I am starting to share encouragement stories from friends and readers.
I was sharing this idea when someone told me: “You can’t be intentional about encouragement. You never start your day thinking – I’m going to encourage someone today.
I beg to differ.
One of the big myths surrounding encouragement is that it’s only valuable if it’s spontaneous.
It takes practice.
Learning the art of encouragement starts with practicing awareness and listening.
How many moments do you think you might have missed because you weren’t aware until much later when it was too late, or someone tells you they could have used some encouragement at a time when you might have been right there not noticing?
When I asked my good friend Miriam Hughes about a time when she experienced encouragement, she thought for a moment and told me about the time when her brother has just passed away, and she had just left a relationship. She was upset and sad.
She was taking an art course at the time. The instructor made a point of catching her outside the classroom afterward. He told her that even though his art was selling well, and even though he had a most beautiful wife, and even though everything seemed to be going incredibly well, he lived in terror for when it would change.
His point to her was- everything changes – it won’t be like this forever. You will grieve and give yourself time, but you will come out of this and be okay. Kind of a strange message, but somehow it helped her at the time, and she felt better.
No words are precisely perfect. It’s the caring, the time, and the effort to say something that matters.
The point is that he was tuned in to her feelings. She did n’t say anything much; his level of awareness was high enough to recognize what she needed.
Many people are afraid to say anything when the subject of death comes up. They mostly don’t know what to say or are embarrassed that they will say the wrong thing, so they say nothing. This omission leaves the person experiencing the loss of a loved one feeling like nobody cares.
She told another story about complaining about one of her boyfriends to a friend. The friend looked at her and said: “When are you going to stop talking about this?”
It sounded slightly cruel, but it was the wake-up call she needed. Encouragement isn’t always light. Sometimes it is saying something with love that someone needs to hear.
There will be stories for a while. You may get a call, so be thinking who made a difference for you? I ‘m hoping they will inspire you as much as they do me.
Grant Grissom says
It seems to me that spontaneity may suggest authenticity, but it is the authenticity that is important, not the spontaneity. I hadn’t thought about "practicing" awareness and listening as steps toward encouragement. That seems true, and important. Encouragement comes more naturally to some folks that to others but I expect intentional focus upon awareness and listening would help all of us. But listening requires a good bit more that hearing words. Listening to the words is important, but listening to the "music" (affect, body language, tone of voice) is even more important. And more important that that is to "Listen with the ear of the heart" -the first sentence in St. Benedict’s Rule governing the lives of monks in his monastery.
Grant Grissom says
Spontaneity may suggest authenticity but it is the authenticity that is important, not the spontaneity. I hadn’t thought about how important awareness and listening are to the practice of encouragement. That seems very true, though listening must involve more than hearing words. It must involve hearing the "music" – the speaker’s affect, communicated less through words than through body language and tone of voice. And even more important than hearing the words or the music is to "Listen with the ear of the heart" – The opening line of St. Benedict’s Rule (instructions governing the lives of the monks in his monastery).