For nearly a century two books by an American called Dale Carnegie have been a bestseller. One of them is How to Make Friends and Influence People and the other is How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
In the first book we read of offering compliments instead of criticism as the method of making friends and influencing people. In the second we read of how we should treat unfair criticisms and not allow them causing us worries.
Everyone loves a compliment about their looks or deeds. A person who readily appreciates other people’s deeds usually makes friends easily. A person who belittles others finds himself unwelcome in many groups. Jesus taught: “Don’t judge” by which he meant to say: “Do not be a fault finder”.
It is not wrong to criticise someone if the intention is to protect him from trouble that is why there is a saying in chiTumbuka.
“Kawuzganga ntha ndifwiti, fwiti ndi tilinganenge,” goes the saying, which can be paraphrased as somebody who advises you against doing something is not your enemy, your real enemy is the one who leaves you to do all wrongs so that you should be in the same position as he/she is.
The fault finders aim is to belittle someone or things he has done. They look for faults only and point fingers at them. As a certain poet put it: “I have done one thing wrong and have been criticised ever; I have done two things right approval never.”
While it is legitimate to point at the failure of the people in power we must try to be objective in what we say if we want our views to carry weight.
If those we criticise notice that we never speak well of them even if many people praise them, they will tend to dismiss all what we say as the ranting of their political enemies.
Biased views have the same effect as crying wolf. Because you are known to be against those in authority, there comes a time when supporters of government do not bother to reflect on what you say. Sometimes they do not bother to read your commentaries. If you always speak in praise of the government no matter what it does, those in opposition will dismiss you as a stooge. In both cases, the day that you say something that has substance in it, they will just dismiss that as the usual nonsense.
It is difficult to find a person who despised a compliment for a nice thing he/she has done. It is not surprising that while most presidents in the world would concede to their people the freedom to criticise them, not many would give journalists a blank cheque to treat them as fools. That is to insult them.
Some people have a craving for praise. They do not seem to realise that a flatterer cannot be a genuine friend. They realise this only when they lose mass popularity—when the person they knew as a loyal friend deserts them to the enemy camp.
Former US president Benjamin Franklin had this to say: “If you would reap praise, you must sow the seeds. Gentle words and useful deeds.”
Why are some people so fond of fault-finding? Is it because they want to mould someone in their image? This is very likely. Such people have more pride than humility. When someone criticises them, they writhe with mental agony. Proud people dislike criticism only when it is directed at them.
When you are the victim of criticism what should you do? How should you react? Do not ignore what your enemies say; sometimes they are saying the truth that can save you from becoming a worse person. If the criticism is unjust, do not waste time worrying over it. If your critic realises that he has wounded you, he/she will rejoice.
Dale Carnegie reminds us that no one kicks a dead dog. It is incapable of doing harm or good. If you are subject of constant criticism, the chances are that you are an important person. Great men and women of history were at one time or another given bad times.
The Pharisees called Jesus King of the evil spirits. George Washington founding father of the US was abused. Margaret Thatcher was called a witch. Great inventors of such devices of civilisation as the wireless, aeroplanes and electric lamp were at first told they were crazy with their imagination.
Professionally, critics are normally short of natural gifts—except the wagging tongue.