Once an old friend of mine bumped into me at a shopping mall who I was not in touch with for over a decade or so, ever since he got transferred out of Delhi. Having exchanged inquiries about each others’ well-being and whereabouts, it was time to share our contact numbers to keep in touch. He asked me my mobile number and instantly gave me a missed-call. As I proceeded to save his number, I realized that I had forgotten his name. It would be a big embarrassment to me if I had to ask his name, more so because he had remembered my name while I hadn’t. Just then an idea popped into my head and I casually asked, “Yaar how do you spell your name?” What an idea! I patted my back inwardly for the brilliant idea that dawned on me at the nick of the time and saved me from an embarrassing situation.
It goes to show that sometimes how you say is more important than what you say. In the instant case, I got the desired answer by putting up the question in a slightly different manner without having to feel embarrassed (now, one can well imagine the impression I would have given to my friend had I actually asked a direct question in the situation).
I remember one of my senior colleagues during my posting at the Headquarters of our organization in late 90’s. He was really, I would say, an ‘epitome of manners’ who was always available with the right words. One afternoon, while we were taking a stroll in the office complex during lunch break, one of our office boys passed by and greeted us. Answering the greeting, this senior colleague of mine asked him whether he needed to pay some loan amount back to the office boy. He shook his head smilingly and went past. Surprised, I asked why on earth would he be taking money on loan from this poor guy. He smiled and told me that actually this office boy had taken a small loan from him about a couple of months back and was yet to pay him back. Now, since it wouldn’t have looked nice had he asked for such a small amount back from this poor fellow, he used this idea of asking a ‘reverse question’ to probe whether the office boy remembered about the loan taken by him. I was all praise for this man for the brilliant idea he had for asking his money back (which however didn’t work in this particular instance the way it was expected and the money loaned out seemed to have gone forever). But, the story doesn’t end here. In fact, back home when I was sharing the incidence with my wife, it suddenly struck me that a few days back I was asked the same ‘reverse question’ by this senior colleague of mine. I instantly searched my entire memory but could not recall having taken any such loan from him or, may be, I too had forgotten much like that poor office guy of ours.