Reality Check: Encouragement as a Caring Habit

In a world where it can feel that we have little control over so much, it’s helpful to recognize what we can control—especially when it has a significant effect on our quality of life.
The care and nurturing of relationships is something we can control. We may not be able to have every relationship exactly as we’d like it to be—the other person does have some say in the matter, after all. But we have control over what we do, and that’s not to be sneezed at.
In “Take Charge of Your Life,” Dr. Glasser list seven specific habits to improve relationships. These caring habits are: supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences. This new year, I’m choosing to look at each habit individually. Last week’s topic was supporting; this week we’ll take a look at encouraging.
Encouragement uplifts; it promotes thriving and flourishing. If you look at “encourage” as if it were hyphenated, it becomes “en-courage.” To help someone develop courage—or to build our own—is a positive, useful activity. How can we build courage rather than stay trapped in fear?
There’s plenty in life that’s scary. It’s always been so and that’s unlikely to change. If you want to help someone bolster their courage, one thing you can do is let them know that they are not alone. They have not been abandoned. Dread is reduced by simply knowing that we have someone who is on our side. Thus, encouragement may be as simple as offering a listening ear.
In addition, remind yourself, or your friend, of how they’ve handled difficulties before. Few of us go very far through life without having hard times of some sort. Remind yourself that you have emerged from difficulty before; that you have succeeded at difficult tasks, you’ve achieved good results from your good efforts. It’s easy to lose perspective when life seems to be going badly. We sometimes need to make a conscious effort to put events in perspective.
It’s also useful to self-evaluate. Keep an eye out for when you feel encouraged and optimistic, versus when you don’t. What are you doing? Seeing? Hearing? Thinking? If you have a less-than-optimal memory, it’s a good idea to write down what’s happening when you feel particularly encouraged (or not). You may see a pattern which can help you determine what actions are encouraging.
After a conversation, do you feel inspired or drained? I’m not suggesting you avoid all draining conversations, but it’s helpful to be aware of their effect. Pay attention to the attitudes that you are taking in if you follow social media, watch TV, or read. Choose encouraging influences. For example, I’m hardly an enthusiastic cook, but watching chef Jamie Oliver’s ever-cheerful approach to food can (sometimes) encourage me to put in a little extra effort!
Music, readings, mediations can all help build an encouraged frame of mind. For example, the “Rise Again” chorus in Stan Roger’s Mary Ellen Carter or perhaps “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” inspires courage for you!
Look at what encourages you, make note of it, and practice.
When we feel encouraged, we feel hopeful. We believe we can succeed. We see possibilities rather than disaster. We can make our choices out of confidence rather than fear, which I believe leads to more effective decision-making. What do you think?

This entry was posted in Relationships and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.