Author and speaker John Maxwell tells of having the well-respected founder and CEO of a national restaurant chain over to his home for dinner. During the meal, his guest said, “John, do you know how to tell when someone needs encouragement?”
“No,” John replied. “How can you tell?”
We all get discouraged. It’s part of being human. When we’re discouraged, it’s hard to simply “decide to feel better.” That’s like running out of gas and hoping the tank fills itself. When it’s empty, it’s empty. We have to get fuel from somewhere else.
The words themselves give us a clue:
Dis-courage – to take the courage out of someone
En-courage – to put courage into someone
Think of a time when someone made a casual remark that sucked the wind out of you. They might not even know it happened, but their simple comment took the courage right out of you.
Think of another time when someone made a casual remark that poured life into you when you were down. Your tank was empty, and their simple comment filled it back up.
All of us have the ability to bring courage into another person’s life by caring enough to connect. It might not show on the surface, so we don’t always know when someone is down. But our casual comments will either move a person toward being bitter or better.
What are some simple ways we can encourage others?
- Think of what others do that encourage you, and do it to them.
- Hand-write a short note of thanks or encouragement that implies, “You’re not alone.”
- Catch people doing something right, and acknowledge it (publicly).
- Brag about them to someone else when they’re not around. (It’ll get back to them.)
- Spend time with them without checking your watch or phone.
- Take time for eyeball-to-eyeball, on-the-floor, undistracted contact with your kids.
- Write their boss a note when they’ve done something exceptional.
- In a restaurant, make eye contact with the server and find out something interesting about them. You may be the only one in their day who doesn’t see them as a servant.
- Listen without interrupting. Save your story for later.
- Don’t give advice when someone is hurting. Just be there.
- Believe in them. If they can’t believe in themselves, they can borrow it from you.
- Ask them for advice in an area of their passion or expertise.
- Remind them of how they’ve impacted your life in the past.
Being discouraged is like walking through a dark forest or down a deserted street at night. It’s scary on your own, but much less threatening when you’ve got someone next to you to share the experience.
Encouragement comes from people, and is given to people. In times of discouragement, we all need people we trust to come alongside us and build into our lives. They provide the courage when we can’t provide it for ourselves.
It’s the gift of presence.
Who has encouraged you when you were down?