Could you repeat that

When a presentation is delivered to a large group, important information can get lost.

The information often needs to be reworded and repeated for the group to understand it. This could be resolved by any one of them asking the presenter to repeat their point. However, given that the group is large, it is awkward to admit one’s ignorance. The bigger the group, the larger is the probability of information getting lost. But the bigger the group, the more hesitant people are to ask a ‘stupid’ question.

It take courage and generosity to interrupt a presentation. If we haven’t understood something, we are often not alone, and we are doing everybody else a service.

Pay it forward

When somebody does us a good turn, we look to return the favour.

Once we return the favour, we are even. Until we do this, we are likely to feel like we are in their debt. However, paying it back can often feels like a transaction, thereby undermining the first person’s generosity. When we pay it back, the goodness involved is limited to two parties.

An alternative is to pay it forward. When we pay it forward, we can accept the first person’s gift with gratitude. We also set off a chain of goodness – we pay it forward, and the person we benefit also does the same thing. The goodness multiplies this way.

Paying it back is an obligation. Paying it forward is generous.

The barrier between strangers

Let’s say it is your birthday, and you are seated at a restaurant table with your friends and a little party cap on your head. A stranger walks up to your table and wishes you happy birthday. How do you feel?

Given such a generous act leaves both people feeling good – the wisher and the wishee – it is then worth wondering why such a gesture is rare. What prevents people from walking up to the desk and wishing a stranger?

Well, there is a small chance that this gesture could lead to an awkward moment. Their wish might not be received with warmth. They might be rebuked or treated coldly. It fear of this awkwardness that holds us back from such an act.

In many situations, our fear holds us back from making a contribution. Because we are afraid, how much generosity do we leave on the table?

What is a photograph for?

Even digital photos come at a cost. Taking a photo requires us to borrow from the present moment. When we compose a photograph, we don’t pay full attention to what we experience.

So why do we take photos?

The traditional answer to this question is some version of ‘capturing this moment’ for posterity. The idea is that a photo can be revisited and therefore, serve to preserve our memories of a good experience. The problem here is twofold – firstly, this binds us to the past or the future. When we take a photo, we invest in future enjoyment. When we look at a photo, we go back to the past. In both instances, we are sacrificing the present.

Yet, there is another, more noble reason for taking a photo – to share an experience with somebody else.

We now live in a world where friends and families separated across contients and time-zones are held together by the internet. For all of human history, our lives were shared with our dear ones. This has been made harder due to our physical separation. Sharing a photo bridges this separation.

Every photo or video we send to the right person tells them that we wished they were with us. However, merely sharing a photo doesn’t make the act generous. It has to be shared with people who care about us – not with ‘followers’ on a social media account. The thumb rule here is that the person receiving the photo is enriched by it. Most photos we see on social media don’t enrich us, but rather deprave us.

Today, we also live in a world where it is far easier to share a photo with somebody we care. Therefore, to take a photo is no longer a selfish attempt to ‘capture a memory’, as long as it is shared generously.

The key to clicking a generous photograph is to not ask ‘do I want to remember this moment’. Instead, we ought to ask ‘who else will enjoy seeing what I am seeing’.