Feeling Good: Encouraging Others

by teresalaynebennett

photo of hand with thumb up in an encouraging thumbs-up position

Give out attaboys like there’s no tomorrow!

Though you may have been conditioned to respond only to positive suggestions, you might want to pay attention to negative suggestions from time to time (like right about now). They’re especially profitable when we fail to see ourselves accurately – and who doesn’t do that from time to time?

That’s my disclaimer for what’s to follow.

The subjects of this post and the next one deal with negative behaviors that are quite familiar to me. So, dear reader, I’m speaking to moi as much as I’m speaking to you. Both are about behaviors that – when I slip into them – I just want to kick myself. Here we go.

Keep your poison to yourself. 

Ick. Negative. Yes, it is. And we all need to be reminded to do it.

Why?? Why do we have so much trouble keeping the poison to ourselves? Don’t know. Can’t speak for you, but when I’m a teensy bit jealous, unwell, or just plain disappointed with life, I have been known to drip acid into a conversation, tainting the speaker’ feel-good news. I don’t want to pour poison, but I do it anyway. What is up with that??

I can also tell you from experience that contrary to what you may’ve heard, “getting the poison out” seldom makes us feel good, and it certainly doesn’t encourage others. Venting – regardless of how justifiable it may seem at the time – is raining on other people’s parades. When I do this, I feel even worse because the drenched results of my poison-pouring are staring me in the face.

A real life example is the best way to illustrate any idea, so here we go – an example of how someone you know may be pouring out their poison on you to ensure you do not feel good. It’s always easier to see faults when they’re in someone else’s front yard, right? Carl Jung, though I’m certainly not an avid fan of his, states this concept in a more positive way: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding about ourselves.”

Let’s say life is good for you right now. A year ago, you stewed for weeks before putting a down on your condo, afraid you really couldn’t afford it. Well, well: big happy surprise. You’re making the payments with no sweat, and you’ve had extra bucks to jazz it up. Your manager thinks you’re the coolest dude since Steve Jobs and has been hinting at Something Big coming up in your near future with The Firm. You made a New Year’s resolution to loose 30 pounds by the end of the year; it’s June and you’ve lost 20. You’re ahead of schedule, and there’s no stopping you now. Yessss! Life is good.

Except for your best “friend.”

For what seems like forever, he’s blathered about how his workplace teammates are losers, his supervisor is an idiot, and how he’s sick and tired of his landlord doing nothing to fix the hot water heater. You’ve heard this wimpy whining every time you’ve had a conversation with him for the last six months.

You used to talk about how you single-handedly installed a very cool, upscale, bathroom faucet and about the big-screen TV you got for an absolute steal. You used to pass on – humbly, of course – kudos from your boss. When he commented on your new Dockers, you let slip that they were an old pair you could fit into once again.

Wasted breath.

Could he give you just a little attaboy every once in a while? He could not. Could he at least talk about the drop-dead-gorgeous summer weather instead of raining on your parade? Noooo. For the better part of a year, he’s dumped his poison on you and you’ve begun avoiding him. When his number shows up on caller ID, you do not answer. Shame on you, you pathetic excuse for a friend, you think. He’s going through a hard time. Can’t you sympathize a little longer, try to encourage him a little longer?

While those are legitimate questions, here’s another. Is he being kind to you?

Disclaimer time – again. I know full well that part of a friend’s job is to listen, commiserate, encourage. It’s in the job description. In almost every relationship I have, at some point I am the uplift-er and my friend is the uplift-ed. A while later – if it’s a healthy relationship – we change roles. I’m the uplift-ed, and she’s the uplift-er.

It’s give-and-take in a healthy relationship – not one person continually dumping poison while the other continually accepts the poison-dumping. When there’s reciprocity in relationships, very ordinary people motivate other very ordinary people to:

  • be all they can be,
  • go for the promotion,
  • enter their dabblings in the local art show,
  • try out for the bit part in a local theater group,
  • go back to college after the kids leave,
  • and on and on.

We motivate and encourage others to become the Einsteins and Michelangelos of our time. (Read Learning from Everyone, if you haven’t already.)

Now, let’s talk about you – you, the guy who likes encouraging others, unlike your whiny friend. Let’s say you’ve been fulfilling the job requirements of a friend – encouraging and handing out attaboys nonstop. Let’s say one of your friends (not the grouser) gets a promotion that comes with a corner office, healthy raise, unbelievable expense account, and company car – a Lexus, no less.

If you’ve chosen your friend carefully and he’s the kind who encourages others, he’ll acknowledge and be thankful for your motivation when he calls with the good news. If you’re the kind of person who encourages others, you’ll be fist-pumping happy for him – truly – and congratulating yourself because you, unlike his dippy – about-to-be-former – manager, could see his shining potential. Aren’t you clever? Isn’t your friend the gutsiest person around for miles?

If you’re the kind who encourages others, you will not destroy your friend’s feel-good moment with your poison.

  • You will not mention that you just ran into your ex-girlfriend, wearing a rock the size of a golf ball on her left hand.
  • You will not remind him of the time you were promoted only to be demoted six months later because of office politics.
  • You will not bring up the fact that your hot water heater went out this morning – just before the most important corporate presentation of your career. 

Not now.You will not rain on his parade. He may even have helped you cope with that promoted-demoted epsisode and knows all about the devastation it caused. Even if he post-dates that event, KEEP YOUR POISON TO YOURSELF.

Here’s where
the feel-good part comes in.

When we choose to keep our poison to ourselves, something astonishing happens. When we decide not to thoughtlessly rain on another’s parade, we feel good. They still feel good, and so do we! It’s the reward we receive for being the kind of person who encourages others.

We can’t go get happy and we can’t buy contentment, but we can certainly bask in their glow when we behave in a way that makes others feel good. And one way we can do that is by simply keeping our poison to ourselves.

But there’s another way that I think is just as productive in helping us feel good. It’s coming in my next post so, as always, pay attention.

© 2014 Teresa Layne Bennett

red box with white text: "The best feeling of happiness is when you;re happy because you've made somebody else happy."

I disagree;  I think you’re CONTENTED.

red box with white text: "Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!" from Luke 6:31, The Message

An old, feel-good tip from someone who knows.