Conversations with People #3

It was one fine evening when I decided to go back home a bit earlier than usual from collecting data for my research in one kampung in Bandung. My sister texted me to join her and my two aunties who came to town earlier in the morning. We met at the newly relocated Kopi Armor, still around the corner though no longer in THR Juanda. This new place was more spacious, yet I prefer the old one with its more intimate and homey feel. By the time I arrived, my seven-year-old nephew was there, standing in front of the cashier. When I snuck behind him and put my hands on his eyes, he noticeably shrugged means that he was surprised. Then a few seconds later I took my hands off his face and he smiled, knowing that it was me. I ordered Cold Drip Coffee, one of the coffee shop's signature, while my nephew ordered ice chocolate as always. Afterwards, he led me to where my sister and aunties were sitting. They were sitting on a wooden bench under the shade of trees, clearly in the middle of a conversation, when they saw me and stood up in excitement. We hugged, and although I am not that close with them, it still feels good to see them, especially my other aunt who I rarely meet since she lives in the USA. They then continued their conversation while I was trying to catch up.

"We have been talking about starting a social enterprise, Zu... I already told your sister that there are so many opportunities for developing this kind of venture in Indonesia, and I am very willing to help her with her plans if she has any", said one of my aunts"It doesn't have to be big from the beginning. Indeed, you can start the project from small things... For example, there are still plenty of people living in remote areas who do not use any sandals or shoes. So we can help distribute footwear for them", she continued while I was still trying to catch up with the whole point of the conversation.

Then I saw my sister smile, as if she wanted to add to what my aunt told us. 

"Actually I have read somewhere that some of these people are barefoot out of their own volition, in that they believe that our feet are meant to be bare because the earth is good for our health and help us feel more connected with nature. They don't wear shoes or sandals because they can't afford them, but because they believe it is not necessary"

All of us just stared at each other and couldn't help laughing. 

"We, people, just tend to be like that, huh? Always thinking about other person the way we think about ourselves. We barely ever put ourselves in their shoes. What is even worse is that sometimes we do a particular thing in order to help them but ended up not helping at all because it doesn't fit their needs", my other aunt stated something which had actually been on my mind as I listened to the conversation.

To me, my aunt’s case is understandable as she doesn’t really know about those people and that it’s an uncommon practice in global culture. But what intrigues me the most is that this kind of situation, where we tend to have difficulties in trying to understand something from someone else’s shoes, happens quite often in our everyday lives with people who share the same culture with us, and of course some of which we consider closest to us. So often do misunderstandings happen becase we acted and said things without really thinking about the other person’s needs and feelings. What makes it even worse is that we tend to have assume and think about each other without really attempting to communicate in the first place. More often than not, we find ourselves in situations when our good intentions only worsened the problem and as a result we are left regretting our actions because we don’t know and don’t try to know what the other person is feeling. Even more of a common occurence is as a result of our lack of empathy towards other people, even those closest to us, we indirectly play a part in slowly deteriorating our relationship with them. Or worse, make them feel even more lonely because they fail to do an act that is small yet important like expressing their feelings out loud.

Just recently I found this article that precisely represent my perception towards this.

"Plants need to be watered. But they don’t need water all of the time. Trying to be helpful because you think you know what it needs, you over-water the plant. You think you’re doing a good thing, but the plant doesn’t actually need more water. Sometimes plants need water, but at other times they just need some sun. Sometimes people need advice, but at other times all that they really need is for you to listen and show that you are trying to understand. So instead of “over-watering your plant”, place it under the sun to give it the nourishment it needs."

Like when we do not realise how sometimes trying to start real conversation is better than only giving superficial answers like the same prayers and positive statements to other people who put effort in showing their concern to us by asking about our lives; or how the way we rarely respond to other people's text and calls but still continue posting our status on Facebook or updating our Instagram stories would irritate those people more than we thought we would; or when we confide in other people about the rough days we just went through, expecting them to listen and understand, but instead get into a fight because they attempted to give solutions at every corner when we just wanted our problems to be heard, not solved; or when we do not realise the significant improvement we could make in our relationship with other people if only we had put more effort to listen to other people's lives and not talking about the same stories and complaints as if the world only revolves around us; or when we do not realise how our habits of interrupting other people in the midst of their effort to express their feelings and thoughts is the reason why they cannot have much conversations with us. Until one day we might no longer share stories and continue our relationship without knowing about each other’s personal lives. 

In this case, there is no right and wrong. There is just how two people can understand each other better. And while it's true that we don't need to constantly satisfy other people's feelings, sometimes we just need to try to position ourselves in someone else's shoes or even simply ask them what they need. 


  1. couldn't agree more with the last paragraph . and you still mesmerizing me with all your words!


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