MAYA ROSE FERNANDES
India has a population of close to 1.5 billion people, and 1.5 million of those live in the coastal state of Goa.
It seems like everyone is always in competition for resources, in survival mode and fighting for their voices to be heard above the general fray.
Goa might call itself connected, but why is everyone so loud all the time -- bustling marketplaces, overcrowded tea stalls and evening congregations around chouris-pao outlets.
The daily poder, whose trade relies on the quality of sound from his ever-trusty bicycle horn that forms my daily morning alarm. The early morning fisher-woman with her cries of Zai, go?! resounding down the residential lanes.
At night, if you’re lucky enough not to be living near a construction site, that is on a tight deadline and is working right up until the noise ban deadline, then you probably have the erratic bursts of barking dogs picking dogfights to contend with, way past one’s bedtime.
Everywhere I go, cars are honking, people are shouting into their phones, which are also used to blare music or videos, without earphones.
It’s like the general populace is on a mission to drown out the sound of, not only their thoughts, but also the contemplations of everyone around them.
I’ve had out-of-town friends, who have suffered heightened anxiety from the sensory overload of visiting Goa.
Others, who live here, ask me why everyone speaks at an uncannily high volume to each other, irrespective of gender. I usually tell them it’s because they don’t feel heard or paid attention to, above the general din of life in Goa.
They have so many people to compete with that they have to fight for one’s attention and do it with their voice.
But then, there are other times when being loud is just about trying to gain the upper hand over someone to a degree that goes way beyond rudeness.
Recently, a friend was telling me how she found herself being screamed at by a woman at work, who thought that she was her superior.
She recounted how every time the woman raised her voice louder to make a point, without listening to any response being given to her, my friend would counter with lowering her voice a little bit more. This seemed to really push the loud woman’s nose out of joint.
While I think Goans often use their voice to forge connections and express emotions, often to build social connection, they really do need to teach themselves emotional management and how to interact appropriately with others, without throwing a tantrum on the playing ground for not getting their way.
Yes, volume of speech is often a reflection of the intensity of emotions being conveyed.
But, in professional or public settings, especially with co-workers, colleagues, peers or strangers, there are tones and their accompanying behaviours that need to come into play in order to keep engaged in ways that lead to positive resolutions instead of escalations and misunderstandings.
Managers, or pseudo-superiors who think they have to use their voice to be understood, really are the worst managers out there.
They probably have other skills they’re better at, but management is not among them.
I have worked in many countries in the world, with many different managers. I’m very glad that not one of them ever raised their voice to me.
But, in a state like Goa, where the culture is to have more of a direct-and-tell approach, and people in Goa value empowerment and critical thinking much less than elsewhere, I can see why people feel the need to raise their voice in order to feel heard.
As a first step, let’s address changing the work culture and professional spaces.
Could we please invest in training programmes, more as a matter of course than a special benefit, where managers are constantly updated and trained in better management techniques?
Can we inculcate in them the habit of speaking to subordinates in ways that encourage two-way listening and responding with patience, instead of reacting with a dysregulated nervous system, which never has good outcomes?
To be clear, I’m not saying not to speak up, but to lower your volume when you do. You just may get heard in the process.