designed learning content and strategy for online and face to face programs in Business and Intercultural Communication. She believes in encouraging dialogue and
reflection to create inclusive and accessible learning spaces for every individual. She can be reached on LinkedIn.