甜言蜜语 vs 良药苦口/Sweetened Words V.S. Bitter-sweet Pills

看到D兄关于非功利性赞扬在我们的文化中比较缺少的评论,深以为然。

西式交流喜欢甜言蜜语,找到别人的优点加以赞扬,鼓励自信心,从而促人自主追求进步。中式传统看重良药苦口,戒骄戒躁,倾向于指出缺点,让人不断改进,从而完善自己。两种用心都是好的,被用心的人感觉却大不一样。一个会比较快乐自信,但可能流于肤浅,一个会比较踏实自律,但可能缺少自信。

我自己在传统中式教育中长大,父母几乎从不当面夸奖。小时候觉得这样不好,不能帮助我更有自信。所幸他们是非常有儿女心的人,我有幸享有第一流的亲情,所以培养出超级的安全感。在此基础上探索世界,年纪渐长对自己的优缺点能看得更清以后,自信心就很坚实地建立起来。别人的负面评价,遇到的挫折,对我而言是个鞭策,有则改之无则加勉,但不会改变我对自己的基本看法。只是对自己的孩子,我还是愿意采取鼓励为主的教育方式;尤其在这西域之地,从小培养他们的自信心我觉得是最重要的。

其实对大人而言,鼓励也许仍然比批评更有意义。大人的缺点,已经养成,是否能改,看各人造化。鼓励带来的融洽氛围,也许要比苛责造成的打击,更能帮助别人完善自己,而且令生活更愉快。当然这是在生活里。西方职场上是否如此,各位职场中人才有切身体会。

另一方面,西方文化里,不知是否有诤友这么一个角色。有时候总是听到甜言蜜语,效果就差了,不知道自己做得到底好不好,有什么地方其实可以改进。我自己是很希望有坦诚相见的朋友的。也许西方人自有其表达真实看法的方式,别人需要进一步了解而已。

那么在和人交往时,到底该一味甜言蜜语,还是看到不足友善地指出?这个度掌握起来有点难。我想对了解的朋友,应该可以更坦率一点,一般人还是甜言蜜语为主比较好吧。纵使要给良药,也应改良一下,采用正面的说法,使之不那么苦口。

Just saw a comment from a fellow Chinese in a forum saying there is a lack of natural praise in our culture.   I think it’s so true.

The way North Americans relate to each other generally focuses on finding others’ merits to give praise, boosting people’s self-confidence and encouraging them for self-motivation.  In contrast, traditionally, Chinese tend to point out people’s shortcomings (including their own) to give criticism, believing in that bitter pills have a wholesome effect and will eventually bring sweetness in people’s life.  Guard against arrogance, they would say, so we can always stay humble and strive to improve ourselves.  Both approaches are with good intentions.  The people at the other end who hear those comments, either positive or negative, may feel quite differently.  The former makes people cheerful and confident, but may sometimes lead to superficiality.  The latter helps people be self-disciplined and down to earth, but may to some degree lead to a lack of self-confidence.

I grew up in a traditional Chinese family.  My parents almost never praised me in my presence.  When I was young, I did not like this because it was no good for building upon my self-confidence.  Fortunately they are most loving parents, and I have had the best possible nurturing to grow into a person with a superb feeling of security.   Starting from there, I have been able to explore the world freely and come to realize where my true strengths and weaknesses lie as time goes on.  Self-confidence is thus built up firmly.   Criticism and difficulties can not drain my self-confidence at all.  They could act as a reminder of how I might be able to do things better, but they can never change my basic view of myself.  Having said that, as a parent, I’d rather encourage my kids than scold them.  I think it is most important for them to establish belief in themselves here in Canada.

To adults, maybe praise is still more meaningful than criticism.  Grown-ups, as the name suggests, have formed their personalities already.  No one is perfect.  Criticism brings more distress, while encouragement creates a pleasant atmosphere.  The latter probably works better to stimulate a drive to improve oneself.

On the other hand, I am curious about whether there is a role of a friend in western culture, like the one in Chinese culture,  who dares to say forthright words to people he cares.   Too many sweetened words may taste less sweet.  Sometimes, if you always hear praise, you will probably get a bit confused, wondering whether what you have done is really good or not, and what can actually be improved.  Personally, I like frank and cordial friends.  I guess North American people have their own ways to express their true opinions.  It just takes time for an immigrant to learn how to tell.

To wrap up, what shall we do when we communicate with others: to always praise people or to amicably remind them of mistakes they’ve made if you do see some?  I would say it depends.  I’d be more frank to a close friend, while give more praise to people I don’t know very well.  And, in case I have to prescribe some pills, I’d try to mingle them with some sweets so that they won’t taste that bitter.

Author: Linca

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