The art of praising
By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
I think that craving for praise is human ture. We all want admiration for doing something well. It may be anything under the sun—gardening, knitting, cooking, music or even looking nice and decent or anything else. Every one becomes happy if somebody admires his/her performance. Some people say that only women want compliments for their skill. But I do not think so; men also like to be praised for their achievements. You may call it a human weakness or even a blemish, if you wish. But whatever you say, it is a fact that we, human beings do need praise for doing something well. Praise is like a tonic for us and it gives us impetus to do the thing even better than before.
I have a friend who loves gardening and have green fingers. But in this city of multi-storied buildings you rarely get a chance to demonstrate your gardening skills due to paucity of open space. But this friend of mine has created a wonder in the roof garden she has designed at her home. She showed me the garden the other day and I was spellbound at the sight of the beautiful flowers and vegetables. There were dahlias, marigolds, roses and many other flowers. And at the other side she had planted some vegetables. And the wonder of wonders was the ba plants grown there. I felt as if I was in a wonderland. It was a sight for the sore eyes. It is unusual to see a garden in this concrete city of ours, where you see nothing but skyscrapers. She gave me some spich from her garden. I was turally delighted with the unexpected gift. I told her in real pleasure that they were better than anything one could buy in the market and admired her gardening skill. I was sincerely grateful for her gift, but what touched me most was her delighted expression on hearing my few words of praise, which she really deserved. Her gardening skill was superb and she created luscious vegetables from a handful of seeds. She did deserve admiration.
I think one of the deepest aspects of human ture is a craving to be appreciated. Every one of us needs to be praised for doing something well. Praise also makes us happy and we try to do whatever we are doing even better. You can see even a difficult child turn into on angel the moment the mother praises him for doing something well. Actually any kind of praise makes a person even better than before.
That being so, I wonder why we are so stingy in giving praise to the deserving people! turally not all of us (either children or adults) are qualified to shine or win glittering prizes. Only a few people can perform brilliantly in life. They are talented persons—and most of us belong to that “average ordiry group”, from whom nobody expects brilliance or excellence. But still I believe that every one of us do have some special ability to do something, which deserves appreciation. Praise gives a big boost to the performer to do better than before.
Every person enjoys the feeling of happiness, when he gets praise from some others. It may not be something extraordiry, but still it is an achievement for the doer, however small and insignificant it may be. Some ladies have magic in their fingers and can create fantasy in their knitting or embroidery; some can churn out exotic meals from the most ordiry ingredients. Some people can do wonders in their gardens, some are handy with tools or may have skill to make various electrical gadgets or some may have a special way to deal with various problems. They are not much—you might say; but they are some kind of achievement, which we cannot deny. Every one cannot be a genius, but usually every one can do something really well. For that they deserve praise. Women like to be complimented on looking good—and perhaps so do men. Then why not compliment them? After all, it costs us nothing, yet it can give abundant happiness to someone else. That is really a great thing. But of course, none is grateful for insincere flattery, which does not do the least good to anybody. In a way it is harmful to the person concerned, as it gives only a false feeling of achievement, which rather damages his self-esteem.
Every one of us likes to bask in the pleasure of being appreciated. Even able and self-confident people are encouraged to do better when they get recognition and appreciation for their skill. Then imagine how much more that encouragement is needed and appreciated by those who find themselves “square pegs” wobbling uncertainly in the “round holes”. They will develop only if their simple activities are appreciated and encouraged with simple words of praise from time to time. If they do not get it, they may wither away as the flower does in the absence of sunlight. At least we should appreciate their efforts to do better.
By thoughtless remarks we often destroy the confidence in a child. Sometimes some child is considered “difficult” in a family, simply because he has no inclition to follow the foot step of the father. But that certainly cannot be regarded as a deficiency in the child. Why not let him take his own chosen path and appreciate his skill in that direction? Because he has chosen an alien field, he should not be termed as a failure. It is a destructive policy adopted by the parents. By criticizing the child’s propensity to do something the parents merely destroy the talent of the child, besides encouraging his resentment and frustration.
Uware of the damage they do, parents often pay more attention to the child who toes the line marked by them, and praise him to the hilt, forgetting that their behaviour will make the other one somehow excluded from the family. turally he becomes rebellious and he or she will try to get attention following a perilous way, which may be dangerous in the long run. So often the tantrums, mischievousness, showing off, are their way of telling their parents that they too want their proper place and do not want to feel the second best. They assert in their own way that they too have the ability to do something really well and deserve to be appreciated. They demonstrate in no uncertain terms that parents must concede to their demands, without trying to impose their will on them.
The mother should realise that though she gave birth to her child, she must not think him or her to be an extension of herself. Once the child is born he/she is a separate individual. He grows up with ideas of his own. The father also should acknowledge that his son or daughter may not accept his command, but that does not make the child a failure. There should be mutual discussions among them to avoid acrimony and bring peace to the household. It will also help the child to build up a successful life in future.
It is not only in the family circle, we need to be careful, but outside as well. I have a friend, who is one of the kindest women imagible. She is so affectiote that she would not even hurt a fly. She was commenting enthusiastically on the beautiful appearance and grace of her daughter, seemingly uware of the plain and plump teege daughter of the other lady, who was listening too. The girl looked so sad and embarrassed that my heart went out to her in pity. Her mother too seemed to be very distressed. Soon the mother-daughter duo left. The strangest part of the whole thing was that my friend, who is usually so observant and intelligent, did not even realise that she had committed a kind of social solecism. I did not enlighten her, as I was sure that if I pointed out to her that she had offended the lady unintentiolly, she would feel very much depressed on learning that she had humiliated the other lady and her daughter idvertently. Hence I think we should be very careful in what we say, because it may hurt somebody else.
I still remember with painful clarity the adverse comment in my school report regarding my handwriting and drawings, which has the power to weaken my confidence even now. My handwriting is still atrocious. Perhaps if I had received a little appreciation on some other subjects in which I had done well, that is, appreciation for what I could do and less criticism for what I could not, I too could have been successful in improving my defect in handwriting. But it is too late for me to think about it and make myself miserable. An ounce of praise is worth a hundred times more than a ton of criticism. Actually criticism may be of two kinds—constructive and destructive. Constructive criticism is beneficial while destructive criticism is very harmful and it can destroy whatever talent somebody has.
We need praise and encouragement to build up our future life successfully and to bolster our self-confidence. No one is good at everything, but everyone is good at something, however simple or ordiry it may be. It is very true that appreciation will not make us do what we are incapable of doing, but it can make us do better what we are capable of doing. There are certain things which we cannot do and no amount of appreciation can make us do that. But a little amount of praise make us more determined to do the thing we are capable of doing even better than before.
A child swells with pride if he gets a pat in the back for his efforts in doing something. So do the adults. Every one of us craves for praise. It is human ture and there is nothing wrong or conceit in this attitude. It is also a fact that a little bit of praise makes us determined to do it better. Some teachers do immense damage to a student by levelling harsh criticism on his work. Usually the students in each school have average intelligence. Some are born intelligent, but not all. They have to make more efforts for success. If the teacher encourages and praises him for his efforts, he will definitely do much better in the next attempt. Praise is like a tonic to improve the mental process of the child. Doctors prescribe tonic to the patients for the improvement of their health and some psychologists prescribe praise for the improvement of the mental aptitude. And the best part of it is that you don’t have to spend any money on it, as you have to pay a heavy amount to buy a tonic in the pharmacy. Praise costs you nothing, yet it is a wonderful tonic to give a big boost to the mental aptitude of the child and to lift his spirit to an unbelievable height. Praise really creates wonders. Praise your child for doing something and see what kind of excellent result that will produce.
Every one of us needs praise for better performance. If you offer a tasty meal to your family, you deserve praise and should get it. May be after sweating for hours in the kitchen, you have brought out a new dish, after consulting the recipe book. How would you feel if the members of your family just gobble up the food and leave the table without a word of praise? turally you will feel distressed, as your skill was not appreciated, and perhaps you would never ‘attempt to cook some new delectable dish for your family. It will be their loss of course; hence they should not be parsimonious in offering praise to the deserving persons.
Women sometimes resent the fact that in spite of her hard work in keeping the house in good order, preparing food and looking after every one’s comfort, she rarely gets a word of appreciation. Often the family takes many things for granted as their due, as though the work done by the lady of the house is nothing of value. This is not true, as the lady keeps busy with all her work throughout the day. Hence the person who does so much for her family certainly deserves to be appreciated. It is due to her untiring efforts that the family members are happy and comfortable and peace prevails in home. The husband brings home his friends and it becomes the duty of the wife to entertain them. She does so much for the family, yet her efforts and contributions remain unrecognized and uppreciated. A little bit of praise will go a long way in giving her the pleasure of feeling needed and loved by her family. All her tiredness, boredom, resentment disappear the moment her family appreciates her efforts. It is not only the women; men also want praise for doing something really well.
Only a little bit of praise is needed to make a person happy. It is not at all a difficult thing to do. Hence I believe that we should be generous enough in giving praise to the deserving ones for their efforts to do something well. Everybody, old or young needs appreciation. It is such a simple thing to do, yet it goes a long way in spreading joy and harmony. After all praise is a very nice thing. So knowing how reassuring it is to receive praise, let us make sure not to be parsimonious in giving it. As Abraham Cowley wrote,
“Nothing so soon the drooping spirits can raise, As praises from the men whom all men praise”.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)