These days, I am focusing on how I can be a better encourager by detailing what kind of support I like to receive. In compiling the following list, I’ve recognized a lot of bad conversational habits of mine! Check out the list and see what you think:
What would you add to this list? Does this cover the bases pretty well? Let me know in the comments!
- I must remember that I am in this person’s space right now to soothe away fear, guilt, and shame. Anything else would be counterproductive.
- I must avoid making broad character judgments about them solely based on their temporary emotional state. (Especially negative judgments!). Instead, I must let their emotions flow on by and listen for the truths and beliefs hidden in them.
- I must remember that what makes me feel happy and positive may not necessarily do the same for them.
- I must avoid giving advice until they ask for it. (!!!)
- I must realize that they have a lifetime of experiences I know nothing about, and so I won’t automatically understand everything they are thinking, feeling, and saying. Instead of asking for clarification and explanation, I must simply listen.
- I must not mock or belittle their suffering, or try to one-up them by sharing something worse I’ve been through. My personal experiences are not important in this moment–listening is.
- I must not shame them for any bad choices they have made. Instead, when asked, I may offer solutions for how to move forward from them–for instance, not just suggesting that they change their thoughts, but showing them how their thoughts can change. (This is where personal experiences, book recommendations, etc., can come into play.)
- I must keep everything they say in confidence unless they are threatening self-harm.
- I must not let this listening and encouragement be a one-time thing.
- I must advise them to seek professional help if this seems like more than just a down mood or temporary setback.
Just because I believe in something with all my heart doesn’t make me correct about it.
This is something I’ve been grappling with the last several days. It’s hard at first to think that a belief I hold so close to my heart could be wrong…but then again, knowing that my thoughts are malleable, influenced by such things as hormones, lack of sleep, and low blood sugar, it gives me some hope, too.
For instance, those wildly negative thoughts I sometimes have about myself at 2:00 AM aren’t necessarily true just because they seem to be while I’m battling hunger and insomnia. And other people’s negative thoughts and words about me aren’t necessarily true either, because they are influenced just as easily. So any thought or belief I hold to doesn’t mean I’m automatically right about it–it just means I think I am right, until proven otherwise.
And if I’m proven wrong, so what? Being wrong is as natural and common as passing gas! Sure, it’s unpleasant in the moment (LOL), but once the wrongness dissipates, I can move on. Having been wrong doesn’t invalidate anything about me, and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. And if other people try to force their beliefs on me, it doesn’t make them bad people, either–just people who don’t yet know they can be wrong without being hurt or unloved. I don’t have to believe them, and I don’t have to guard against them or hate them, either. Their thoughts, faith, and other opinions do not have to affect me at all, because theirs are as fragile and fallible as mine.
(This might not seem earth shattering or life changing to anyone else, but it’s really been helping me get through some tough things! I hope this will help someone else, too. ❤️)
This is something I’m trying to work on since my emotional setback a couple of months ago, because it’s been modeled to me so wonderfully:
- Treating every person I interact with as if they need to know they are worthy of love. (Recently it’s been too easy for me to forget that other human beings need the same kind of boost I have been needing!)
- Showing compassion, encouragement, respect, and forgiveness through everything I say, do, and write to them. (This means cutting out stuff like gossip and constant venting, the latter of which is a real challenge for me!)
- Giving this same treatment to myself once I have helped someone else, because the “worthy of love” tank needs refueling after helping. (As I’ve found out, when you help others and forget to help yourself, pretty soon the tank runs dry!)