Coddled much?

Disclaimer: All opinions here are purely mine and I am open to discussing them with you over a cup of coffee. Any offense taken is not intended and is the perspective¬†of the reader alone ūüėÄ

How thick skinned are you to criticism? How much of direct taunting, chiding or blunt opinions can you handle? I recently had an experience where a 16 year old took offense because I asked him/her to “read my previous email completely and answer my questions before replying”. This statement merely seemed to be a task to work on¬†and something to improve on next time to me. But then I was told that this was very harsh. I recalled my mental state when I was 16 and chuckled. This statement seems so mild compared to what we are told in Indian schools/ homes to push us to succeed. I was called an idiot on a daily basis. The funniest part is, I didn’t seem to get hurt, but merely accepted my fault or argued back and moved on. My brain cells then went a little bit deeper and thought, why are we so cautious about dealing with school kids? Has the internet scared us all? Is the slightest rap on the shoulder now considered bullying? If so, how do you tell any youngster (in school/ early college) anything?

Indian upbringing was a different story in an admittedly different era. We had no phones, no internet and our time was spent in the company of classmates, friends and family. We got teased, had arguments and learnt to resolve issues between¬†ourselves. Our playtime forced us to form teams, live up to expectations of the team mates or suffer the consequences of skipping turns of being the unfortunate soul to retrieve the ball from a strict neighbor. Almost everyone never complained to elders and any such person who brought their mom/dad to intervene in our affairs was cold shouldered. Today, it is perfectly okay to go off complaining, accusing and utilizing the system to meet our goals. The abuse of the protection provided to us today is leading to certain consequences that weren’t considered in the first place.

Internet bullying is awful and a heinous crime. I am in complete agreement. Today we live in fear of divulging the slightest information for fear of mishandling or wrongful misdoings. Especially in tweens or young adults who are new and headily experiencing the good and bad of the cyber era, our fear is justified. But is telling anyone they should do better also hurt as much? Does that immediately count as being a bully? How much coddling do you need to give youngsters to prevent them from being completely spoilt? I believe in calling spade a spade and enforcing this as early as possible. Accepting the fact that not everything you do is perfect and any criticism is actually opening an avenue for improvement is key for success later in life. I have seen kids these days who are applauded for the most mundane things, things that are¬†basic human behaviour/skills. There is a fine line between encouraging one to do better and just coddling someone so much that they can no longer take a no. It worries me that we are moving to the latter. Graduation parties are another pet peeve. Do you deserve a 50 person, huge bash at a gaming arcade with catered food for completing sixth grade? Why celebrate an achievement of a normal human being to be recognized as of average caliber? ¬†It also adds to the feeling of over achievement when in reality it isn’t.

I believe this toughness is slowly going out of people. The acceptance of failure or the acknowledgement that improvement is possible is suddenly not inculcated in a person when they grow up. They have to be tuned to these opinions. After all, we as people are work in progress. We are slowly learning, tumbling, fumbling through life. Growing up, when internet penetration in our daily lives was not as much, those boundaries seemed sufficient. Now,we need to also define what is acceptable and not just what isn’t. Slowly, the younger generation will turn out to be even more spoilt and unapologetic – just because you never told them a no.

Think about it. Meanwhile, let me go apologize to a 16 year old for telling them to read my instructions completely.

A fine balance

It is often said that this generation lacks manners. Elders complain about being ignored by the Whatsapping, Snapchatting generation and insist that good, polite behavior is rarely found these days. Ever since I joined the workforce i.e. the real world after the bubble of graduate school, however, I have been in a quandary. Direct communication, blunt evaluations and straight talk is encouraged. It helps solve problems, evaluate situations and once such an expectation is communicated, life becomes easier. It is a non-bureaucratic formula that eliminates the red-tape and fosters an almost peer relationship among the working team. In my limited experience in the corporate world, this seems to work really well. It took a little bit of time to adjust, given how accustomed we are to drafting our responses to seniors with utmost care and the tendency to immediately accept the ideas/suggestions given by those senior to us in the workplace.
But it is a tricky transition to personal relationships. Once you step out of your corporate zone, those rules seldom reply. I am not debating the minimum necessity of decency, manners or polite talk. However, the tendency to be blunt and direct lingers on. I have always suffered from the habit of being a bit too frank and direct, much to the chagrin of those around me. It then gets tricky, how direct is too direct? Do you start taking offense of blunt opinions? I think achieving this balance is the most tricky of all on a daily basis. To add to the woes, there is the technological burden – what to do if your friend has “Seen” your messages and not responded? Do you terminate friendships once you see the double blue tick marks but no responses for a day? Can a question like – why haven’t you responded since yesterday, break relationships?
Or maybe it is easier to shut up and nod your head. Alas, sometimes, that too is mistaken for something else. For a straight-talking, less densely brained Sagittarian, striking a fine balance between politeness, directness and incisiveness is the hardest task of all!!