It was July 2009. Our team was playing a higher seed in a knockout match in the Summer North American Bridge Championship the following day. “Dad, I’m feeling nervous about our game tomorrow – can you give me some words of wisdom?”, I asked my Dad, who was in my team. Have you noticed that we often ask questions where we have one or more expected responses in mind? I wanted to hear a pep talk such as:
“You’re extremely talented, play your best, and we have an excellent change of beating them” or
“Don’t worry. Once the game starts, and you get into your groove, the nervousness will go away”, or something similar. 

I was unprepared for the advice that I actually received from my Dad. “Respect people genuinely and wholeheartedly – in this case our opponents – this is the antidote for your nervousness.” What? How is respecting people going to help me in any way? He might have misunderstood my question. I repeated my question. No – my Dad had not misheard my question – He repeated the same answer. Now I was exasperated. I petulantly expressed my displeasure at this seemingly unrelated response.

Several years later, it dawned on me that my Dad’s response made sense. When I genuinely respect people – the happy hormones, endorphins and oxytocin get produced, which obviate any sense of nervousness. This needs to be practice over long periods of time till it becomes second nature. By contrast, feelings of disrespect produce the opposite effect, and don’t do me any favors in removing my nervousness.

The story had a happy ending – we ended up upsetting the higher seeded team by the narrow margin of 1 point. Just as Felix Felicis had taken Harry to Hagrid’s to get the memory, My Dad’s advice of respecting people was the equivalent of going to Hagrid’s – seemingly irrelevant, but it will eventually lead to the intended destination.

Image Credit: Artem Maltsev from Unsplash

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Prahalad Rajkumar

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