The Effects of Lockdown on Mental Health

For a large number of human beings who have grown up in societies where freedom has been taken for granted, lockdown with all its restrictions appears to have had a massive effect on mental health. I have read recently, as well as having heard reports on the radio, that many mental health professionals and organizations such as Lifeline, have been inundated with calls from people feeling so down that they are contemplating suicide.

How do we explain these feelings of desperation? People by nature need contact with others unless they have chosen a life of solitude, such as becoming a hermit monk. I don’t think that the percentage of people who have gone in that direction can be very high, to be honest. Being isolated from family members and close friends has been very tough on most people but especially on those who live alone. Different countries have treated lockdown in their own way and with their own level of trying to control the spread of the virus. However, where it has resulted in the banning of friends and family members being able to come to one’s home, this has proved to be a very hard pill to swallow and has caused many people to feel extremely isolated and depressed.

“There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery
the time when we were happy.” – Dante

Even if one has been able to carry on making a living whilst working from home, just having to think twice before going anywhere can, in itself, be a very distressing way of living. Is it really necessary to go outside one’s home? What is the risk of coming in contact with the virus? Are you in that age group which is seen as the vulnerable bracket or do you have an underlying health issue which could affect you very negatively, if you should you actually get Covid 19? Are you comfortable having to wear a cotton mask whilst you are outside the home? If you wear glasses, can you even see with the mask having the effect of steaming up your lenses? Oh boy, so much to take into consideration and you are more than likely happier to stay at home after all, and make do with the groceries you already have in your store cupboard or do the obvious and order on line.

Many elderly people living in retirement homes have been in total lockdown for months now in order to protect them and the rest of the residents from the possibility of being infected by visitors who may be carrying the virus. These individuals are not in total isolation as there are others living close by as well as nurses and caregivers in most cases. They would have been in a much more difficult situation if they had still been living in their previous homes, very often after having lost their partner.

Much has been said recently about the effect this lockdown, and the fear of the virus, is having on children and young adults. Although children are believed to be fairly resilient and able to bounce back in many situations, this Covid 19 pandemic is completely alien to us all. No-one has so far devised a fool-proof method of teaching them new coping strategies. Only time will tell just how severely this lockdown, with all its restrictions, has affected the mental health of many young people all over the world. One can only hope that it won’t be too long before we can all relax a little and start to put our rather fractured lives back together again, even though we are warned that a “normal” way of life will, in fact, be a “new normal”.

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In the meantime, whilst we are playing the wait and see game, children are slowly returning, or have already returned, to the classroom. Having to have their temperature taken each morning before going into the school building, wearing a mask all day long, and being sanitized at the school door, are all practices which have to be followed. Some parents have reported having to cope with children returning from school complaining of headaches and being extremely tired. This could be as a result of the new regulations in place forcing them to breathe behind a cotton mask whilst trying to concentrate on the work being presented to them by the teacher. It is critical for parents and teachers to take cognisance of these side effects which appear to be the result of going back to school.

Having been home schooled for so long, it stands to reason that it will take some time before students, especially the younger ones, adjust once again to being away from the comfort and relative safety of their home environment. The school year had hardly begun in the southern hemisphere when Covid 19 reared its very ugly head. Little people had just become happy to say goodbye to their parents in the mornings and the crying and clinging had stopped. Now, there is a big chance that this will start all over again as the smaller ones face going back to pre-schools and nursery schools.

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The excitement of seeing friends again and interacting with other children is obviously a big factor when it comes to going back to school. Online lessons, with the advantage of Zoom, is a good substitute but nothing can compare with the fun that often comes from interacting with one’s peer group. This mixing with their own age group is particularly important for teenagers, who often feel that only their friends understand them. Months of keeping friendships going via social media and mobile phone calls does not have the same meaning as actually seeing and interacting with one another.

Teenagers have been affected badly by the lockdown and isolation and they have always been a very vulnerable group where suicide is concerned. Without school classes as well as sporting activities it stands to reason that many young people would have experienced feelings of anger and frustration Those looking towards writing their final exams at the end of the year must have become very anxious, especially if it was impossible for them to study on line. Others may have suddenly had to give up the intense physical training they were doing regularly in their various sports. With so much having been halted in one foul swoop, it is no wonder that the result is often depression and a severe feeling of loss.

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Many parents too must have thought the end of the world had come when, having to work from home, surrounded by young children needing care and on-line lessons, they are totally exhausted every single day. Realising just how demanding trying to teach children can be has definitely raised the respect level given to the teaching profession. However, the feelings experienced by parents of not doing everything as well as they should, may also have caused much anxiety and despondency as this is not a normal situation, by any manner of means.

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One wonders whether the effects of this pandemic will be long lasting or will we all forget just how stressful life in 2020 has been. So far, we have actually lost a huge portion of the year which has included Easter, Mothers’ Day and soon, Fathers’ Day and one hopes that by the time Christmas arrives, things will be looking a little brighter. It seems that it is only countries like New Zealand and Australia who have been affected very little by Covid 19, whilst the rest of us are soldiering on and hoping for brighter days ahead. Well, hope doesn’t cost anything, but if you are suffering from severe depression then hope can be a pipe dream.

My wish at this time is that all those people who are at the end of their tether reach out to the organizations who are available when life seems worthless and that they find a listener who has empathy and the ability to assist them and prevent a disaster. After all, tomorrow is another day, and sometimes there really is light at the end of a very dark tunnel – as long as hope survives.

“I am so angry with myself because I cannot do what
I should like to do, and at such a moment one feels as if one
were lying bound hand and foot at the bottom
of a deep
dark well, utterly helpless.” – Vincent Van Gogh 

Coronavirus – A Game Changer? 

Every dog has his day….well maybe that is what this new Coronavirus is all about. After all, it apparently has been passed on to humans from animals, but probably not dogs. However, the way that the world has handled the annihilation of so many animal species through human greed and ignorance has probably resulted in this being the price we are all going to pay as we face the stress and anguish of a virus which may have the potential to reduce the earth’s human population if it goes totally out of control. Who knows if it isn’t going to be a case of we, the clever, educated, know-it-all homo sapiens becoming a rare commodity one day and animals having the last laugh!

Picture if you can the following scenario: Mummy Rhino takes baby Rhino out for the day and they happen to come to a fenced area with a sign on the front reading “only 100 of this rare species, known as the human race, are to be found worldwide”. Baby looks at the creature in the enclosure and, sounding puzzled, asks Mummy, “what is that animal?” Mummy replies, “My boy, that creature is the reason that our little family is so small and that you only have a couple of cousins.  Those cruel individuals used to kill us so that our beautiful horns could be sold to some unintelligent yellow people across the sea. They were so stupid that they believed that our horns had amazing, almost magical health benefits. It was all a lot of unintelligent garbage, but it meant that we Rhinos were hunted and butchered, often leaving little babies without their mums.”

“So, what happened to those cruel creatures, Mummy?” “Well, they all started to get sick, coughing and sneezing, and then gradually dying, one after the other. That one in the cage is one of the few we still have here in Africa, and I don’t feel at all sorry that his species is now endangered, with only about 100 left in the entire world. Have a look at his face and you can see that he is very unhappy to be caged up and have animals staring at him every day, but he is having to suffer for the cruelty and greed of his ancestors and now knows how we felt when those of us who were not hunted, were often caged and gawked at in zoos around the world”.

“Let’s go Mummy, I don’t like this place and that strange person makes me feel very sad thinking about all our poor family members who must have been killed by people like him.”

Update and Comments: 16 May 2020

The end of the world as we know it?

It is getting more and more difficult to stay positive here in South Africa during the lockdown and being isolated from family and friends. Unlike in other parts of the world, it seems to be more about turning the country into a police state than protecting the vulnerable. There are just way too many ridiculous rules being made with no explanation given as to the reasoning behind them. There is also an unacceptable level of violence being committed by those whose job it should be to protect the public. How are we meant to maintain sound mental health when we are bombarded constantly with distressing statistics and reports of violent behaviour.

Hundreds of South African schools have been vandalised, and in many cases set on fire, during the past few weeks of lockdown, and this is a country desperately in need of education. There is absolutely zero control over crime, and this has been the situation for years now. Currently many things have gone completely crazy, as the emphasis is on checking for illegal cigarettes and contraband alcohol, due to the ban of the sale of these products during lockdown. This kind of draconian control has no intelligent reasoning behind it. No-one had the common sense to consider that there should have been 24-hour armed surveillance at all schools whilst they were unoccupied. Instead, they became an easy target with laboratory equipment, computers, in fact anything the thieving swines could get their hands on was stolen.

The control is over the middle-income (not going to be middle-income for much longer) group as the poor do not heed such things as social distancing as it is not part of their culture. They are the ones who are suffering from food shortages due to so many employers being unable to continue with their businesses and being unable to pay their staff. Some will receive a smaller amount than their usual income from unemployment pay-outs, but this is likely to take quite a while to be implemented and people need to survive in the here and now. The government are proving to be totally inept when it comes to preventing hunger among millions of poverty-stricken individuals.

It has been so easy to convince the masses, mainly uneducated and usually totally illiterate, to always vote for the ANC, as for many they honestly think that Nelson Mandela has something to do with the party today. How very wrong can they be?

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Direct Sales – Chapter 8

Believing in your product as well as believing in yourself

The manner in which you handle the products that you wish to sell to your customers is very important, especially when you are actually demonstrating their usage. In this day and age where money is often in short supply and items are expensive, it is critical to show people that they are paying for quality items. This also relates to the way in which you package each individual order. I mentioned this in an earlier chapter, but cannot emphasise enough just how important this part of the business is. Imagine spending several hundred bucks of hard earned cash on some exciting new products and then, when they are delivered to you, it is very apparent that they were roughly shoved into a plastic bag and just tied at the top with a knot. In the case of cosmetics, this kind of handling could result in broken lids and spilt contents. Care and consideration are the operative words at every turn if you wish to be seen as a reputable sales representative.

So, you really do believe in the products you sell, and you have many satisfied customers to attest to their vast benefits. However, do you believe in yourself? If you have a difficult time where interaction with others is concerned, then it’s a good idea to make a list of all your good points and feed yourself positive reinforcement by reading and re-reading each one of the qualities you have listed. You might feel that you are a good listener, or have a great sense of humour, or have a passion for young children or animals. Every one of these is a very positive trait and something which makes you, and you alone, unique. We all have days when we doubt our capabilities but once you start making money through direct selling, you will be amazed at just how much more confident you feel about yourself.

It is a sad fact of life that many human beings take great delight in offering sympathy when those around them are having a tough time. They may wallow in hearing about your struggles when you first start your new endeavour.  It makes these people feel superior in many cases and doesn’t do much for your upliftment. What you really need is to be motivated to dust yourself off, ands to get out there and do something which makes you feel positive once again. To be told by others that they know how you feel (which is usually a lot of garbage) when you are struggling with  actually trying to get your sales going, or even having to cope with a difficult customer, isn’t going to solve anything. These so-called well- meaning individuals need to be avoided at all costs when you are going through a bit of a rough patch. Far better to read a motivational book of one kind or another or watch a movie which makes you laugh a lot or better still, go for a jog or a nice brisk walk! A nice glass of wine is often just what is needed when all else fails!

“If you have a voice within you say “you cannot paint”, then by
all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
– Vincent van Gogh

Something else to avoid in order to feel confident and in control, is not to compare yourself and your sales with anyone else. This is not always easy when you attend sales meetings and recognition is given to those top achievers. Try to use times like this as a motivating factor which allows you to aim higher, knowing that if others are capable of doing so well in the business, then there is no reason  why you can’t do the same. It isn’t a case of comparison, it’s simply understanding that everyone has a different home life and for some, sales and making mega bucks is what makes the world go round. You may have a demanding family, and your selling business has to slot in with the needs of a spouse and children, and possibly even members of your extended family as well.

The best advice I was ever given was to only compare yourself with yourself. In other words, by keeping records of your previous months’ sales figures you, and only you, can decide to better those figures if you so wish. Your company will always be dangling that proverbial carrot in front of you and once they see your capabilities, that carrot becomes bigger and bigger! However, your success is in your own hands and it is up to you to either take up a sales challenge or just to ignore it and work at a pace which fits in with your personal life. The best part about working for yourself (and direct selling is working for yourself) is that, as your circumstances change over time, you can decide to spend more time and effort in increasing your business. You may even wish to become a sales leader and have a team of representatives in your group whom you train and motivate, and ultimately enjoy the benefits of their sales as well as your own.  Being involved in direct selling is an exciting world to be part of and you will probably be encouraged to attend training seminars over the years. The more you achieve and the more you receive recognition for your hard work and good results, the more you will find that believing in yourself, as well as the products which you promote, becomes second nature and your confidence will know no bounds.

I sincerely hope that the information which is contained in these chapters assists you in having a happy and productive time during your direct selling career. Good Luck!

“With realisation of one’s own potential and self-confidence
in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”
– Dalai Lama

Update and Comments: 18 April 2020 – Lockdown!

Lockdown

I heard the best ever reaction to our lockdown, from my 6 year old grandson. When he was told by his mother that our president had extended the period for our isolation, he apparently was absolutely thrilled, “Oh, great! I love lockdown. I wish we could always have lockdown!” The reason for this euphoria is all due to his parents devoting hours and hours (whilst they still have had to try to work from home) finding exciting and unusual ways to entertain two boys of 6 (going on 7) and 2 (going on 3)years of age.

I imagine that when this is all over, and we are able to return to some semblance of normality, the parents of these two children will breathe a united sigh of relief as they will probably be far less exhausted being back in their respective work environments than they are in their own homes right now. Everything from finger painting, building Lego, making a fort using their bunk beds as well as outdoor furniture, having an indoor obstacle course created for them, bouncing as a family on the trampoline, chasing around the garden, making muffins ….the list goes on and on. They are very lucky to be living in a home where there are parents who are able to give them this kind of attention and also where the fear of having no food to eat is not part of the equation.

At the other end of the continuum are the millions of poor families who suffer so badly whenever anything unexpected takes place. Whether this is bad weather, illness, a collapse in the economy resulting in job losses or, as is the current situation, a previously unknown epidemic, they are the ones who need to be remembered and helped wherever possible. Unfortunately, where a country has an almost collapsed economy the plight of millions of people becomes a bigger problem than the epidemic itself.  It is, however, heartening to hear of the extremely generous donations being made by people such as Nicky and Oppenheimer – R1 billion; Mary Oppenheimer and daughters  – R1 billion;  the Rupert family and Remgro Ltd. – R1 billion; the Motsepe family and associated businesses – R1 billion, as well as R1.5 billion donated by Naspers, part of which will go towards the Solidarity Response Fund established by the government to help limit the lockdown’s impact on the economy and those who are living in poverty.

As is so often the case, there are normal individuals who have put their hands in their pockets to give whatever they are able to afford, as well as giving time to assist where they can, for example sewing masks for local hospitals.   Radio stations have come on board together with big companies in trying to help those suffering the most but only time will tell just how bad the outbreak is going to be and how quickly all the informal workers as well as the self-employed can start working once again and avoid an even greater disaster than the pandemic itself.

The whole world is reeling from the shock of this epidemic and all we can do is to try to remain positive and to keep in touch with others who may be in isolation and alone. A phone call to say that you are thinking about them may make a big difference in their lives at this challenging time, just knowing that someone cares.

Wash your hands, sanitize, wear that mask if you go out, and more than that let’s all try to enjoy the day we have today and hope that tomorrow is here for us all and finds us well and still sane!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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The New Royals

The New Royals – or just stupidity?

When you read the word Prince or Princess, what normally pops into your mind? More than likely it is crowns, castles, palaces, and most of all a way of life foreign to the majority of us. Over the years there appears to have been an emergence of a pandemic affecting a large percentage of parents and their offspring which is going to have a longer lasting effect than the Corana Virus (Covid-19), in my possibly slightly jaded opinion, and that is this new bunch of royals in the making.

No, I am not referring to children who are being born into royalty. This is a case of crazy behaviour amongst so-called educated humans whereby they fawn over their children and refer to them as “my little princess” or “my prince”. I have even seen invitations to baby showers where the sex of the unborn baby has already been revealed and the invitation reads “Princess baby shower”. It just doesn’t bode well for the future when, even before it is born, a child is elevated to the level of royalty.

Over the years I have been into many homes where there are signs on bedroom doors announcing the fact that a little princess or prince inhabits the room. In one case recently, the father of one of these so-called princesses said that his 4 year old daughter is totally out of control being very cheeky and refusing to listen to her parents at all. What is wrong with the world when a father sounds as though he is actually intimidated by his own child? Letting the little cherub believe that she is a princess is hardly the way to instil socially acceptable good behaviour and manners, not to mention respect.

Many years ago, I recall reading an article where the author made the observation that we should treat our children as if they are on loan to us. It was something of a wake-up call as she, the writer, made the point that none of us know for how long we will have our children. The message was to enjoy them, teach them well, but to always be aware of the fact that they are on loan to us from a higher power (will not get into religious discussions on my blog, so the interpretation of this statement lends itself open to personal beliefs). At no time was there any mention made of having to treat these children as demi-gods, or princesses and little princes. The message was to value the time that you have with your children and to do the very best that you can to have meaningful relationships with them and to try to teach them well. I found this a very profound statement.

On the subject of the word “princess”, there is a worldwide situation whereby many women are still striving to be taken seriously, especially in the business arena. Salaries are often much lower for a woman doing the exact same work as her male counterpart and is something which is an ongoing bone of contention. If one considers this scenario, and the fact that it may take many more years before the situation is sorted out for a lot of women, then what on earth is the point of treating your daughter as a little princess? If you want her to be able to handle life in the fast lane as a successful businesswoman, doctor, lawyer, teacher etcetera, then you are doing her a grave disservice by doting on her and pandering to her every whim.

Another point which I would like to make is the issue of the millions of women worldwide who still have an ongoing struggle to be given basic human rights. In some countries, and due to archaic laws, education has been limited to the males of the species whilst women are still treated as second class citizens and have to obey their fathers and later their husbands, and sometimes even their brothers, whilst living within the boundaries of a patriarchal society . In some cases, these women are actual genuine princesses within their own community, but they are controlled by the males and often have virtually no say in the running of their own lives. Given a choice they might well prefer not to have the title of “princess” in exchange for the freedom of life in a western society.

Think about the fact that by treating your little darlings with kid gloves and spoiling them with everything their heart desires, you may be elevating them to think that they are better than their playmates. Behaviour is taught, be it good or bad, and children come into this world as a blank slate upon which the caregiver (parent in most cases)  has the power to write the script.  One should take cognisance of everything which subsequently becomes written on that slate, and having some humility as well as confidence and caring for others should be way up there at the top of the slate! Once again, I am going to leave you, my valued reader, with the thought that we are responsible for the next generation – of princes and princesses? One can but hope that this is merely a ridiculous passing phase, which may have been fuelled to a large extent by Disney as well as all those toy shops displaying an abundance of “over the top” prince and princess outfits, designed specifically for all the mini pseudo royals in the making.

“In fairy tales, the princesses kiss the frogs and the frogs
become princes. In real life, the princesses kiss
the princes and the princes turn into frogs.”
– Paulo Cuelho

Psychopathy

There seems to be a great deal of information quite readily available these days regarding the rather disturbing incidence of psychopathy. I watched a documentary recently which involved a young boy of around 4 years old who has already shown frightening behavioural patterns which would seem to indicate that he is possibly a young psychopath in the making. His mother, when interviewed, said that he had already killed a kitten by microwaving the poor creature, and was constantly harming other defenceless creatures and showing no remorse whatsoever. It must be extremely unpleasant to witness this kind of behaviour in such a young person, but what is one supposed to do?

The answer is quite clearly that the parents need to get professional help as soon as such disturbing tendencies are noticed. Depending upon one’s financial circumstances, as well as the country in which one resides, this may be easier said than done.

Years ago, if a child committed any kind of act which was deemed to be anti-social or plain cruel, the parents would have most likely taken a belt to their backside and punished them with taking away any privileges. However, what we don’t know, is just what effect such punishment ultimately had on the child and if possibly it exacerbated the occurrence of the disturbing behaviour. If we take a person such as the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer it would seem that he appeared to be a normal, happy boy during his early childhood. He had surgery for a hernia and, according to his mother, his personality began to change thereafter with him becoming withdrawn and morose. However, there was also the added stress of a baby brother being born, and then his parents divorcing. So, is it possible that the surgery itself may have, through the anaesthetic having been administered, paved the way for his becoming a psychopath? Interesting thought, but has it ever been the subject of research, one wonders.

In many documented cases where a mass murderer has been arrested, tried and found guilty, there often seems to be a common thread running through the personalities of many of them. This commonality appears to indicate an innate desire to harm, torture and destroy, with a total lack of empathy, and no feelings of remorse for their actions, from a very young age.

Although psychopathy and sociopathy are both classified as mental disorders, and are both antisocial behaviours, there are differences. Psychopaths are believed to be born and their condition is theorised to be due to the underdevelopment of the area of the brain which is responsible for impulse control. Sociopaths, on the other hand may develop these behaviour patterns through physical or emotional abuse in childhood. What is concerning is the estimated percentage of people whom we are likely to come in contact with, who are possibly psychopaths. They may be in our work environment, or at social gatherings and yet we possibly view them just as unfeeling individuals or plain antisocial in their behaviour and we may tend to avoid them as much as possible. Many psychopaths will never end up in jails or psychiatric institutions, but they may still be capable of wreaking havoc on those with whom they come in close contact, such as family members.

I remember as a child picnicking on a beach one Sunday morning with my parents, and next to us was a boy of about 7 years old who was with his grandmother. He appeared to be very intense and somewhat morose and he seemed to be completely engrossed in building little humps of sand with his spade. When my father asked him what he was making, he replied in a very creepy voice  (rather unnerving in  such a young child), “I’m building a graveyard!”. His tone gave us the shivers and one has to wonder just how he turned out when he grew up. Another Jeffrey Dahmer perhaps? Or maybe another Stephen King? Who knows, but gives one something to ponder.

“People who do hideous things, do not look like people
who do hideous things.
There is no face of evil.”
– Martha Stout (American Psychologist)

Racism

Racism

The attitude one shows when dealing with another person should never be based upon the colour of their skin, or the fact that they belong to another cultural group different to one’s own.  It should be about having respect for yourself and, in turn, respecting the other person, regardless of colour or creed. Anyone who is so full of hatred towards those who are different in any way to themselves and who are prepared to call another person a disgustingly insulting name could possibly be viewed as having some kind of a major personality problem. It doesn’t take much intelligence to realise that, when one insults or humiliates another, it produces very negative feelings not only for the targeted individual, but for the perpetrator as well.

The giving of positive feedback, or the praising of another person is actually of benefit to the one who has done the praising (albeit genuine and not a case of brown-nosing, or being patronising!)  It is the same as giving an unexpected gift to another person – who is it who really benefits from the action of giving? In many cases it is the giver, due to the unexpected and delighted response of the recipient!

Children are not born with preconceived ideas about anything, including the colour of a person’s skin. That is why, when they go to multi-cultural nursery schools and their parents ask them if there are Black, Asian or Mixed-race children in their class, the child often has no idea of what to answer. They themselves are not aware of the colour of their own skin.  They will often say that they have peach coloured skins and their friends have beige skin – if they are pushed to give an answer!

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Every now and again racism raises its ugly head worldwide, however, it is practically a pandemic in South Africa. This situation is obviously a smoke screen fanned by political parties to disguise the real issues which need to be addressed. These include unqualified, inept as well as corrupt government ministers and employees in various government run departments throughout the country, poverty, unemployment, ongoing corruption, a failing educational system, a totally inadequate government health service, an almost non-existent power utility as well as crime, horrendous numbers of road deaths due to the many unlicensed drivers, illegal immigrants – the list goes on and on, ad infinitum! Where politicians and the ruling party in general realise that they are failing in their duties, it is a way of trying to avoid any responsibility when they constantly relive the past and try to blame minority groups for all the country’s woes.

There will always be unpleasant people in the world, and it is almost impossible to avoid coming in contact with some of them. So, the fact that a person of another colour scowls and acts rudely might be part of their general make-up. We should perhaps look at the times when people of our own cultural group are rude to us and realise that we couldn’t label such behaviour as racism! We need to try to stop using the word “racism”, and face the fact that people by nature gravitate to spending time with others with similar backgrounds or points of view, or even those who speak the same language. Whether these groups of people happen to have the same colour of skin doesn’t mean that they are deliberately alienating other racial groups.

We should take a step backwards and observe small children in a playground setting who, as mentioned previously, give no thought to the colour of the skin of their playmates. They seem to gravitate to other children for various reasons, and it definitely is not due to their racial group. It could be that they feel comfortable around another child, because they enjoy playing with the same toys, have similar temperaments and do not feel threatened.

Perhaps we should follow the lead of our children and forget about colour and creed and enjoy interactions with other people based on commonalities such as interests and belief systems and finding the other person attractive in one way or another. Such attraction can be anything from admiring something they are wearing, their hairstyle, the friendliness of their smile, the tone of their voice or their body language, with no thought as to whether or not they have the same skin colour as we do. Much good could come of it and South Africans need to make a concerted effort to truly become that rainbow nation envisaged by the late, Nelson Mandela. However, it is a sad fact that the correct behaviour and attitudes in any kind of business or establishment come from the top downwards. This is a serious problem in this country right now due to the many uneducated, ignorant and often arrogant politicians supposedly leading the country who, by making unintelligent comments, are constantly setting unsavoury and totally unacceptable examples when it comes to cross cultural interactions.

One can only hope that all South Africans will eventually have a much less divided country once the current bunch of politicians become history and things change for the better. The country’s citizens can but try to stay positive despite all the negativity with which they are bombarded, via the media, on a day to day basis.

“If tolerance, respect and equity permeate family life, they will
translate into values that shape societies, nations and the
world.” – Kofi Annan

Update and Comments: 3 February 2020

Never Just Another Day !

Every day is a clean slate in many ways, and you just never know what you are likely to experience. Sometimes you tend to feel battered and bruised, especially when you are let down by friends and family who somehow just don’t do what you would have expected them to do. The only way to cope with these disappointments is to always try to remember that, no matter how much we think we know another person, everyone has their own unique agenda, and way of going about life.  It is somewhat egocentric to think that somebody else is actually capable of even knowing how you feel and what you expect from them. The upside is that life is rarely dull and boring when you are in contact with other members of the human race. That having been said, even one’s four- legged family members are often a complete enigma and can be full of surprises – not always what you would have anticipated or even considered when they came into your life.  That is another story entirely.

If you are, like me, a person who has always been labelled as talkative (at least one junior school report stated, “Judith would do better to listen more, and talk less!”) then it can really be a big advantage once you leave the restrictive school environment. When it comes to getting to know other people then it really is far easier if one tends to be more of an extrovert than an introvert. The years should have taught us to use our ears twice as much as our mouths, and then the interaction with new acquaintances is likely to yield some amazing facts. Nothing is more rewarding than finding that you connect really comfortably with someone you just happened to meet along life’s way, purely by starting a conversation.

There is always likely to be something which any two people have in common, be it age, culture, career, one’s children, pets or even just being in the same place at the same time. So often you stand in a queue waiting to be served and the person in front of you may seem quite unfriendly, judging by their demeanour. However, just a word about the weather or a comment regarding the products you have purchased, may result in a total change of mood and you find you have a very pleasant interaction until it is your turn to be served. Poking fun at yourself is also an ice breaker and it is good if we are able to take ourselves less seriously than we may have done when we were younger.

The reason for this piece of writing is due to my having had a really great experience last week. Walking through a local shopping centre, I happened to find myself passing a woman who was working on her laptop whilst having a cup of coffee. I couldn’t resist just making a comment regarding never being able to get away from one’s work. She responded immediately and it was very refreshing to discover that we had quite a similar outlook on life despite a difference in age as well as culture.  When I left I just felt that I needed to give her my business card, purely so she would have my mobile number as well as my e-mail address. A few days later I was absolutely thrilled to receive a short message from her saying how much she had enjoyed our conversation. I will definitely be keeping in touch with her as, seeing what it is that she does for a living, opens up many areas of common interest which would make for great future conversations.

So, my words of wisdom, for what they are worth, are that the best way to handle each day with all its potential challenges and stresses is to go out there and face the world and expect the unexpected! With a bit of luck, whatever the day may bring, as long as you have the right state of mind, you will experience more positives than negatives which should leave you feeling satisfied when evening comes and you finally drift off into the Land of Nod.

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect
– Oscar Wilde

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Direct Sales – Chapter 7

Giving Quality Service

One of the first things that needs to be borne in mind as you enter the exciting world of direct selling, is that most of us have become used to receiving poor service far too often. If your aim is to strive to always give your customers the best possible service, then you will gain their trust and loyalty. It takes just as much time to do things properly as it does to be slapdash in your approach to anything you may be undertaking. Therefore, regardless of how small or large a customer’s order is, treat each one with the respect and gratitude which they deserve. Even a small order should be packaged with as much care as your biggest order of the month. To use a piece of curled ribbon to close the package and then to add a small handwritten thank you tag adds a very professional, personal touch.

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If possible, find out whether or not the customer is able to purchase the product which they wish to order this month, at a reduced price next month. By doing some homework (often by asking your area manager) you are sometimes able to tell your customer that, if they wait until the start of the next promotion then they stand to save a fair amount on their purchase. If you ignore this, and just happily place orders which you know may be reduced in the following month, your customer is going to feel cheated when they realise that they have paid more than they needed to had they waited a few weeks. Obviously, this doesn’t always work out to their benefit if they need the product in a hurry. However, they will probably appreciate the fact that you bothered to try to help them save some money.

Another tip is to keep a record of the kind of products which each regular customer seems to be interested in buying. Then, if you see a good deal coming up which includes these products, call them and inform them that they will soon be able to buy items in that range which may be of use to them. Once again, a small thing to do, but it can certainly gain you those much needed brownie points which put you ahead of many of your competitors out there in the sales world. There are always going to be many other people selling the same products as you, but by being one step ahead when it comes to service, this will pay dividends in the long run.

When a mistake is made on an order (and it can happen easily when you are tired, and keying in your product codes at night) then you have to do your level best to rectify the error without inconveniencing your customer. This often can be done with the assistance of your area manager if he/she is giving you the support which you need in this business. Sometimes the customer never even realises that you have made a mistake provided you correct the error as timeously as you are able. Should the worst case scenario be that the product which you mis-ordered or omitted is no longer available, then you need to placate the customer as best you can. Sometimes a small gift in apology may be enough as most people are relatively tolerant where genuine mistakes are concerned, especially if one is honest about the situation.

When someone asks you about a product which no longer seems to appear in the current catalogue, then do your best to find out for them whether it is off range, coming back soon, or totally discontinued. Then you may be able to offer them a suitable replacement item at a similar price. Once again, you are showing that you care about their needs and concerns and, by getting back to them speedily, you will be held in high regard as far as customer service is concerned.  Never be slow at getting information back to your customers, as it takes very little time to pick up your phone and explain to them what you have found out.

“I never dreamed about success – I worked for it.
– Estee Lauder

Most importantly, and I am sure that I have mentioned this in a previous chapter, always do what you promise to do. If you tell a customer that you will deliver her order on a certain day at a specific time, then make sure that you fulfil your promise. If you are running late, then make sure that you inform the customer so that they are not hanging around waiting for you and getting agitated by the delay. Everyone’s time is valuable, and you need to bear this in mind at all times. When you phone someone, it is courteous to ask them whether or not this is a convenient time to talk to them before you start trying to engage in conversation. If you are unable to speak to them on the phone, then an sms or WhatsApp  message or voice note can be used as an acceptable substitute on certain occasions. Bear in mind though that nothing is better than actually speaking to another person rather than relying on the sending of messages. Too often it happens that the meaning of a message is misconstrued due to the lack of tone. Something might appear to be rude or abrasive when it is only read, whereas when one speaks there is feeling in the words being used.

When you treat your customers well they will tend to have a good feeling towards spending their hard earned cash when buying your products. We have all had experiences with bad salespeople when we have been forced out of necessity to purchase something from them and then feel cheated by the way in which we have been treated by them. The more money that we paid makes the experience the more sickening. What a difference it makes when the salesperson goes one step further than necessary just to make the entire interaction a “wow” one! This tends to be far too rare in this day and age, but you can re-invent the wheel and show your customers just what good service is all about.

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One final point and that is to try to put yourself in the shoes of your customer, so to speak, and to imagine how you would like to be treated, and what would make you, as a customer, become loyal to this particular salesperson. Loyalty is as rare a commodity as good service these days, so it is no mean feat to gain customers who are unlikely to start buying your range of products from another sales agent. With a little bit of caring and doing the job as best you can, there is no reason for you not being respected for what you are doing out there in the world of direct selling.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act,
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