Make Others Feel Important

I was at my favourite vegan café relishing my chocolate brownie when I witnessed two friends talking. Let’s call them Sarah and Angel. Sarah kept speaking away about her life and her problems, ranging from how her schedule is too hectic at school to how her roommate is too loud, leaving Angel with no opportunity to speak.

Similarly, yesterday I was at a dance party and I met a guy who wouldn’t stop boasting about how his family always spoilt him with luxury so he could live an opulent life. People who speak like that somehow imply that they are above and the other person is below. So I despised every moment of the time we spent with each other.

Though, it was interesting for me to witness these situations because it made me understand what makes some people more attractive than others and what makes us enjoy someone’s company over another’s. Think about…

The person who includes you in conversations when they sense you’re feeling awkward. The person who asks you to text them when you reach home safely. And if you forget, they text you to make sure you’re okay. The person who wishes you Happy Birthday at midnight. The person who remembers the tiny details of something you casually said at a point. The person who gets back to you on a book you recommended. The person who is simply patient with you. What is the one thing these people have in common?: they make others feel important.

I know I love it when someone makes me and my opinions seem like they matter. So why shouldn’t I make someone else feel that way? My learning: Make people feel good. Make them feel special. It makes a difference.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

How do Ideas Survive?

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan discuss fables. My favourite fable growing up was The Fox and the Grapes story. A fox strolls through an orchard and sees a bunch of grapes ripening high on a grape vine. Despite multiple attempts to run, jump, and grab the grapes, the fox always misses. Finally, he gives up out of exhaustion. Walking away, he sighs, “I’m sure they are sour anyway.”

What’s interesting about fables is that they give us morals. After reading The Fox and the Grapes, readers resonate: ‘it’s easy to despise what you can’t get.’ Another lovely fable is The Hare and the Tortoise with the prominent message of ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Morals like these reflect some profound truth about human nature and they are memorable because they contain a concrete idea that readers take out of the story. As a result, the idea travels the world. I heard my Swedish friend once say, “Surt sa räven om rönnbären” which translates to “Sour, said the fox about the berries” (they weren’t even berries, they were grapes 😛). But the point is, concrete ideas are easy to remember, allowing their message to universally persist.

Business taglines and mission statements aim to exhibit a similar effect on customers. I’m a chocolate fanatic. But as much as I love the feeling of chocolate melting in my mouth, I despise the feeling of sticky chocolate in my fingers. For this reason, my favourite candy in the whole wide world is M&M’s, with its advertising slogan that in fact sold millions: “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands”. Sweet, catchy, concrete.

Another example is my Economics teacher in high school who devised a distinctive way to teach his students. Every economics term was taught to us through mnemonic devices. For instance, factors that shift the demand curve are PIRATES. Population, income, related goods, advertising, tastes and fashion, expectations, and seasons. (3 years later and I still remember this 😛).

Concreteness helps people learn and remember ideas. By avoiding abstract language but rather conveying ideas in terms that are comprehensible by all, the message hidden inside comes to mean the same thing to everyone.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

How are ideas made interesting?

My curiosity about communication and the expression of ideas urged me to read the book Made to Stick written by two incredible brothers, Chip and Dan Heath. It aims to answer: why do some ideas survive while others die? Most importantly, what makes ideas stick?

The book talks about this particular example…

One day, The Centre for Science in the Public Interest sent bags of theatre popcorn from three big US cities for a nutritional analysis. In a typical bag of popcorn, there was found to be 37 grams of saturated fat when a normal diet should contain no more than 20. Shocking.

Despite the alarm, the CSPI needed to spread the message in a way that everyone would understand how serious this was. I mean, think about it, most of us have no idea when looking at the nutritional content behind our favourite bag of cookies. 37 grams. So what? Is that good or bad?

So in the September of 1992, CSPI held a press conference. The message it presented was “A medium sized movie butter popcorn contains more artery clogging fat than a bacon and eggs breakfast, a Big Mac, and a dinner of steak.” They laid out these foods for display for the television cameras, and the idea was to demonstrate that all this saturated fat is stuffed into a single bag of popcorn.

The story was a sensation, making the front pages of USA today, with headline writers cracking, “Lights, Camera, Cholesterol!”

CSPI’s success makes me question: if I know something about the world, how do I communicate my idea so that people care?

We are humans. We are wired to feel things. By watching the display of food, people were utterly disgusted, they felt gross, their emotions were elicited, and they were moved. Similarly, in my university lecture for Communications, I always wonder how every word of my professor makes an impact. When Dr. Rahman speaks, we understand, remember, and re-tell. How so? Because content never lives on its own. Through the constant sparking electricity between him and us, he makes it come to life.

Amongst many other factors, I’ve learnt that at least one thing that nurtures ideas so they can make a difference is emotion. A good idea awakens emotion. And good speakers know how to open emotion gates.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Why Well Being Matters

Nothing too deep for this week’s post, but something I feel like I need to let out regardless 🙂

I often have a series of flickering moments where I feel overwhelmed. So overwhelmed that my mind feels like it is in a million places all at once. Sometimes it feels like I can’t take it anymore. But that is when I remember, my well being is more important than anything else…

We all have mental health. It is how we feel from the inside. But with the constant ‘doing’ and going on and on with our lives without taking breaks, sometimes we forget that it is even there. And I have realised that I can’t do anything – whether it’s studying, being productive, working, talking to people – properly if my mind isn’t at the right place. The mind is the most powerful muscle in our body, so why be ashamed to talk about mental health?

Friday for me was super hectic with assignments and friends and quizzes one after the other to the point where I felt burnt out, needing a day to relax. So that is exactly what I did this Saturday!

Here are a few pictures and videos to help you relax if you, too, had a very busy week:

The Seattle Sunrise from my balcony 🌅
Mr. Rabbit said hello in my evening jog 🏃‍♀️
Raspberry Plants
A Walk in the Nature

What I keep telling myself is: when you feel better, you will do better.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Being your own anchor

When friends bail on my plans, when no one is there to deal with or solve my problems, when life is hopeless and unfair, I feel angry. Utterly angry.

Slowly and slowly, however, what I’m starting to learn is that no one, absolutely no one, is responsible for my safety, my happiness, and my problems. In fact the moment I stepped into my university’s extensive halls, walked around the mighty campus, and became a part of the community, I realised that I am one drop in the vast ocean…

I come from a highly protective background where every emotion of mine has always been heard. This little world of mine was my oyster and I was it’s pearl. But out here, nobody cares. My solo trip, too, forced me to rely on myself as nobody seemed to have cared that it was my first time taking 1 flight, 1 train ride, a 2 hour road trip, and a hotel check-in all by myself. As it occurs to me, there is no reason they should have had to either.

Life at some point teaches us that we just cannot keep waiting around hoping that someone will magically save us from our nightmares. No one is supposed to ask us how we’re doing and make everything okay. We must eventually learn to rely on ourselves because we are the only ones who can give ourselves the lives we want.

Having said that, we all undoubtedly have people whose love for us is genuine and worthy. However, even they can’t help us every time. Sometimes they won’t have the energy or the money. Dropping my expectations from the world around me has hence made me a happier person. I can’t get too excited to grab dinner with someone because they could cancel the last minute. I can’t call someone and expect them to always show up. I no longer get my hopes up about things that are out of my control.

In the end, you’re all you got. Create your own happiness. Be your own anchor.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Bittersweet Changes – Poetry

Happy Friday! Here is a poem I wrote that reflects my feelings around leaving the comfort of my family and friends behind. When we’re faced with big changes, overwhelming emotions stir up. But every fresh chapter holds the path to an invigorating, new, wonderful journey…

Bittersweet Changes

When I was little
I never quite planned
The puzzling path of life
Where in the world I stand

Never trembled with panic
When met with fear
My parents consoled me
Wiping off my tear

As I grow up and older
My emotions surge too
There are times I feel
Like I don’t know what to do

When I run into problems
I’m drowned in doubt
Like nothing will get better
As if there’s no way out

But as I leave my home
Looking up to the sky
I’m a bird set free
All ready to fly

With every ounce of courage
I step out the door
A world full of opportunities
I can’t wait to explore

When we’re faced with changes
Some are bittersweet
But when we learn to embrace
We shall grow gracefully

- SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Solo Trip to Turkey!

I visited Istanbul this weekend – an enchanting land of diversity, beauty, and a rich culture. Lucky for me, it is a welcoming city part of both Asia and Europe, offering some breathtaking views. In this post, I would love to share some pictures as well as my thoughts on venturing off alone!

While solo traveling, I learnt that we are strong enough to handle anything life throws our way. The biggest challenge for anyone entering a foreign world is the language barrier, so it was no surprise I struggled communicating with Turkish people when I wanted to buy something or get somewhere. However, an essential part of communication is in fact non verbal – the way our body and facial expressions work (how many of us here use emojis while texting? 🙋🏼‍♀️). So with a little help of Google Translate and some nods and amusing looks, I was actually able to get things done!

One of them involved taking a train to the ocean side, Eminönü

Discovering places alone also becomes a beautiful journey of self discovery. When I travel with my family, we all want to do different things (specially when it comes to food 🤦🏼‍♀️). When I travelled alone, however, I figured that I take great pleasure in trying new things and exploring local cultures. I loved starting my days off in Turkey with simit bread and some Turkish tea.

Cannot forget the Turkish Delight! 🍬

Lastly, solo travelling is magic to our well-being. Sometimes, there is nothing better than escaping our normal lives and friends for a bit. Getting lost in old town Balat, complete with colourful buildings and cute vintage cafés, I felt like no problem in life could ever get to me.

The (totally instagrammable) neighbourhood of Balat

Becoming “in charge” was a feeling so special and invigorating to me. Here are a couple more pictures to wrap this up…

Me reconsidering why I handed my phone to a stranger 📸
Taksim Mosque 🕌
Galata Tower

The best thing about solo travelling is that in a world of constant socialising and interacting, for once we get to find ourselves – and some journeys, like this one, can only be discovered alone!

– SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

Our Sense of Belonging

In social psychology, the need to belong is linked to being socially accepted. The need for love and belonging even lie at the center of the Maslow’s Hierarchy as part of social needs. This is why many psychologists today curiously study the concept of “groups”.

All of us enjoy being a part of something – a community of people who understand us, include us, and accept us. And it’s interesting because nearly all human activities like working, playing, and learning occur in groups.

I know whenever I was a new kid at school, I loved connecting with other new kids joining in that year. At my most recent high school, we formed a lovely group sharing that one thing in common. Being a new kid can be an isolating and lonely endeavour. “Am I the only one who feels this way?” Finding myself in the company of others wrestling through pools of similar questions I remember felt extremely relieving. Groups in this sense remind us that we aren’t alone.

The WordPress community also brings together people who express emotions, have stories to tell, or insights to share. I feel motivated when I know there are others who care about my progress as a writer. Every time I publish a post, it is generally a gratifying experience because of the comments and feedback I receive that help me improve. Networking within communities hence guides us towards achieving our goals, and the more we socialise and participate in activities with others, the more we gain confidence in our abilities.

Sometimes however, we naturally become a part of certain groups. For instance, in the larger world, socially constructed identities form – race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious groups, etc. In these cases, they can often form the basis of discrimination, comparisons, and conflicts with other groups. A group that an individual identifies with becomes an in-group, and everyone outside the in-group becomes the out-group. I watched the movie “Get Out” one day which reinforces the psychological struggles of a black man, Chris, as the white family of his girlfriend forms an in-group bias.

But let’s say a football team, a baking club, a work group, a yoga class. Which such groups have you joined by choice? And in what ways have you benefited from belonging to this certain social group? Let me know in the comments!

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

The Beauty of Trying New Things

As someone who loves to explore and travel, trying new things is something I’ve been encouraged to do. I often wondered: what do I know about life outside my immediate circle? It turned out: so very little…

When I was in Slovenia, my family and I stayed at a student hostel for a day since all city hotels were fully booked and it was only a matter of a day. We later learnt that despite the tiny space and shared bathrooms, it was a fun, cheap, and more sensible choice which in fact gave me a peek into what life will look like for me in a couple of weeks time at university. When we surround ourselves with the same people, ideas, routines, and conversations, we are unexposed. But by being open and adventurous, we come back with expanded perspectives.

The sleeping capsule in the hostel – how cute is this?

In Singapore, my sister, my mom and I struggled to find food we normally eat. As an island surrounded by water it is no wonder seafood is a big part of Singapore’s cuisine. My mom is a picky eater, but my sister and I are more open to trying different foods so we went to a (very!) local market and ate a whole chilly king crab. And Wowzers it was divine…

So, trying new things also helps us figure out our likes and dislikes.

Me trying a king crab 🦀

In Mumbai, my sister and I were stranded in the rain late at night after a good dinner of sushi and ramen. None of the Ubers were around our area, so we took an auto rickshaw by ourselves for the first time. The cool breeze on our faces and the extremely bumpy roads made the journey feel like a roller coaster. Sometimes, it’s good to try new things simply because it’s…fun!

India’s autos 🛺

Above all, I believe trying new things makes us interesting people. I know my travel experiences have left me with exciting stories to tell, and there is always a way to build conversations with people. Life is too short not to try something new. After all, better an Oops than a What if, right?

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️