Turkisk HamamsAs I arrived at the oldest Hamams in the world, Cagaloglu Hamami, in the heart of Istanbul, with 20 or so buddies from the conference, I was both ready for an adventure and at the same time, a bit unsure of what to do.
It was a 'must do' in most people's books including the 1001 Places to See Before You Die bestseller that listed the business which has been running continuously for 300 years with clients including Tony Curtis and Florence Nightinggale. I was in good company, clearly.
We were all ushered up the stairs and asked to put on some very ill fitting and slightly uncomfortable clogs. Part of the experience I am sure, and certainly put us on our feet because we all were too scared to walk any faster than at a snails pace as we were afraid we may fall over.
Each given a small room, we disrobed after consulting each other on what to do with our swimmers or in some cases lack of. It was decided after consultation with a Turkish woman in her 70's that we were in fact not required to wear anything at all but for a small sheet.
As we walked down into the bath area, we were all confronted by an array of women all shapes and sizes completely stark naked. They didn't look like tourists, as we all clearly were. I personally found this first introduction very confronting as women lay naked on a round marble bench and are scrubbed head to toe by Turkish women and it appeared at first viewing that they didn't really miss any area - if you know what I mean.
20 Women Naked In A RoomMy heart started to race. I was now terrified. More than terrified. I talked nervously to the two other women that were selected by the women who was about to bath us. As all the other girls in our group ushered in, covered in a brief cloth, it became very daunting. Everyone was about to see me naked. I cannot recall seeing another woman naked except in a movie or the odd breasts when my girlfriends and I were getting changed to go out. But never, in person, a full frontal. Not even home with my parents. My mother is as prudish as I am, so no-one walked around naked in our household.
The voices in my head had me in a state, then, my worst fear happened. I was called up first. The first person in the group to have her cloth taken away and to stand bare naked in front of the 20 odd women in our group. They say when you do a public speech you should imagine your crowd naked - but is this the reverse? I was literally shaking. My whole body tensed up. I thought about it afterwards and wonder if I would have been as nervous if it were men that I had to do that in front of and the answer is probably no. Yes, I would be nervous and scared, but not to the same degree that I was with women that were peers. Were they looking at me and thinking that my bum was fat, I had too much cellulite, my breasts were smaller than they thought or that I didn't look that good without clothes? Did they see my bottom wobble as I walked? Are they judging me? The worse part of it was that although they could see me, as the first person, it was not reciprocated. It was a one-way street.
I lay on the marble round bench as the lady who was cleaning me scrubbed me head to toe. I kept my whole body tense the entire time and I am sure even though she massaged me, I walked out more tense than when I walked in.
Then when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did.
She had finished. She grabbed my hand and walked me out of the room stark naked. As I entered the next room, more than a dozen other women from the conference were walking in fully clothed. If I would have thought faster, I would have introduced myself as "Miss Nude Australia" but I am sure that would have gone down like a led balloon as all of a sudden, each of these women knew what was in store.
What is the relevance of a Hamams to marketing?This experience has taught me a couple of things. The first is that an experience is an experience. It is something you can tick off as being done. Sometimes you have to experience something to have a new sensation that may not be able to be surpassed by any other experience that you have had.
Also being placed out of your comfort zone, like jumping out of a plane, creates a clearer perspective on life and on business.
As we all had finished at the Hamams, we sat around and chatted. While we were all terrified in varying degrees, the general consensus was that we were all glad to have done it. And, as business people, we reflected on how being naked with people actually takes your relationship to a whole new level. All of a sudden, we felt like we knew each other much better than we had an hour beforehand. We were old friends. The layers had been broken down. There was no pretense as they had seen everything that there was to see.
Imagine doing this with your team or with your clients. No, not getting naked, but finding ways to break down all the layers and start the relationship from a naked front. Imagine what type of progress you would make without having the road blocks that we put up to shield ourselves from society, from how people view us or how we want people to know who we are?
Food for thought