The Kiasu Spirit in Singapore deters many Singaporean martial artists from sparring and losing because they have to admit defeat. Martial artists can be overwhelmed by the loss of face and the awkwardness of revealing weakness; they’re not humble enough to admit that the victor’s skills work and abilities are stronger.
A reason why many Chinese martial artists are unwilling is because Chinese society is very hierarchical. Face is a currency in the Chinese world of human relations. Most people wants to ascend to higher social status and no one wants to drop to lower ones.
However, it is very hard to improve if one does not accept and admit defeat and move on to become better. It is an emotional hurdle that must be crossed. It takes an honorable gentleman to be able to praise his opponent. It’s great moral integrity to value and give verbal and social regard to people who help you learn how to be stronger and better.
However many Chinese people tend to be brought up in a way they are reticent, they think carefully many times about the pros and cons (much more of the cons) before they speak. They also speak indirectly and are reserved when it comes to expressing their true feelings. They were taught that being too straightforward and having sharp confidence will be misinterpreted as arrogance. It keeps a lot of bad things in, but it also prevents a lot of good things from coming out of their mouths, their pens and keyboards. Well, we know that the habit of bottling up, the pressure cooker character, can store many negative things to explode out later, which they’re simply not saying or expressing enough good things to counteract. This is a serious character flaw which education systems of Chinese countries should make haste to address.
The reluctance to give praise can be an obstacle in their social progress because they can be seen as unwilling to say positive things, praise other people or even brag about their own ability. And what we are quite aware is they tend to be the not-so-glamorous naysayers who go ‘no you can’t do that’, ‘what if’, ‘yes, but…’. That’s not very good for our people’s reputation isn’t it… In many sporting situations, it was even hard for many people to praise their own teammates, and that is very bad! Playing the sport’s become less rewarding!
In the Sun Tzu Art of War and other classics on strategy, praising your opponents can also be used to make your opponents complacent and let their guard down; making them appear stronger than they are and making you appear weaker than you are. People might not want to be mistaken as plotting some scheme. Also, they might find it weird if people start thinking they have a glib tongue, instead of being quiet and ernest. So many ‘but’s right?
If we turn back the clock for many people, many Chinese parents hardly praise their own children. Many parents think that if they praise their kids and cheer on their success and achievements, they will be spoiling their kids. Another factor comes in: parents are higher up in the social hierarchy than children, so the expectation should be the parents not buttering the children with so much praises, but children always being thankful for their birth and the material and health support in their childhood.
Speaking of which, isn’t it beneficial to praise children more because it will help parents discover their children’s strengths and encourage their children to pursue those strengths and be successful in life later? There are so many parents who won’t praise their kids for scoring in the top 10% of Singapore’s education system, yet if most parents can their kids for having a talent in craftsmanship, technology or sport or some other non-academic skill, that can go a long way to guide them to unthinkable achievements in other fields a decade later.
This habit of not praising children is passed on from generation to generation; it is a vicious cycle; simply because whatever children learn from example leaves the deepest impressions in them and sticks with them for life. Thus, it is very important to admit and accept our parents’ mistakes and flaws too if we want to become better parents than they are, for the sake of their grandchildren! We have to admit our mistakes, defeats and our own shortcomings to our children ourselves, when they’re old enough to understand. We must abandon the notion that parents are always better than children. That is BS because if children are unable to become better than their parents, it’s the failure of the parents!
Think, how many parents can admit their mistakes and defeats to their children? This is why so many children are trapped by their parents’ limits. I actually spoke to many children young and old and they have problems praising their parents for their parents’ strengths and achievements despite knowing them for a lifetime. Unless they are from a rich and successful family, they can hardly find anything good to say about their parents except for the fact that their parents gave them life and they’re eternally indebted. It seems like if you do not praise your children they will most likely not praise you back in front of their friends and juniors in the family tree; even if thousands of years of Confucian teachings has taught them to value their parents.
From my personal experience, I get less of this with Westerners and many non-Chinese people. Even if their children do not manage to meet the standard but are trying to, they’ll still praise their children and acknowledge their effort. Positive feelings snowballs, and negative feelings also snowballs. Being nicer people is not just about not speaking. It also takes courage, confidence and self esteem to say good things.
Article by Leroy Kwok