I have been aware of this trait, that many people have, all my life. My mother was one of those people. Hard as I tried to please her, she always found a flaw to comment on, but praise was very rare. If I cleaned something, for example, she would never say “good job” or “thank you” but instead, “look here, you missed a spot.” If I got a 92 on an exam she would ask, “why didn’t you get 100?” My brother brought home a report card with a 95 average in all his subjects…my mother wrote in the parents comments, “I’ll see to it that he does better next time!” The first compliment I remember getting was when I was 18 and she went with me to see the dean of my college. She watched and listened to the conversation and, as we were walking back to take the bus afterwards, she turned to me and said, “I never knew you were so smart.” And she meant it too.
You can look around you every day and find criticism about you or someone you know, it’s everywhere. Remember recently, when Christina Aguilera hit the wrong key in the national anthem and got the words wrong? Everyone knows how talented she is, but no one let it slide. She was raked over the coals for days over that. And people will probably bring it up every time she releases a new cd or performs somewhere. I never heard anyone say maybe she is having a bad day, got some bad news, or isn’t feeling well.
None of us can be at our best every minute of every day. So we are all going to have days when we say or do things that are subject to criticism. It’s at those times when a kind word of support and encouragement can mean the most.
I do my fair share of complaining when I get poor service, but when I get excellent service I make a point of writing a letter to that person’s boss letting them know how happy I was. You would be surprised how appreciative the person is to get that recognition and often the company will reward such employees with gift cards and other perks.
As for my kids, I complain when they need it, but I praise them all the time for being hard working, intelligent young women. I do it consciously because it was lacking in my childhood. I feel my self-esteemed suffered for it and I always wanted my girls to have good self-esteem and self-worth. I think it makes all the difference.
It seems like we focus and comment on the negative, but rarely recognize the positive things people do. Just saying a simple thank you or great job as an acknowledgement of minor accomplishments really takes so little effort, but makes a big difference for the other person. And much of what you do will return to you many times over by all those whose lives you’ve touched.
The real spirit of a loving person is shown through compassion by being slow to criticize and quick to commend. And, at those times when criticism is necessary, do it with the intention of helping not hurting.