“Show gentleness, for if gentleness is found in anything, it beautifies it and when it is taken out from anything it damages it.”

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A colleague of mine told me before, that he believed gentle reminders don’t work, at least not for Asians. He said Asians need scolding, being shouted at, for things to work, for advice to be heard or followed.

I disagreed. Although to be honest, I had those thoughts before, up to a certain extent. I don’t believe in that anymore, especially after hearing the above quote.

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You see, I’m sitting for a specialist exam next week. The assessment includes seeing us communicate with the patients and/or their loved ones; the ill, the sad, the angry, the anxious; and they carry quite significant marks. Many of us from around the world are sitting for the exam, including Asians like us.

I attended a course within the last four days on how to pass this exam with flying colours. We were given scenarios and acted out as if it is the real exams, and more importantly, as if we were seeing the patients in our daily work. The exam is there to make sure that, on top of making the correct diagnosis and treatment, we communicate, educate the patient as best as we could and with the best manner.

In summary, good manners is expected, not only in the exams, but in our daily practice too.

We had the chance to see how the Brits speak to those around them, ie, the doctors and coordinators of the course speak to each other and to the wonderful patients and actors who came to help out in the course. It was all smiles and respect. They treated us very well and gave us positive feedbacks.

When they needed to give criticism, it was done in such a constructive way that we did not feel like we were put on the spot, picked on or judged. It felt like it was done purely to improve our skills and manners.

The last time I studied in hospitals on this side of the world was 10 years ago, and their good manners have not changed.

It was all good, until a senior doctor of an Asian descent took us for a round of teaching.

At first I thought, after all the years of working with the British, their manners still failed to rub on this person. Then we noticed that this person was only being rough and stern to fellow Asians, and very nice and sweet to the whites.

The first thought that came to our minds was, “racist.”

But perhaps it was not racism. Maybe this person had the same thoughts that my above colleague had, that Asians need to be scolded for us to learn. In short, maybe this person thought we needed “tough love.”

No, we don’t.

I believe we are all human beings, we have the same instincts, the same nature, at least deep inside our hearts. Our hearts respond to gentleness the same way, whether one is white or black, Asian or Latin. Our hearts do not know colour.

Of course there are exceptions. This is just my guess, but I think those who do not respond positively probably have major issues, psychologically or even with their physical health.

My aunt moved overseas more than ten years ago. Her son was such a naughty little boy (I guess it’s just like an average energetic and smart boy) that she had such a headache raising him up. He got scolded for many things, by many concerned family members.

At one point of time, my aunt read up about other options of bringing up such an active and smart child. Then she discovered that gentle persistence is the way to go. There are other ways to spare the rod without spoiling the child.

True enough, it worked.

He grew up to be such a fine teenager who is polite and gentle. He loves and respects his parents and would do anything for them. How often do you see such a 16-year-old boy? My grandmother would have been really happy to see him the way he is now.

Another aunt of mine had four very active boys, before giving birth to another three beautiful girls (consecutively). As with any other kids, there were problems with each of them, but what I saw was only her gentleness and patience with them. They grew up to become fine and respectable young men.

I was on the train the other day when I thought about it. If gentleness and beauty comes hand in hand, why is our people so rough to each other? Why do many believe that scolding and shouting is the only way to get our message across? Why are there still “tiger mothers” amongst us Asians? What are we worried about?

Maybe some people have never had others speaking gently to them. Maybe they have never experienced someone being soft and tender with them. Maybe our people is too poor, so much in a rush to make more money that we did not have time to sit down and look at someone into the eyes and give good advice.

Maybe we think that the time we have is so precious that we would rather shout to make sure our daily chores run quickly and smoothly, rather than sitting down and patiently explaining about why certain things need to be done in a certain way.

Maybe we truly believe that being harsh and rough is the only way forward, so when we do speak gently, we do it half-heartedly, not believing that it is effective.

A lot of maybes, yes. Maybe none of it is true. We would not know the real answer unless a proper study is done on this.

Educating, communicating our messages and advice are things that need to be done with patience. With patience come gentleness. People need to know that they are doing something for a good reason, not because “takut kena marah” (worried they will get scolded), be it children or adults, students or patients. It is an art that needs to be learnt and mastered, so that this world will be a more beautiful place.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Westerners are all kind and gentle or Asians are all rough. We all have good things that we could learn from each other. That’s why we were created physically and culturally different.

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The quote I put at the beginning of this article came from the most gentle of man that has ever lived in this world, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).