The early part of my working life was a period of intense and accelerated learning. A period that was also at times bitter and sweet. The bitterness speaks to the experiences of prejudice bullying and exclusion. The sweet speaks to the experiences of achievements acknowledged, laughter, fun and friendships made - wonderful individuals who inspired me. I choose to focus on the latter.
A fun experience was attending the wedding of a colleague and a friend. She had shared many a story about her father. “Yetunde, you’re going to meet my dad,” she said. “I’ve told him a lot about you; I told him about how your laughter fills the whole room!” She’d told her father too – “you’re going to meet my friend, Yetunde. She’s Nigerian and she laughs a lot! “
During our time spent as colleagues my friend had shared many a story about her father – his eccentricities and quirkiness. Endearing stories. I was eager to meet him.
I was, however, unprepared for my encounter with him when this day eventually came. It was his daughter and my friend’s wedding. As I was finishing off a big and warm congratulatory hug with her, her father came bounding over – all 6ft plus of him. He had a big, wide smile; grinning from ear to ear; his hand extended out towards me for a shake.
“Hello Nintendo!! How the hell are you? How wonderful to meet you at last!” “Would you like a cocktail?” “Ah, Nintendo! What did you think of the wedding?” he continued. “So Nintendo! What do you do?” and each time, I responded under my breath… “MY – NAME – IS – NOT - NINTENDO!! “
I could take it no longer. I had to stop him before my friend collapsed or split her dress from all the laughter, tears running down her nicely made up face and before he dug himself too deep.
When he realised that he’d been addressing me firstly as a computer game maker – and secondly with a name that certainly wasn’t mine, his face became darker than a beetroot! I laughed. He laughed. That diffused the tension. I let it go. It was funny.
My life’s journey to date has been peppered with variations on this theme. I have received letters and emails with my name spelt in all types of ways – Utinde, Utende, Utundi, Yutunda and so on - everything, but Yetunde.
My point really is this. There will always be times when a genuine mistake is made or a simple oversight occurs. Indeed, I have made them too and continue to do so. These are never meant to offend or to hurt – they are just what they are: mistakes and oversights.
But there are times too, when a mistake or an oversight can be avoided. Only the person whose action it is will know which is genuine and which is not. What does matter is a genuine willingness to be aware of the message we may be sending unintentionally.
When we do not take care or take the time to learn and apply what we know about a person even in the smallest of details, what we really are communicating is that the person does not matter.
Our intentions can only really be judged by our behaviour and our actions and so we must ensure that our behaviour, motive and intentions are aligned. A little more consideration, a little more attention and a little more love - an unconditional acceptance of the other - will go a long way to demonstrating that we care.
When this unconditional acceptance and care is then taken a step further and translated into other areas of our lives at work and at home, we make it possible to create an environment in which those for whom we care the most about, including ourselves, can thrive.