Soon after Laughter Clubs started gaining momentum, the wife of a Laughter Club member, telephoned me to complain that while her husband laughed heartily every morning in his Laughter Club, at home he continued to shout at the family members, just as he did earlier. Then she asked: Should not Laughter Clubs be doing something to check that laughter travels inside the members also?
When I requested her to clarify what exactly she meant by laughter traveling inside, she fumbled a little, as it was evident that she had not prepared herself for such a question. But, with some effort, she said that what she really meant was that, to be Laughter Club members in the true sense, they should develop the spirit of laughter also. I thanked her for the suggestion and assured her that it would be considered seriously. To be honest, I did this first to be polite, but her suggestion did not leave me, because while I had got used to calls imparting critical comments, this was the first time someone had, I felt, made a constructive suggestion. On further reflection, the lady’s suggestion struck me as very profound. After all, I asked myself, was it not true that laughter would not add up to anything very much, if a person did not shed at least some of his negativity?
After some serious discussion amongst those involved in the Movement, it was decided that the aims of Laughter Clubs be revised from “Laugh and be Healthy” to “Health and Happiness through Laughter and the Spirit of Laughter”, the spirit of laughter, being making not only one’s own self happy but also making others happy. Some members interpret this as laughter, and the spirit of the laughter becoming a part of the life and living of members.
The above I consider as an important step, along the route of the Laughter Club Movement, as it brought about a qualitative extension to the focus of the efforts and the action at Laughter Clubs. We now tried to identify actions as steps that would make not only the members happy but would also motivate and equip them to make others happy.
Looking back, I thought it would be a good idea to do something about those members who come for a daily guffaw, and had not changed. I thought this was a wonderful platform where people meet everyday, and it would be a good idea to adopt some resolutions, to bring about changes in their thinking. The idea was to change negative thinking into positive. We started looking for negative emotions and habits that stop us from laughing.
One common bad habit most people have, is criticizing others just to kill time, or just for the heck of it. During morning walks, the common topics of discussion are politics, the price rise, government corruption, pollution, traffic jams, the bad economy and the like, followed by problems relating to youngsters and other family members. I could not stop every one of them. But, I thought of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. To do away with the habit of criticising others, why not start complimenting others, and raise their spirits and self-esteem? One fine day, I made an announcement after a Laughter Session was over. “Ladies and gentlemen, today is Monday, and every Monday we are going to resolve that during the week, we will pay compliments to others. We will appreciate their good qualities and make more and more friends in our buildings, offices, social circles, etc.”
Paying compliments was the ‘First Commandment’ we introduced in our search for identifying various ways and means of sensible living. On Sundays, after the laughter session, we shared our experiences about paying compliments. To whom had Club Members paid compliments and what were the results? Initially, the response was not very enthusiastic, but some people thought it was a good idea. Many people found it difficult to pay compliments just like that, as it seemed like flattery and sycophancy. I repeatedly made announcements that one of the objectives of Laughter Clubs is health and happiness through laughter. The happiness aimed at is, not only to make one’s own self happy but also to make others happy, which further results in one’s own happiness. One of the ways to make others happy is by paying genuine and deserving compliments to others.
Some members got very good results and they started appreciating their spouses and children in the house, while others said good words to their servants. In India, very few people appreciate their wives with words, they may feel affection in their hearts but they may not verbalize their feelings. For example, very few people actually say to their wives, ‘‘I love you’’. One fine day, one of the members went home after the Laughter Session and told his wife “You are looking very beautiful”, as she was getting up from bed. She wondered what had happened to her husband, because he had never said this in the last 25 years of their married life. In the first place, he had never told his wife before, that she was beautiful, but when he said it, the timing was wrong. Had he said these words when she was dressed in her best, before going to a party, it would have made more sense.
I was surprised to know that many people find it very difficult to compliment others. The human tendency, by and large, is to see only the wrong and bad in others, ignoring the good, and then to criticize and condemn. As a result of this tendency, a lot of negative energy is generated and there is unpleasantness, bitterness, intemperance, tension and bad relations, all round. Therefore, the idea of sharing their experiences with compliment-paying was to give members an insight on how to gracefully give compliments. How many things can you compliment and in what ways? The most important thing we tell members, is to look for good qualities in others, and then appreciate them. Giving irrelevant, undeserved, unnecessary compliments might look like a gimmick or pure sycophancy.
Is Paying Compliments Necessary?
People of all ages and backgrounds, and at all stages of success and failure, need love and recognition in order to live happily. Everyone, if he is to function at his best, needs to be noticed and appreciated. Most of us want to be told how we are doing. If our best efforts are met with silence, we tend to become careless, negligent and hostile.
Each one of us has a mental picture of ourselves, a self-image. To find life reasonably satisfying, the self-image must be one that we can live with and can like. When we are proud of our self-image, we feel confident and free to be ourselves. We function at our best. When we are ashamed of our self-image, we attempt to hide, rather than express ourselves. In such a situation, one becomes hostile and hard, to get along with. A sort of miracle happens to the person whose self-esteem has been raised. He suddenly starts liking other people better. He becomes kinder and more co-operative with people around him. Praise is a like a polish that helps to keep one’s self-image bright and sparkling. By raising someone’s spirits and adding to someone’s self-esteem, you make him want to like you and co-operate with you. To flatter or put into words, emotions we don’t feel, amounts to insincerity that is easily spotted, and benefits none.
Withholding a compliment is cheating. It should be passed on as quickly as possible. It might give some unhappy person a moment of joy, or help him cope with deep despair. It will help someone defeat the two arch- rivals of human happiness — loneliness and insignificance.
Happiness Comes Back
As an artist finds joy in giving beauty to others, so also, anyone who masters the art of praising, will find that, it blesses the giver as much as the receiver. There is truth in the saying that “Flowers leave part of their fragrance in the hands that bestow them”. If you increase your sense of gratitude and your willingness to express it, you will make the people around happier, and you will become a happier person yourself.
How To Pay Compliments
One can pass on compliments in a casual conversation, or in a letter, or a written note. There is yet another way — that of third party compliments. When someone says something pleasant to you directly, there is a possibility of that being discounted as mere politeness or even flattery. There are many others who find it difficult to pay compliments directly, as it may cause some embarrassment. They can take recourse to what may be called ‘third party compliments’. This form of appreciation is much easier and could even be more effective. When indirect compliments reach the concerned party, they may be better than direct ones, because most people believe that if someone praises you behind your back, he probably means exactly what he says.
When To Pay Compliments
The golden rule of appreciation is - Do it now! Do it while your sense of gratitude is fresh and strong. If you feel a flash of thankfulness, act on it before the impulse goes away.
A Few Examples From Laughter Clubs:
Though the idea of paying compliments has not taken off fully, it has already made a good beginning. I would like to cite a few stories.
1. There is a cobbler who sits at the corner of the lane where I live in Mumbai. I found him fully involved and happy repairing shoes. One fine day, I stopped for a while and wanted to express my feelings about him. I said, “My dear Sir, you are doing yeoman service to humanity. Do you know that the job you are doing for a few pennies is considered a dirty job by many people?’’ He smiled and was thrilled to receive such a compliment. After that he smiles at me whenever I pass his shop. I could clearly see his spirits raised by my appreciation to his contribution to society.
2. On Sundays, during our extra meeting to share the secret, one member said, “I didn’t pay compliments to anyone but once when I was beginning to criticize someone, my inner voice suddenly stopped me saying, “Hey! Hey!! What are you doing? You are a Laughter Club member and you are supposed to compliment others!’’ That was an achievement, I believe.
To conclude, what the Laughter Clubs really seek to achieve is not only laughter outside us but also laughter within us. Paying compliments would result in what we would like to call “Inner laughter”, that is “the Spirit of laughter’’. I often ask Laughter Club members during our monthly meetings, “Why does one go on to make a lot of money, beyond what’s needed for one’s basic necessities?” It is to get appreciated and noticed. Building a palatial house has no meaning if you don’t hold parties and have more and more people appreciate your achievements and taste.
If you spend huge amounts of money only to get appreciation and recognition, there is no need to break your heart in earning that much money. If people spend so much of money in search of compliments, why not give them free and liberally?
Love & laughter
This article is from Dr Kataria's Book "Inner Spirit of Laughter" . You can download the E Book for just USD 8.95. To Buy Click Here.