The other side of criticism
AUG 21 — Each time the Olympic Games roll around, no matter where they happen, they form the centre stage for greatness as people worldwide watch with bated breath as records are made and superstars are born.
Worldwide, viewers go “ooh” and “aah” as high jumpers soar over the bar, athletes sprint their way to glory and so on, but equally there are just as many negative comments as there are positives, especially when crowd favourites fail to meet the high expectations placed on them.
The Internet has made it an easy affair for people to spread hatred and criticism from the comfort of their own homes as well as remain anonymous. American street slang gives the name “haters” to people who like to sow baseless seeds of negativity.
I deliberately put the word “baseless” into the previous sentence because in many cases, these accusations really are baseless. How many of the people putting up negative comments about sports actually play those sports? Out of those who do, how many of them are good enough to qualify for their national teams, let alone for the Olympics? Out of these then, how many place in the finals, or win medals?
It doesn’t just happen in sport.
How many people complain about doctors or nurses who actually are doctors or nurses? What about waiters, chefs, musicians, or even the civil servants who work at the local passport office? Can we comment on things that we don’t really know about? Should we?
I’m not saying that nobody should criticise anyone else. We all need healthy doses of criticism, and some people even thrive on it. Yet nobody can argue that it is much easier to hand it out rather than take it in. It takes guts to be able to shut down our natural defences when faced with “attacks” like these and try to see the situation from someone else’s point of view. It takes even more courage to be able to learn and grow after someone else has told you something unpleasant about yourself.
Everyone faces criticism at some point in their lives, and often it may come from someone who cares about you enough to want you to be better than you already are, but just as often, it can just be someone who just likes to put other people down. The trick is to work out which category these criticisms fall into.
And if you have to shoulder the unenviable task of criticising someone else, especially to their face, this article should remind you, just for a moment, to think about how what you say is going to affect the other person. Maybe cut out a few of the sharper words that may be unnecessary. Maybe delete that comment that you were about to type because you really wouldn’t be helping the person improve by saying what you were about to say. Maybe change your criticism to praise instead.
This year is the first time Malaysia has won two Olympic medals since 1996. Sixteen years of waiting later, our amazing athletes have achieved something great. Rejoice in our successes, and comfort our losses. Provide constructive criticism if you have the experience or expertise to. Who knows? We might just win several more.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.