Familiarity breeds Contentment

Life is full of paradoxes. “Familiarity breeds contempt” and “Familiarity breeds Contentment” both hold true. Over the last few weeks, I have been reminded about both sides of the familiarity coin. The contempt creeps in unnoticed and the contentment was something I only realised I had found when I no longer had it. The absence of the familiar brought home the realisation that what I had was fantastic.

Our driver let’s call him James (who worked with us for over 20 years and had become part of the family) had a massive stroke earlier this year. While he is recuperating, I have found a new chauffeur, who is a really good driver and extremely smart. I am very grateful to have found someone reliable and roadworthy. And yet, nearly every day that goes by, I miss James.

“What do I miss?” I ask myself. The new chap is fantastic. There is nothing from a skill or a will point of view that is missing. In fact, in some departments, he is better and more proficient, for example, his ability to navigate technology, use Google Maps, and find solutions proactively. The only answer I come up with is I miss the familiarity of a relationship built over 20 years. The unspoken ease with which we could navigate the twists and turns of life together. The things I did not have to tell him but which he knew how to do. The shared experience becomes shared knowledge that makes things smooth and simple. “Take Cookie to the hospital…” Does not need an explanation about who Cookie is or which hospital to go to. Plus, Cookie does not bark her head off with James.

There are hundreds of such instances, where I realise how much a part of our lives James had become and how much that gave us a feeling of comfort, security, and trust. It was not just his skill of driving that served us, but his way of understanding, knowledge, and care. When I got into the car at the airport and James was at the wheel, I felt I was home. This is the feeling of contentment that familiarity breeds. Trust that I was safe and secure with his hands on the steering wheel.

I realised that this was true when it came to my work world as well. Last week I spent a day in a workshop with a client that I had worked with for over 15 years at different points of time. They had approached me on short notice to conduct the session, confident in the knowledge that my history and understanding of the brand and the company would allow me to deliver the workshop well. I was able to prepare for it in much less time than if it was a new client. The client had complete trust that I would deliver the results they wanted because I had done so repeatedly over the years. I did not have to negotiate on the fee or worry about getting access to information. For both of us, there was a feeling of trust and ease, the workshop went wonderfully and as I sat at the end of the day discussing learnings and sharing feedback, there was a glow of contentment. Mark Twain said “Familiarity is the antidote to fear” and in this case, I would tend to agree, I dared to take on this assignment given the incredibly short turnaround time, only because I knew the client well.

I am not sure when the same familiarity turns into contempt, which it often does. The feeling of being taken for granted. Of not being valued and seen. Of wanting something new and shining and unknown and exciting. I guess life needs both. The thrill of the unfamiliar that calls me, makes me push outside my comfort zone. The effortless flow and ease of the familiar enhance my efficiency and allow me to have space for creativity. Both the familiar and unfamiliar are woven together into all our lives. Familiarity can bind you and blind you at the same time. May we all find our familiar and appreciate it, when we have it.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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