Those words from our parents that tell us they approve can mean so much to us. And yet parents often, even though they approve, have trouble communicating this without a ‘but’ on how it would be even better. And no matter how hard once we stick our but in there it is all they can remember. Counselors will say a good apology never has a ‘but’. The truth is most of us have forgotten how to be encouragers. We are more concerned about having our selves legitimized than we are about encouraging each other.
The paradox is the reason we cannot totally encourage another is we have not been encouraged ourselves thus our need for validation. It becomes a closed circle. I had a father who taught me to always question. My brothers (there were no sisters) would stay up until two or three in the morning debating religion, politics, and other issues of the day. During these times my father would annoyingly switch sides of an argument to assist the side he currently perceived was losing. It was these late night sessions that taught me to look at both sides of an issue and to always seek to improve your argument. This was a wonderful gift that in a lesser way I have tried to ingrain in my own children. But the dark side of this constantly debating subjects was you were always dissatisfied with the solutions. There was no celebration because you knew it could have been done better.
And this is the way our children and others feel when they achieve a success and we say that was good but have you thought of trying this. We need to grant them a moment of celebration before we offer our suggestions for improvement.
But sadly most of the time what we have to offer is not that useful. It is a difference in taste, a difference in emphasis, but not an improvement just different. So what to do? First before you offer a critique ask ‘is it the moment for it?’. Secondly, before you offer sage advice search to see if it is needed. Will the world fall apart if you do not grant your wisdom? And finally does it offer real encouragement and pride in their work? If it does not leave it unsaid. The hardest thing in the world to do for most of us.
Oftentimes my first encounter with an individual can sound something like this. Oh I have heard of you. You do such and such have you ever thought of doing…… Which leaves me wondering do they approve of what I do? Since they have offered nothing but a critique. It is always best to let words of encouragement come when first meeting someone (presuming you know anything about them).
In the final analysis in any situation you should ask yourself am I subtracting or adding to this situation. If you are subtracting you may need another approach or to withdraw from the situation.
The Quakers who are famous for using consensus decision-making have three ways you consent to an action. One is to say yes which means you will work toward that end. The other is to say I do not agree but I do not feel strong enough about it to oppose movement forward. Then of course another is to say I not only say no but refuse to let you go forward. Now in theory most of us if we are honest would fall in the second category of I disagree but I do not really care that much about this issue so go ahead. Truth be known my opinion on most things does not matter only an overblown ego thinks otherwise. You can be a discourager if every opinion of yours is held as of ultimate importance. Sometimes it is best to let people go ahead.
In life we can be additions or subtractions; it is in our hands. Hopefully we want to be encouragers who do not stand in the way of others trying to move forward.