Encouragement is a gift for some, an art for others, but anyone can become great at. Here are five keys to being a better encourager.
It’s amazing how each person in our life fills a different role. Much like a well-tuned vehicle, each part works together to make the machine go. Just to name a few, there’s a suspension system that provides traction and helps us to steer, a cooling system that helps us regulate our temperature, and brakes that help us slow down and stop safely. Then there is the electrical system, that includes the battery powering the car and alternator that supports the battery. As we talked about previously, those that function as batteries for others are the encouragers.
We’ve talked about how to keep a good battery from going bad, but what constitutes a good battery in the first place? Encouragement is a gift for some, an art for others, but it is something anyone can become great at if they aspire to. How? I’ll give you a hint: it involves a level of unselfishness and balance.
Ingredients Of A Great Encourager
If you desire to become a stronger pillar for those you love or you don’t feel you are as effective at uplifting others as you’d like to be, consider these hallmarks of great encouragers:
Do twice as much listening as talking. Your encouragement may be ineffective because you are applying an inappropriate method for the situation or the person. How can you prescribe the right medication if you don’t allow the patient to tell you their symptoms? Take a moment to let people get it all out and really take in what they are telling you. Sometimes it may mean holding the phone and taking notes. Let the information they share with you guide your response, not just what you want to say.
Learn when to push and pull. This goes hand in hand with listening. I’ve had many instances where a person began to open up to me for whatever reason, but they wouldn’t go to the next step. Or better yet, they told me they needed to talk, but they were tentative when the time came. And you know what, I didn’t make them. I find that when I let people tell me what they are ready to share when they are ready to share it, it cultivates trust. Nothing makes a person fold up faster than prodding. If you create a safe place, people will feel safe with you. Sidenote: You do not always have to know the details of a person’s situation to encourage or pray for them. So stop asking! LOL.
Put compassion at the forefront. Now is not the time to insert your opinions or judgment. Sometimes people will come to you with self-imposed challenges. Or perhaps you would handle their situation differently. But you aren’t them, are you? It is possible to encourage and uplift someone without condoning or agreeing with them. People don’t come to us with their problems for us to reinforce their negative feelings. They are looking to us to reinforce the hope that things can change. Nine times out of ten, that person is already beating up on themselves enough; they don’t need your help. Besides, your expression of disdain is not a practical solution to the matter at hand.
4. Honest Optimism
Be honest, yet optimistic. One way we can express compassion is acknowledging the validity of a person’s problem. Let them know that it is just as real to you as it is to them, even you don’t understand or relate. However, that doesn’t mean getting a shovel and helping them dig the hole. No matter how bad it looks, it is not our job to commiserate with the person we are trying to help or egg them on in their hopelessness. That’s not very helpful, is it?
It’s okay if you can’t fix it. It’s not always about fixing it. Some people just need a sounding board or hand to hold. I call this the Ministry of Being There.
The Ministry of Being There
A few years ago, I was talking to my mother about a death we had heard about. We were sorry to hear that the person had passed on, but we were even more sorry for those who were left behind. Sure, when people pass on, somehow the cakes and pies seem to turn up on the families’ doorsteps before the word has gotten out! We attend funerals, send flowers and cards, and ask the family if they need anything. Then what?
After the fanfare has died down that family is left to pick up the pieces and deal with the hole in their heart – and their lives – left by the deceased. It’s not necessarily that we forget about those left behind, we often don’t know what to do. Nothing we say will bring that person back. We don’t want to do more harm than good. This doesn’t just apply to death, either. This can happen in any situation that is extraordinarily difficult.
This is where the Ministry of Being There kicks in. Maybe you don’t know what will make things better for that hurting person in your life. Maybe you are afraid to possibly put your foot in your mouth. Never underestimate the power of “I was just thinking about you.” Do you know how many people just wish someone would ask them “How are you doing?” With our seasoned love ones, it can be as simple as sitting with them. Sometimes we just need to know that we aren’t facing our challenges alone.
Practice Makes Better
All in all, we all have what it takes to be an awesome support to those around us, but it requires practice and lots of prayer. I leave you with this:
Let your faith be bigger than your fear, and know that the person leaning on you is doing so for a reason. They find something noble and positive enough in you that they sought you for solace! Be encouraged in that!
What qualities do you think a great encourager should possess? Let us know below!