Saturday, August 28, 2010

Interpersonal conflict

Interpersonal conflict, a common problem to most of us, has played an imperative role in my life as I am grow up. Let me tell you guys a story that happened not long time ago. It took place in Rag I participated in this year.

*(What is Rag? Rag is one of the biggest projects in Kent Ridge Hall every year. A team of about 30 students will sacrifice their vacation (from May to early August) to build a float to appreciate donors who donate to the society via the Hall charity events. The amount donated could sometimes exceed 1 million in a year. One of the most interesting facts is we use recycled materials to clad the hand-made float. Rag is not an easy task. Everyone will understand it only when he or she experiences it as a member in the team. Please feel free to watch our performance at if you are interested.)

For confidential purpose, I will disguise a character's identity and name him as ‘XX’ in the story.

Rag is a labor-intensive job, a blue-collar work, a slummy life. However, it is where you will find your good friends. Having a close-knit friendship was the main reason I decided to join rag. However, sometimes you might not get what you expected. One of the engineers, called XX, regretted to join rag. He didn’t like to work for a long time and in the midnight. He didn’t like to be obedient to his leader and didn’t work seriously.

One out of millions of examples was skinning dance blocks*. There were two dance blocks to skin and I was partnered with XX for the task. So, each of us should skin one dance block. As an experienced engineer, I demonstrated to him how to do it at the beginning. However, he didn’t follow what I taught him. I thought he found a better way to skin it and so I didn’t bother him. After skinning my dance block, I looked at his product.  (#@*&#:;%*@#...) No word could describe how lousy his product was. I didn’t say any words though. Well, bad news came in the next morning. The technical officer and chief engineer were disappointed with me. On the other hand, assistant chief engineer asked me to re-skin his dance block. I hated redoing so much. However, I still spent another 3 hours on his dance block and smiled at him. To avoid any quarrels to happen, what I could do was just suppressing my anger.

My anger at him grew up again when XX slept while all other people were working. A female engineer complained that XX had slept for many times. 

Enough is enough. We had been implicitly telling XX that we need his hands to complete the float. How did he dare to read novel books while others were sweating on their work? However, I still had to smile whenever he talked to me. Yea, I have finally realized why our Mr. Blackstone always says that some people smile when they are angry.  In fact, teamwork and friendship are important in Rag. We could never afford any fights among the members, or else we would never complete the float. That is why we were encouraged to tolerate with him. ACE indeed told me that he ignored XX’s existence in Rag.

Haiz… Can you tell me how a person could be so self-centered?  To accommodate ourselves with the timing on Rag day, whereby we could stay conscious for 48 hours, and also to complete the gigantic float in time, we worked from 12am to 6am, 18 hours every day in the last 2 weeks before the Rag day. I believed that we could rest more if he worked hard and didn’t leave at 3am every day. He didn’t change even after our Rag Chairperson had advised him.

To ensure that the big project could be done in time, I didn’t lose my temper with him but showed him that the whole team was like a family so that he would repent his irresponsibility. I didn’t scold him but was reminding him to contribute to the ‘family’. This was the solution I adopted. However, it didn’t work. Hey guys, how would you have encouraged XX to be responsible for his work? :D

  * The dance block is an item we used in Rag dance. Its structure is made of timber and skinned with plywood. "Skinning" is a jargon term in Rag, which basically means making skin for a item with frame only. Generally, we use plywood, cardboard, newspapers, or wire-mesh as materials for skinning.

I am sorry for the incomplete description. :)


Friday, August 27, 2010

My name... interesting!

My name is Min Hau Ong / Ong Min Hau, either one. It was supposed to be ‘Hao’ indeed. Why did it become ‘Hau’? Well, it happened during the registration of my identity when I was born. My parents were illiterate. They couldn’t communicate with the officer in-charge and had no idea how to translate my name into Malay. So, my uncle gave them a hand. He isn’t a doctor, but his doctor’s handwriting could really write any prescription in any clinics. He wrote “Hao”, but the officer took it as ‘Hau’ in processing my birth cert. However, my parents didn’t realize but taught me to write ‘Hao’. Embarrassingly, I used it all the way until Primary 6 when my teacher announced it out in the class. I can never forget the laughter of this issue in the class. Consequently, I have to use the ‘u’ for the rest of my life. However, I think it has been a lucky name since then.

Most of you might have a pet name, don’t you? I do have one, called Black Cat. Hmm…it might sound strange to you guys. Let me explain to you in detail. When I was 13 to 15 years old, I used to play basketball every day. Usually, I played it in outdoor court, under the sun. Hence, you could imagine how dark the color my skin had become. On the other hand, if you pronounce my name at the fastest pace that you can do, you will find that you are actually pronouncing ‘miao… miao…’ This is how my pet name came from. I had stopped playing basketball for many years. While the pet name is leaving me, some of my close-knit friends still call me ‘miao miao’. Haha…

Well, when it comes to national service, all the new friends whom I got to know in my army dome called me ‘Ah Hao’. Frankly, I prefer my friends call me ‘Hao’ or ‘Hau’ rather than ‘Ah Hao’. This is because ‘Ah Hao’ is quite rude in some sense. Do you know why?
After two and a half months when I returned from the national service, there is nobody calling me ‘Ah Hao’ anymore. Great!

In December 2008, I ended my student life in Malaysia and came to Singapore. Initially, my brother-in-law intended to find a Christian name for me. Some of the names in his mind were Herbert, Albert and Howard. I was glad to have ‘Howard’. I endeavored to use it. However, I felt that I was losing myself and transforming into a new man with a new identity. Hmm… forget it, I better stick to my original name, I like my own name. :D

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why effective communication skills are important for me?

When I was at secondary -school age, I didn’t know how to express myself clearly in such a way that people would understand what I was thinking. Consequently, misunderstanding always existed between my family or friends and me. This caused a lot of troubles in my teenage life.

Among all misunderstandings in the past, there was one case that happened between my best friend and me when we were both 16 years old. He was handsome, intelligent, rich etc. However, he used to complain that his life was miserable. I was okay with his pessimistic attitude, but envying at his fortunate destiny. Everything was going well until one day when my teacher returned marked test scripts to students after the final exam. I received my test script before he did, which was about 55%. Being a hardworking student who had put in so much effort before exams, I felt sad but he praised me for the score (the average score was less than 50%). But later when he found that he attained 70%, he shouted “huh, only 70%?” I was upset and scolded him. He then tried to say something but I didn’t give him any seconds to explain his words. With a great anger suddenly sparking off from my long-term envy at him, I blamed him with all counter-arguments that my brain could produce. I didn’t talk with him for subsequent days until I found out that he, in the sense of making fun with me, intended to irritate me by teasing me. However, I overreacted. In short, I almost lost a friend due to the temper I couldn’t control.

The lesson above stimulates me to learn effective communication skills. The reason is simple, that is the skills could help me avoid communication breakdowns.