Some of my readers know that my background is in Education and that I am currently studying work motivation. My background is also mixed with other work areas, including the honor of domestic roles, but at the core of who I am is a counselor. My inner wiring is a mix of an “encouraging discerner with a bit of seasoning.”
For example, I can still recall helping my friend Robin B. in the 6th grade – when she did not want to come out of the girl’s restroom because of a botched perm. It was natural for me to find a few words that “she” needed to hear during that devastating moment. Or the story my Aunt Maxine and I share when she says that I randomly spoke “words of life” to her when she was diagnosed with lung cancer in the 80’s (BTW she ended up not having it – phew). I have other examples too, but you see, even though there is a natural “helping” strength here, I never wanted to use this skill to make money as a therapist – for many reasons, but mainly because my favorite way to use the informal part of this ability is “in everyday life.”
For example, talking to someone at a cook-out – where a bit of shared chemistry leads to some succinct sharing of narratives that relates to what the person is wrestling with. Not all the time, but I just like being available for moments when a little life sharing can help pay it forward! One of my most special “little counseling” moments comes from the year of 1994. It was two days before Christmas. I was working the receptionist desk at one of my sister’s shops during a “rough” winter break from school. One of the stylists and I were locking up the shop (the same shop that I met fellow blogger Andrea in last November). The stylist was bummed out. You know, it was that typical holiday stress stuff many people experience – with holiday expectations, life status issues, pressure, etc. And while I cannot even remember what I said to her – as we were busy shutting things down– I will never forget the way she looked up at me and said something like, “If you are trying to encourage me, it’s working…” I think she was bummed out to be single (again) at the holidays – and I reminded her of the VALUE of her single days – and yadda – yadda –
The mood of this beautiful lady changed from heavy to light – this young woman with her sassy all-black outfit, thick, dark eyeliner, and pro-angled hairdo. I also felt encouraged – because affirming and encouraging someone has a rippling effect… In about 15 minutes that night, we bonded in a way that warms the heart – and because I was not just thinking of myself that night – because I took a minute to think about a specific (and genuine) comment to give her – well it made a difference!! Please note that this is not just a matter of giving a generic compliment – because while compliments can be great – sometimes the GENERIC compliment is weak!! And bull-crap compliments do not ever edify –
Here’s the thing, you do not have to have an innate counselor side to encourage people. It just takes being mindful of it! This does not mean you need to be over positive – because that is annoying and so unnatural – and not always needed….
It just takes realizing that words either build up or tear down.
Life and death are in the power of the tongue and sloppy speech can be very damaging. There IS a difference between positive and negative words – and the healthiest people I know are the folks that are AWARE of the power of their words!
Words of Affirmation….
I cannot recall the book I got this from, but an author suggested that everyday – we should try to find at least one or two comments to give to affirm those around us. Or we should try and shoot for a couple in a week – because it can enrich ALL relationships while it builds up a person!
It is kind of like giving a compliment, but the comment is specific and genuine. It forces you to look for the good in someone – and guess what, it gets easier with time. It takes effort to stop looking for flaws – and to stop being so critical – and to start finding the good.
At first it can be hard to come up with “words of affirmation” – but with practice, it gets easier! With a little practice – you find yourself looking for the positive – and then acknowledging it – and all those little things just start to change the entire mood and atmosphere. It makes people thrive!
Now sometimes we need to speak hard truths or when the time is right, we might need to point out growth areas or speak up about important things that someone needs to see for health- but too often we miss the daily opportunity to let the simple power of edifying words permeate the air with a pleasant tone – whether at work – at the office – in our neighborhood – or connecting via social media.
When we start looking to use WORDS that edify – we sometimes then start minimizing the negative or downplaying annoyances because we are able to focus on a strength or two!! This is life giving. This makes life better. Especially in a world where people are assaulted with negative message after negative message. Sometimes the baggage we carry – in the variety of suitcases we all have – well many times we do not even realize that a bunch of verbal assaults have been soaked up – and that buildup, which was added to other strains, well it has maybe led to cynical, cold, hard-ass, sarcastic moods because of all those heavy suitcases – and maybe you need to decompress and clean out those bags!
Recently, I was having one of those little ol’ impromptu share sessions – (one of those indirect counseling sessions that I think should occur more and more as we share from experience and pay it forward to help as we are able – with boundaries of course). The topic of anger came up because this guy walked away from a lady and started making fun of her voice – and as he was totally slamming her (with his sloppy, unchecked behavior) and we started talking about how a sarcastic and high cynical spirit was possibly from unrest inside of him. We noted how heavy slamming of others likely relates to wounds and anger. Many times I will just let things go – like I do not always “have” to point out sloppy behavior -and that would be exhausting to have to do all the time – it would be unnatural – and not even helpful – BECAUSE people have to be a at certain point to even receive certain tips for growth. Also, there are issues of setting, defensiveness, trust, social account withdrawal, etc.
But this guy is also trying to stop alcohol abuse and he is hungry for understanding his behavior – so we just chatted it up about how a “put down spirit” – or the little teasing jokes that always point out someone’s flaws (or make fun of people)– well it is often from not being aware of how damaging that outlook can be – and many times it is also the sign of unresolved inner pain and unresolved baggage. Sometimes the “slamming” of others is from being unaware and careless, while other times it’s from inner hurt and imbalance (which CAN be assuaged – but it just takes time).
During our years of moving around the country
and wasting money, I was able to try different jobs as we moved, which is much cooler in hindsight! For about a year, I had a special job as a counselor in Florida – where I taught parenting and occupational workshops and also led individual and group counseling sessions. I have some photos and a big notebook of memories from this job that will be put into a little ol’ book when the time comes…..
Anyhow, instead of asking the clients “if” they had any anger, we just acknowledged that everyone has anger – and many times have anger buildup. Anger is a natural emotion that can EASILY build up– and in order to find and maintain life balance – one has to start exploring the suitcase of anger. But this “exploring and sorting” of anger takes time – and it can be quite unique for each person. Anger is a God-given emotion that is a gift, but unresolved anger becomes destructive and like a ball and chain on the ankle, unresolved anger can lead to all kinds of imbalance, which then gets expressed in things like put down comments, a critical spirit, addiction, or escapism behavior.
We all have hurt and gunk, that is life; but when we bury, ignore, or mask this gunk – well that is what leads to excessive alcohol consumption, highly addictive porn use, or any other escapism activity…. And sometimes anger just indirectly gets expressed in a negative mood with lots of sloppy and destructive words.
So maybe this week = or this summer = spend some time becoming more aware of your words = and see if you have anger to sort through in different areas.
How are you really doing?
Are your comments always sarcastic – or even belittling? Or are they over zealous and fake?
Do you even know how you come across?
Are you refreshing to be around or do your words subtly DRAIN people???
In closing, using “words of affirmation” – applies to yourself as well. Stop coming down so hard on yourself – or maybe you are the type that needs to start looking inward and stop puffing yourself up falsely. Maybe you are the type that cockily ignores things – maybe it is time to humbly improve!
It may be time to get real and find out if you are tearing people down – or building them up.
Words have power – so why not choose words that edify and build up- and not every hour of every day – because some days can be difficult and really pull on you and you may not have anything to give. But there are so many times when a few words can infuse others with soul strength, can improve everyone’s fluctuating self-esteem, and can buffers some of those overly readily available negative assaults.
Have a great Monday – and make it your goal to encourage someone today (or this week)– and also encourage yourself with something along the way too – because using edifying words is a simple, yet potent way to infuse life into the soul.
One more video for you…. “Speak Life” by Toby Mac!
Examples or words of affirmation….
~Instead of telling a child “I like the way you clean your room” – you can instead say, “The way you line up your shoes says something about your clean style – and I think that’s cool.”
~You can tell a teen, “I like that you do not choose to wear labels on your clothes, it shows that you do not have to wear labels to impress….” Or for the ones that ARE a walking billboard – well just find something else that is specific for them.
~We recently had a teen friend over and his manners were so great that day – so I made a point to tell him – I said, “You know, I always knew you were nice, but today I realized that you have really good manners… and that’s just classy….” This young man beamed – and even stood a little taller. To think…. my succinct and genuine “20 second comment” had such a nice impact – very cool!
~Here is a simple example that happened with my spouse last week. He has very little hair left and while I am also sporting a very short do this spring, we were all talking about shaved heads and without realizing it – I just said that I liked his ears. I was doing stuff in the kitchen while some folks sat at the counter and I am not sure how the topic of hair even came up – and not sure if I have ever complimented his ears before (ha!) – but the soft little half-smile he had when I said that – well it reminded me about the power of words!!!
~And at the hospital the other night, the nurse that was caring for my son (he is okay – PTL – and I will share the story another time) well this nurse kept using his name and she had such a sweet style – but instead just saying a generic, “Thanks for the good care,” I thought about it for a second and said, “Thanks so much for the personalized care – your beside manner is so smooth…” and I grabbed her a pack of chocolate almonds from the GS.
okay, enough for this post – peace out! ~y.