Framing the picture right

Courtesy of Cyclone Michaung, I was irritated and also a bit scared. Should I refuse to go to Chennai? Was it safe to travel? Would I be able to get from the airport to the hotel? A bunch of such thoughts crowded my mind as I headed towards the Delhi airport to catch a flight to Chennai on the morning that the city was preparing for the Cyclone to hit.

I had a restless night, got up early, and got to the airport on time. “Your flight has been rescheduled to….” I got this message thrice as the morning inched slowly towards noon. I kept checking with the team at the other end on how things were looking. When I got a message from one of the people whom I was in touch with that said “My home is flooded, we are being evacuated, I cannot speak with you…” it became evident that Chennai was going underwater. At this point, I decided to pull the plug and asked for my luggage to be offloaded and for my ticket to be cancelled.

A wasted morning? Or a morning that brought with it many lessons and a new experience? How I chose to dance through this episode was in my head. Every story has many sides. My version. The others’ versions and the truth. All I have control over is my version. How I see it frames the narrative and then as I internalise it, the power to externalise it emerges.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? “I had a really bad day because of the cyclone in Chennai…” can become “I got to do something new after a really long time because of the cyclone….” I have never checked out of the departure terminal. I now know what the steps are to get off a flight that is scheduled to take off after having cleared security and reached the boarding gate. Not that I hope to put this knowledge to use again, but it struck me as I was meandering from one CRPF guard to the next, escorted by an airline representative that it truly has been a while since I had a novel experience.

This was an all-new experience for me. How long it takes to extricate oneself from the clutches of an airline and an airport is largely dependent on whether you have Check-in baggage or not. A fellow traveller who like me eventually decided to get out of going to Chennai on this particular day had only his laptop bag. He was able to exit in under 30 minutes. I, on the other hand, had to wait a full extra hour for my bag to be retrieved.

This adventure was also a good reminder for me to check in on friends and colleagues who live in Chennai, to see how they were doing. Something I may have missed completely if I had not tuned into what was happening in the city on that particular morning or the severity of the storm that was so disruptive to their lives.

“I get to…” Vs. “I have to…” How I frame my doing defines my being. “I get to…” puts me in the driver’s seat and gives me power and energy. “I have to…” takes away my freedom of choice, it diminishes me. The saying “a picture is worth a 1000 words” is true and I do agree with the power of the visual narrative. I think an often overlooked but very powerful way to add to the picture is to make sure it is framed right. The good news is with a little bit of self-awareness it’s possible to choose the frame. My ability to see the trip to Chennai as an adventure of discovery and not a misadventure that wasted a lot of time reframed the morning for me. I even managed to get my 10000 steps at the airport while I waited for the airline to retrieve my baggage from the bowels of the aircraft.

How is your day going today? Choose a nice frame and watch the kaleidoscope do its magic as a new picture emerges with each slight shift in perspective. The art and science of reputation management are rooted in this truth. There is no one correct version. Presenting the facts in the best possible light is often all it takes to shape a reputation. As long as it’s rooted in reality and not a distortion of the truth the picture that emerges will make a lasting impression (of the right kind). The smoke and mirrors game fools nobody in the long run. The honesty game on the other hand honestly works pretty well. It starts with being honest with myself and then radiates outwards. Find a frame that makes you look good and feel good.

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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