[FOUNTAIN]How to give praise from the shadowsHow do people respond to a reproach? To find out, Walter Weis of Boston University conducted an experiment. He distributed a questionnaire to a group of students and told them that the survey was to test their creativity. After the survey, he told half of the respondents that their brains were outstanding. The rest were told that their intelligence was below average. Of course, the results had been fabricated by Mr. Weis.
He then handed out another questionnaire asking whether capital punishment should be taken against an offender who was a minor. Many of the students who had been branded “below average” in the previous survey responded that the minor should still be punished. The number of supporters in this group was more than twice of those from the group that had been told it was smart. The students who had been angry and frustrated expressed their opinions more negatively and aggressively. The experiment reminds us that we need to be very careful and sensitive when criticizing others.
There was also an experiment on the effects of getting compliments. American psychologists Elliot Aronson and Darwyn Linder used four types of conversation methods in the experiment. First, a person was praised from start to finish. Second, a person was praised at first but put down midway. Third, a person was put down initially, but complimented in the middle. Fourth, a person was put down throughout the conversation. Of the four methods, the third was proven to be the most effective.
How then should we give compliments? A Japanese lawyer and prolific author of books on life, Nobuo Takai, mentions the “compliment of shadow” of Confucius in his book, “The Power of Three Minutes.” A student asked Confucius, “What is the most effective way to compliment a person?” Confucius responded, “A compliment of shadow would be good.” When the student asked what that was, Confucius said, “Someone told me that you will make it big someday.” In other words, a shadow compliment uses indirect praise.
The second half of the president’s term began on August 25. It is true that so far there has been much criticism, both written and verbal, of the president. When criticized, a person has the tendency to become aggressive. The rampant attacks on him might have made the president more aggressive, as he has talked of retreating from the “front line” or shortening his term in office. How about we refrain from condemning him, and instead give him more compliments? Wouldn’t it be more effective to give him “shadow compliments?” Let me try to think of how I might compliment the president.
Well, nothing pops into my head at the moment.
by You Sang-cheol
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
A new epicenter of social conflict
Lessons from a president
Tales of Chairman Lee
Chinese way of tackling challenges
Time to step up climate action