Don’t criticize what you don’t understand, son. You never walked in that man’s shoes. —Elvis Presley
Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots. —Frank A. Clark
I believe one important lesson we can all learn from the recent imbroglio between Philippine President Rody R. Duterte and U.S. President Barack Obama at the recent Asean Summit in Laos is this rule I had heard before and which I think Obama or his spokespersons had obviously breached: “Praise in public, criticize in private”.
White House and State Department officials had already spoken in public before the mass media that President Obama would question (or even lecture?) President Duterte about human rights in his on-going war against illegal drugs in the Philippines, during a scheduled bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 2016 Asean summit in Laos. President Duterte reacted angrily on this topic when asked by media, then the bilateral meeting didn’t push through. These series of unnecessary events could have been avoided if there were no public criticisms before the first ever bilateral meeting between these two leaders of traditional ally countries.
Second lesson lesson to be learned is we shouldn’t be quick in making judgement of others, without first talking to them, asking the full details and circumstances of their struggles or situation.
Does Obama or his officials understand the gravity and scale of the illegal drugs crisis of the Philippines which past leaders had failed to address, which has caused a horrific breakdown in peace and order nationwide affecting the human rights and safety of many tens of millions, spreading corruption in politics and the criminal justice system?
Has the U.S. officials verified facts about the deaths of illegal drugs suspects during police operations which are different from other unexplained killings, which they and others had lumped together as “extra judicial killings”?
Criticizing in private shows respect for others, fosters win-win scenario
Upholding this rule “Praise in public, criticize in private” shows respect for others and can foster a win-win situation for any business, organization and even for other relationships. It doesn’t matter if the relationship is between sovereign equals or between a boss and his or her subordinate, this rule generally applies to achieve harmony and success.
Let me cite an American example, to illustrate why Obama or his subalterns were wrong in the way they had expressed opinions via press statements or media interviews criticizing President Duterte’s difficult, draconian yet necessary war on the illegal drugs pandemic which has plagued Philippine society for years already.
The late American football coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers in 1960 once stopped a practice and shouted curses while lecturing his young quarterback named Bart Starr for making a poor pass which led to an interception during that practice. Starr later went to the office of the coach, didn’t deny his poor pass, but he said: “You expect me to be the leader of this team. I want to be the best leader I can be, but I can’t do that if you’re chewing me out in front of the team I am supposed to lead. … Now, I can take any chewing out you want to deliver, but all I ask is that you do it in the privacy of your office … I will be an even better leader for you if you do that.” The coach Lombardi never again publicly criticized Starr.
What was the result of this “Praise in public, criticize in private” policy? Their team went on to win five National Football League (NFL) titles in eight seasons and was honored with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The now 82-year-old Bart Starr is the only quarterback in NFL history to lead a team to five league championships (1961–62, 1965–67), as well as Super Bowls I and II. Starr also has the highest playoff passer rating (104.8) of any quarterback in NFL history and a playoff record of 9–1. His career completion percentage of 57.4 was an NFL best when he retired in 1972.
I believe it doesn’t matter whether we’re in geopolitics, politics, diplomacy, business, organizations, sports or even personal relations, we as human beings should try to respect each other by upholding the principle of “Praise in public, criticize in private” to lesson misunderstandings, rancor, hostility and other negative consequences.