Sunday, 3 September 2017

Why we all Dislike Criticism?

My life's varied and myriad experiences have taught me one infallible lesson that all people invariably dislike criticism. We all secretly long for admiration and want to hear only the good things. Even neurologically, it's been proven that brain gets shrunk when one's criticised and it gets expanded when compliments are heaped upon. Douglas Hurley and Rawn Kimberlet conducted an elaborate test at Michigan University, US in 1986.


 They subjected 134 participants to subtle criticism and praise. Despite the ostensible reaction of being unaffected by the criticism, all the 74 criticised participants were internally affected by it and the brain had shown signs of getting affected and demoralised. Au contraire , those who were praised, felt elated and euphoric externally as well as internally. The moment you criticise or find fault, the person at the receiving end doesn't take it in his/her spirit and stride. At times, the non-acceptance of criticism's so subtle that even the affected person is unaware of it.

But it does take place. Haven't we all experienced this when we meet an astrologer? Don't we all say, 'Tell us everything, even if it's bad and negative.' But deep-down, we all expect to hear only the good things. And the 'soothsayers' are far more intelligent people. They never tell you anything bad because they can't afford to lose a potential client!! 'The more you say, you're unaffected by criticism, the more you feel hurt by it,' Nelson Mandela told South African Nobel laureate in literature Nadine Gordimer.


However 'enlightened' or 'evolved' a person may be, criticism grates on ears and praise warms the cockles of heart. This is pretty natural because we all thrive on admiration and wither when criticised. Sheikh Sadi, a Persian mystic and moralist, very aptly said, ' Beware of criticising a person. Even a saint may dislike it.' I've seen people drift apart because they were criticised. Now the pertinent question is: Why does criticism hurt and often stab like a dagger? Criticism is a pointer, it's a reminder that the person somewhere lacks something. However hard we may deny this, it's an interesting behavioural trait in all human beings that we (subconsciously) consider ourselves to be not just perfect but infallibly perfect at that.


Once this faux sense of perfection is punctured by criticism, we feel bad and crestfallen because till now no one dared point out that the emperor was naked! Our own bloated sense of importance is now at stake. The self-generated myth stands exposed. It's been detonated. Urdu poet Abrar Mohsin nicely put it, 'Meri tanqeed kar gaya/Dil ko kahin dukha gaya' (He criticised and deeply hurt me somewhere). To accept criticism sans any ill-feeling is humanly impossible. When someone showed the temerity to ask Asadullah Khan 'Ghalib', why he never had any master to teach him the nuances of versification and basic rules of poetry, Ghalib answered poetically, 'Ustaad chahe laakh mahram ho/Dil-o-zehan-e-Ghalib kisi ke ghulam nahin' (Let the master be a polymath/ The heart and mind of Ghalib aren't slaves to anyone).

There's no denying the fact that no one ever had the (audacious) ability to be the master of the redoubtable Ghalib who set new parameters in Urdu and Persian poetry. But it's also an undeniable fact that the scathing criticism of other poets and contemporaries embittered him (Ghalib) so badly that he wrote, 'Na sataish ki tamanna na sile ki parvaah /Na sahi mere asha'ar mein maani na sahi' (I'm neither elated by praise nor am I disturbed by criticism/Let my couplets be bereft of meanings).


Legend has it that, even the great Ghalib cried in desperation after penning this couplet and burnt some of his extremely beautiful but recondite Persian ghazals! Yet, there have been individuals who accepted it (criticism) ostensibly, albeit disliking it from within. That's enough!             

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