Listen, or your tongue will keep you deaf.”
– A Native American proverb
In a particular situation, if you had only one choice of behavior with a friend, what would you prefer: you could either appreciate or understand him/her?
Appreciation here means verbally praise the person for who they are or what they have done. Understanding, on the other hand, happens when you listen and put yourself in the other person’s shoes; you may not necessarily speak in admiration of your friend, but you sincerely see the situation the way she sees it, from her point of view- you understand her.
Of the two, appreciation seems more natural, but understanding gives better rewards and sustains a relationship.
Three ways of social interaction
At the lowest rung of our social life is a weak emotional state where we find the wrong in everything and everyone. A cynic revels in his ability to catch the fault; some even derive their sense of worth by focussing on others’ problems. Our proclivity to catch mistakes of others and magnify it reflects our own insecurity. Evolved humans desist it and know it’s better to shut up than speak ill of others. They’d instead focus on the right things- affection and love.
The second, better way is to see the good around us. A generous heart can glorify cultures, customs, and qualities that are different from ours. One not threatened by others’ success or happiness can recognize their goodness and abundantly shower praise on them. When you do that, you rise on the ladder of emotional growth.
Politicians cut a sorry figure in this regard. At the slightest opportunity, they pounce on their rivals and denounce everything they do. They trade charges without an appraisal based on an objective criterion, leave alone seeing the good in their opponents.
In our social circle, our spiritual growth depends on how much we can appreciate a person even behind his back. Social obligations may compel niceties in their presence but when they are not around, do we still speak beautiful things about them to others? Look at the irony of politicians today who can hardly appreciate publicly, leave alone behind the scenes; and they are the leaders of our society. What standards are they setting for others to emulate? This pervasive culture has fallout on other aspects of our existence. Even children in school are quick to pass ribald judgments on their teachers. Cynicism today passes as wisdom- it’s cool to dismiss others, and you are seen as naïve if you like to appreciate others.
To be continued…