Most of the things that trouble and pain us every day are centered on problems in human relationships.
Yet almost all of them can be entirely resolved by changing our attitudes a bit—unlike the suffering caused by illness or heavy debts.
The reason is that the root of almost all problems in human relationships is the way we speak.
If we start to be careful about that, we can begin building better human relationships from that very instant.
Among the Seven Types of Non-material Giving, Shakyamuni Buddha speaks of the Gift of Kind Speech and the Gift of the Heart.
The Gift of Kind Speech means speaking to others with sincere words of kindness.
Put more simply, it means to praise.
The Gift of the Heart means to speak sincere words of gratitude.
Put more simply, it means to say things like, “Thank you,” “That’s wonderful,” “That must have been hard to do,” “That makes me really happy,” or “I’m so grateful.”
Kind words spoken when we are suffering, words of thanks spoken in appreciation of our efforts and hard work—these gladden our hearts, making us feel “It was good to have done it!” and “I’m glad I did my best.”
We are happy when we are given spending money or presents, but the gift of good words remains longer in the heart than these.
We never forget the words that made us so happy, no matter how many years pass; they continue always to encourage us.
If we are able to convey to someone words that truly gladden his heart, we may then enjoy his good will for our whole lives.
There is something important to remember when you praise someone: people are much happier about having their hard work and efforts praised than about the actual results.
If you are being treated to home-cooked food, it’s good to try to figure out just where the person cooking took pains and made special efforts.
So, for example, if the soy-simmered fish is tender almost to the bone, it was probably simmered for quite a long time.
Perhaps a pressure cooker was used.
If there’s no “fishy smell,” no doubt various herbs were used in cooking it.
If in such a case you say things like “It must have taken a long time to cook this.
Did you use a pressure-cooker?” or “What kind of herbs did you use? It’s really delicious!” your host and cook will be very happy.
Just saying “This is delicious” is an inadequate return for all the trouble the cook has gone to in preparing it.
So it’s important to figure out in just what way the cook went to special trouble in making the dish.
If you’ve been taken to a restaurant, there’s probably a reason why that particular restaurant was chosen, among the large number of possibilities.
You should say “What a fine restaurant! How did you find it? I really enjoyed it.”
If you do, the other person will be pleased, thinking, “She’s sensed the trouble I went to in choosing this particular place.”
The quality of the restaurant and the excellence of the food are obvious effects.
The trouble the host has gone to in arranging all this is not so obvious; but if you remember to notice, praise, and express thanks for it, your host will become all the more fond of you.
Even if you can’t immediately figure out what particular efforts your host made, you shouldn’t say simply, “It was delicious,” “I’m glad you invited me,” or “Thank you.”
It’s better to tell why you thought it delicious, why you were glad to be invited, and why you are thankful, giving concrete reasons.
Your host, having heard this, will realize that you appreciate his efforts and will be full of good will toward you.