July 10, 2017

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Who is more trustworthy?

Khin Maung Myint

This question is incomplete. What I want to ask is: “Who is more honest, the positive sounding  person or the negative sounding person?”. Most of you may answer that the positive sounding persons are. I only partially agree with you, because I’m of the opinion that, as not every positive sounding persons are positive minded nor honest, so also, not all negative sounding persons are negative minded nor dishonest.
Before proceeding any farther, I should state my concepts of the terms “positive sounding” and “positive minded” and also the “negative sounding” and “negative minded”. A person may not be positive minded though he speaks only positive words, and a person who speaks negative words is not always a negative minded person. The first person may not be telling the truth or he is just flattering or sweet-talking to please others, especially his superiors to get favours. While the second person’s words may sound negative, they could be the truths and not flatteries like the first one’s, but he risked being labelled as a negative person and earn the wraths of his superiors. His honesty, sincerity and loyalty didn’t permit him to tell lies just to please others. In fact the second type of person is more honest and loyal than the first one and thus more trustworthy. Here, I don’t mean every positive speakers are liars and every negative speakers are honest.
Thus, what I want to suggest is, don’t be  hasty to label someone a positive person or a negative person by judging on their words. People in high positions should be able to assess and evaluate their subordinates correctly so as not to mistake a person, either to be a positive or a negative person. Here, based on my experiences in the different services during my career days, I had learned a good lesson that being outspoken could also be misunderstood as negativity. I had served in the administrative fields for most of the time and I deemed it my duty to feed the true situations to my superiors. However, as an outspoken person I would sometimes argue vehemently to let them know the true situations, but was mistaken by most of my superiors as a negative person, before they understood me well enough.
At this juncture, please allow me to cite one incident where I was misunderstood and accused of being a negative person. At that time, as part of the self-sufficiency programmes, we had to grow sunflowers. That task was assigned to me. As I hailed from Maymyo (now Pyin Oo Lwin), I was somewhat familiar with this particular plant, as they were grown extensively there and my late mother used to grow them in our backyard. I knew what type of soil they like and could thrive on. From my experience, I knew that the plot of land available to me was not suitable for growing any seasonal crops or vegetables.
Although I knew that for fact, I didn’t say anything to my superior straight away. I went to the the Township Agricultural Department and requested their help to conduct soil tests and asked for professional advice. The results showed that the soil was very acidic and not at all suitable for any seasonal crops, including sunflower.
When I reported the infeasibility of growing sunflower and suggested that we shouldn’t attempt it, my superior said it was a policy handed down from high up and we must do it. I tried to talk him out of it without any success and I was even likened to “a warrior who had no more arrows left before going to war”. That remark was just short of accusing me of being a negative person. Being a person who didn’t want to give up easily, I told him sarcastically that I’ll do as told and added that we would at least be able to harvest  flowers to be used as offerings to God. He was not at all pleased and told me that I was a negative person and said it was an order. I couldn’t help, by complied.
Sunflowers usually grow to average heights of at least six feet or more depending on the type of soil. With all the labours and fertilizers invested into the project it was a total failure. My sunflower plants were no taller than two feet and although tiny buds appeared in due course of time, they didn’t blossom as they withered away before flowering.
Then only, my superior was convinced and being a good leader admitted his mistakes and apologized for misunderstanding me.
This was not the only time I was misunderstood as being a negative person. I had been told many a times, straight to my face or behind my back, that I was a negative person.
One of my superior told me that he knew I always spoke the truth, but  although I may be speaking the truth some superiors may not like it and advised me not to argue with the superiors. With all due respect to him, I disagree with him. Because if there is no one to point out the pros and cons and the tell the truth, the superiors could make wrong decisions.
Thus I strongly believed that every sweet-talkers or those who echoes their master’s voice are not honest or loyal and though they may seem to be positive persons, in fact they are not. This conclusion may be a bit abstract and unacceptable to some, but I have sound reasons to back it up.
During the days of our Kings, most of the ministers and the palace staffs always told the Kings only good things they wanted to hear and avoided telling them the bad news and always complemented everything the Kings did or said, though they may not really meant them. Even when addressing the Kings they used long salutatory phrases that were just nonsensical and flatteries. When the King asked about the situations of the country, they would answer, “Your Almighty, due to the grace of your glory, the country is peaceful and there is abundance of rice and water and the country is prosperous and the people are happy and satisfied”, while the people were poor and and suffering and the dacoities were rampant in the remote corners of the country.
In reality those were words of flatteries and were far from the truths, but none dared to say otherwise. Such people got the favours of the Kings. On the other hand the ones who told the truths had to bear the brunt of the wraths of the Kings, as in the case of a minister by the name of Ananda Thuriya, who was imprisoned for telling the truths. Here my analysis is: most of the Kings and for that matter even some persons holding high offices, thought those who sweet-talked to them and lied to please them were positive minded and the ones who told the truth was a negative minded persons.
Today, those traits still exist among some of our bureaucrats and I would like to suggest that it’s high time to get rid of these despicable mentalities or mindsets. They should be able identify the fakes from the genuinely positive persons so as to avoid being flattered. They should know that those who tell the truths instead of flatteries are the honest ones who can be relied upon.
In conclusion, I would like to analyze briefly, the word “criticism”. Most thought that criticism is finding faults and thus is a negative attitude. In fact criticism is double faceted; it can either be positive or negative. Pointing out the mistakes or faults or short comings of others so that they can correct in time and avoid committing them again is positive criticism, where as, blaming or condemning others whether they are  right or wrong is negative criticism. Thus critical persons are not always negative persons. People holding high offices should be able to differentiate between a positive criticism and a negative criticism and between positive and negative persons correctly.

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