Conversation with an Unknown

Today, I am going to share a story with you all. The story is about a conversation which I had with an unknown person in a café couple of years back. The story goes like this.

One afternoon, I was mulling over my credit risk reports and rushing them to be sent out. Once they were sent out, thought of getting a cup of coffee and something to eat to cool things down . Fortunately, we had a Starbucks café in the building premises and I took my phone and staff pass to go to the café. I ordered a flat white with a blueberry muffin and parked myself on a comfortable sofa there. And I started thinking, I was anxious about the future as we were expecting a baby and how things are going to change. Also, worried that things are not going as I had initially planned in my professional life. There were many instances where I had various points of disagreements with my teammates and various stakeholders.

While I was experiencing a professional abyss, a gentleman approached me to share the sofa next to me. I am not sure who he was or where he worked or what was he doing around here. Honestly, I think he saw me worried and started to speak to me. While, we were busy talking I even forgot to ask his name. Let’s call him “Ben” here. The conversation which happened between both of us is as follows –


Ben: Hey buddy, Can I sit here if you are okay.

Nihit: Ya Sure, go ahead.

Ben: Thanks. (he sat down and started sipping his coffee).

Ben: You okay? You look worried.

Nihit: I am fine, nothing but usual. Having a bad day at office. What are you reading there?

Ben: Oh! These are few printouts for my presentation today. Thought of having a bite before I get into the presentation.

Nihit: That’s nice!!! (I went back to my introspection mode)

Ben: You look worried, Is everything okay?

Nihit: Having a rough day at work. Things are not going as per my initial thoughts.

Ben: Are you introspecting? … Am I disturbing? 

Nihit: Yes and No …… Yes, I am introspecting …… No, you are not disturbing.

Ben: Fine, maybe I can help. What are you worried about the most? (he asked curiously)

Nihit: Apart from the usual day-to-day worries, I am worried that the toxic culture of my office will eat up all the positivity from me.

Ben: Hmmm…. What do you exactly mean. Tell me slightly more.

Nihit: It feels like being under-appreciated all the time. Whatever I do, its just not good enough. I just feel fatigued for being criticised all the time by people around me.

Ben: Hmm… I understand. How long have you been feeling like this?

Nihit: Maybe, For almost a year now.

Ben: I think, you should not ignore these feelings. I have one advise for you, under-appreciation should not trigger into acting badly. Remind yourself of your core values, remain authentic, and stay on the high road. Resist the temptation to “win” against a toxic employee by compromising your principles. Toxic people often try to manipulate colleagues into engaging in bad behaviour to have someone to blame later if they are held accountable. Now this is a principle, which I have learned from my past. Professing the principle is easy, Implementation of this is not going to be easy. But I think, you can find a way.

Nihit: You might be right, when I think back there have been similar instances. But then, it keeps me unhappy all the time. I keep thinking about it and try to reconcile or resolve such differences.

Ben: Right, but why do you associate your happiness and self-worth only with your job. Your career is important, but so are family, friends, physical health, mental health, hobbies, your residence, and your community engagement. When things are not going well at work, focus on building up the parts of your life outside of work so that unhappiness with work will not dominate your feelings about life in general. Fully appreciate the present as it’s the most important moment. You will find that by doing this, you will sleep better and be ready and more energize the next working day. Just curious, What’s happening in your personal life?

Nihit: We are expecting our first baby.

Ben: Bravo (he smiled), then you should be enjoying these moments. You might not even realise, the kind of impact it may have on your work vibes as well.

Nihit: Yes, you might be right. Thanks for helping me realise it. Can I ask few more questions if you are fine?

Ben: Sure, go ahead.

Nihit: How do I create positivity around me in workplace? Because, I still need to spend significant amount of time in office.

Ben: One thing which has worked for me. Put up inspiring images and quotes around your desk. Include pictures of loved ones too. But do research about these positive quotes. Just don’t download anything from internet for the sake of putting up on the desk. You need to have a connect to it.

Ben: One more thing, which I think you might find useful. It’s often easy to begin to blame yourself. You’ll tend to lose self-esteem and find it difficult to see any redeeming qualities in yourself. The truth is that, who you really are has nothing to do with the other person’s behaviour. Always remind yourself of your self-worth and constantly strive to improve yourself. Your personal growth comes with increased self-esteem which in turn edges you on to increase your self-development. Try being a better version of yourself every, I know its difficult. But do try.

Nihit: That’s actually a good idea. You think, I should have an exit plan at some point in time. I am not too sure, if the people and their impressions change in coming times.

Ben: Yes, maybe at some point in time. You can definitely look for other opportunities. This will give you a push to be better at what you are doing now. It will motivate you to self-improve yourself and focus your energies in building yourself rather focusing on the negativity around you.

Nihit: Hmm… That is reassuring.

Ben: Hey, I think I need to login into my presentation. It was lovely talking to you. See you around Mate.

Nihit: Oh yes.. Thanks for chatting. This would really help boost me up personally and professionally. Thanks once again.

Ben: See you mate!!


And he left the café, it left me thinking about this discussion and way to operationalise it. But he did open me to the idea that what I was feeling is not something to be ignored. It can be ameliorated by doing certain things is suggested manner to regain your confidence and self-esteem.

Even today, I remember this coffee chat whenever I am struggling with problems around negativity and motivation. In the current environment, such instances are bound to happen.

I tried connecting back to him, tried going to café at the same time to see if he drops by. It has been 3 years now and I haven’t seen him. A part of me believes, he came to just help me and vanished and another part of me believes our paths will cross again.


Nihit M

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Who is Nihit Mohan?

Nihit Mohan is a banker, author and a TEDx speaker. He was born & raised in the cradle of cultural diversity of India, & currently resides in Singapore. He did his education from seven schools spread across multiple cities & cultures. He is an engineer by education & has made a successful career in the financial services industry. He hails from a family of engineers, bureaucrats & academicians.

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