By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Praising is a kind of art, which one should practise in order to make somebody feel happy and worthy. Praise does wonders in developing one’s persolity and self-confidence. It is different from fulsome flattery which is rather destructive of whatever talent somebody may have. If somebody has the ability to do something well and is praised, the person will perform even better than before, as praise is a kind of tonic for a person’s inherent qualities. Hence we should develop the practice of praising which can make people happy and successful in life. But we often neglect to do so.
Some people love gardening and they have green fingers. I know a lady who has a small garden in her home. Though the garden is very small, she creates wonders with her nibble fingers. She often gives me vegetables from her garden to my delight. Only the other day she brought me some spich from her garden and a few guavas from her own tree. The green spich looked fresh and crisp and the ripe guavas also looked very fresh and attractive. I told her with real pleasure that her home-grown things were much better than anything bought in the market. I told her that her gardening skill was admirable. I was sincerely grateful to her for her gifts of vegetables and the guavas. But what touched me most was her delighted expression on hearing my few words of praise, which she really deserved. Her gardening skill is really superb and she grows luscious vegetables and trees from a handful of seeds. She was worthy of my admiration.
I think that one of the deepest factors of human ture is a craving to be appreciated. Every one of us needs to he praised for doing something well. Praises make us happy and we try to do whatever we are doing even better. You can see even a difficult child turn into an angel the moment the mother praises him for doing something well.
Teachers definitely should use the art of praising to turn even a recalcitrant child into an obedient lovable one. In fact, not only small children, even grown up students need praise to make them better ones, so that they can demonstrate their calibre effectively. In fact, I believe that teaching cannot be successful unless the teacher heaps praise on the deserving students and encourage others to do better with tact and skilled appreciation. They can easily tell the weaker one that they are as good as the brilliant ones and if only they make the effort they would shine like the others. This kind of praise works wonders with the weaker students. The important thing is to instil confidence in their minds. Disparaging a student is disastrous for his well-being. A student may behave worse than before if the teacher humiliates him or taunts him. Only by a few words of praise and encouragement the teacher can do wonders with the mentality and performance of the student. I wonder why some teachers are so wary of uttering a few words of praise. After all, they do not cost them anything. I do not understand why we are so stingy in giving praise to others. turally not all of us (either as children or as adults) are qualified to shine or win glittering prizes. Only a few people can do brilliantly in life—and most of us belong to that “average ordiry group”. But still I believe that every one of us do have some special ability for doing something well. It may not be something extraordiry, but still it is an achievement of the doer, however small it may be. Some ladies have magic in their fingers and can weave fantasy in their knitting or embroidery. Some can bring out exotic meals from the most simple and ordiry ingredients. Some can do wonders in their gardens, some are handy with tools or may have skill for making various electrical gadgets; some have a special way to deal with various problems. They are not much, you might say, but they are achievements, which we cannot deny. Every one cannot be a genius, but everyone can do something really well. For that they deserve to be praised. Women like to be complimented on looking good—and perhaps so do men. Then why not compliment them? But of course no one is grateful for insincere flattery.
Every one of us likes to bask in the pleasure of being appreciated. Even able and self-confident people are encouraged when they get the recognition and appreciation for their skill. Then imagine how much more that encouragement is needed and appreciated by those who find themselves to be “square pegs” wobbling uncertainly in the “round holes”. They will develop only if their works are appreciated and encouraged from time to time. If they do not get it, they might wither away as the flower does in the absence of sun light
The lady of the house might have put much effort and ingenuity to make some delectable food for her husband. She certainly deserves praise for her skill in cooking. But if the master of the household gobbles up the food without a word of praise, certainly the lady will feel disheartened. Of course it will be a loss for the husband. The gentleman may not get such delightful dishes in future, due to his lack of understanding.
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 footsteps of the father or to toe the line chosen by the parents. But why not let him take his chosen path and appreciate his skill in that direction? Because he has chosen an alien field, he should not be termed as a failure.
Unconscious of the damage they do, parents often pay more attention to the child who takes after them and praise him to the hilt, forgetting that this kind of biased praise will make the other somehow excluded from the family. So he or she will try to get notice or draw attention in the wrong way Hence the tantrums, ughtiness, showing off are their way of telling their parents that they too want their proper place at home and outside and do not want to be the second best. They too have the capacity to do something really well and deserve to be appreciated. 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, who would not hurt a fly. Yet I once heard her praising the daughter of one of the ladies with whom she was talking seemingly uware of the plain and plump daughter of the other lady, who was listening to the conversation.
These kind of unthinking remarks are very painful. They hurt some people terribly. Some may take the remark as a deliberate insult. I remember an incident which is rather painful. A neighbour’s daughter sometimes comes to my place. She is rather a plain girl. The other day I was talking to a lady, who had come to see me. At that time the girl came in, looking very excited and happy. She asked me if I liked her new hair style. Before I could utter even a word, the lady famed for her caustic tongue, told the girl that the new hair style looked like a bird’s nest and it did not suit her at all. The young girl’s expression changed from joy to sorrow. My soothing words did nothing to mollify her. She gave me a wan smile and left immediately. I felt very embarrassed and sad at the unexpected turn of the simple incident and told the lady that perhaps she was a little rough in her remark. But the lady was totally unrepentant. She snorted and said decidedly, “For me spade is a spade and I don’t hold with hypocrisy”.
I had nothing more to say. But I do think that unpleasant truth should never be spoken out. Tactfulness for me is not hypocrisy. We must not hurt other people by saying an unpleasant truth. If a small harmless lie brings smile to somebody, then I am all for the lie. The truth, which is painful to someone, is certainly not a virtue for me. As William Blake stated, “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent”. Hence I believe that praising a person who does not deserve it may be a lie, but if it does well for the person concerned, we should stick to it.
Criticism sometimes may be considered to be necessary for the good of a student. But it should not be destructive criticism, which does more harm than good. An ounce of praise is worth a hundred times more than a ton of criticism. If the student receives a little bit of appreciation for what he can do and less criticism for what he cannot do, then be may have the chance to be successful in later life.
We need praise and encouragement to build up our confidence. No one is good at everything. It is very true that appreciation won’t make us do what we are incapable of doing, but it can make us do what we are capable of doing. A little amount of praise makes us more determined to do the thing ever better. A child swells with pride if he gets a pat in the back for his efforts. If you offer a delicious meal to your family, you deserve praise and should get it. Women sometimes resent the fact that in spite of her hard work, keeping the house in good order, preparing food and looking after everyone’s comfort, she rarely gets appreciation. Often the family take many things for granted as their due—but the person who does so much for them deserves to be appreciated. A little bit of praise will go a long way in giving her the pleasure of feeling needed and loved. All her tiredness, boredom, resentment disappear the moment her family appreciate her efforts. Men also want praise for doing something well.
Knowing how reassuring it is to receive praise, let us make sure not to be niggardly in giving it. After all, it does not cost us anything. Yet it is a wonderful tonic to cheer up others and make them happy.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)