When most people think of February, they think of Valentine’s Day. A time to celebrate love and friendship. You might even call it “the relationship month.” We all form relationships: with work colleagues, in our personal lives, in Toastmasters. In my nearly 30 years as a Toastmaster, I have developed countless friendships through this organization, and they have enriched my life in so many ways.
I think about the bond I have built with Dan Rex, Toastmasters International’s Chief Executive Officer. Dan and I first became friends in 1995, back when I belonged to the only club in Sri Lanka. At that point, I had no idea what my future in Toastmasters held; we had no area, division or district that existed in my part of the world. I just knew that Dan was someone I liked and admired.
Over the years, our friendship has grown closer. In our respective roles, Dan and I now work together on projects that are vital to the future of Toastmasters. Sometimes we disagree about certain issues, yet as longtime friends we understand one another and trust each other, which enables us to express our opinions freely and honestly. Some discussions might be difficult, but they never become personal or hurtful—Dan and I value our friendship too much to let that happen.
The Toastmasters experience helps us cultivate strong relationships. We care about our fellow club members and want to support each other. In club meetings, we learn to listen attentively and to give and receive constructive feedback. These are important elements in any relationship. The Toastmasters program has helped me build valuable relationships outside of the organization, including in the corporate world. It has even helped me in my marriage and my family life.
The Toastmasters experience helps us cultivate strong relationships.
My wife, Sarumathy, and I have been married for 30 years, and we have two daughters, Avisha and Mahishaa. My Toastmasters training has enabled me to communicate my feelings to my wife and daughters—and more importantly, to listen and be silent when necessary. It has helped me to give and receive feedback, and to respect my adult daughters’ needs and ideas.
A life without relationships, without friends who are there for us, without people who need us and whom we need in return, might be a rewarding life to some, but for me it would be no life at all. Make the effort to strengthen your relationships. Maybe your efforts won’t work out. But maybe, just maybe, they will be the start of something special.
As you celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, take the time to appreciate all the relationships in your life, both inside and outside of Toastmasters.
BALRAJ ARUNASALAM, DTM