ENCOURAGING WORDS-When people struggle, you can help.
What do you say in the agonizing moment your friend tells you she has an incurable disease? Do you know the right words when a loved one grieves over a loss? You long to offer comfort and support when your child does not feel like he belongs or your co-worker confides a painful secret, but words do not come. The strongest families face frustrating times, the most responsible employee needs leadership, the best friend forgets and capable teachers need wisdom. John McLeod says "...words can be a powerful healing tool if used with loving intention, to uplift, encourage and inspire."How do we know the right words to say to provide a sanctuary from the storm, a refuge from the relentless beating of the world?
Encouragement cards are the latest trend and Hallmark reports 90 percent of customers want a wider selection to offer support for real-life tough situations. We want to know what to say to encourage our family and friends during difficult situations. We know words are powerful. Words can devastate and discourage or uplift and encourage. Words impact and give inspiration. Every person you meet, at some time or another, suffers setbacks and disappointment. Every day you can choose to make a difference in someone’s life by the words you speak. Solomon in Proverbs said, “pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” God uses people today to bring encouraging words during tough times just as He did in the past. “Therefore encourage each other with these words,” Paul challenges the New Testament church in I Thessalonians 4:18 to hold up each other with the hope of a brighter tomorrow.
Research confirms the influence of encouragement by measurable differences it can make in a life. A study by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) concludes that more encouragement and less punishment provide higher success rates in treatment of drug users. A single remark from a single teacher to a single student can make or break that student’s spirit to learn. Most of us have a story about that one teacher, coach, parent or special friend who encouraged us to pursue a subject, sport, or interest and changed the course of our life. Some of our social ills could be solved and the workplace, school, the team, family life and all of society can be improved by learning how to encourage.
Last night it happened to me. I was tired from several overwhelming weeks of too many activities, work deadlines loomed and I was lonely. A friend encouraged me with her words. I was amazed at the simplicity of what she said and how it made me feel. “I think you are so brave to tackle that project. You will be able to finish what you have started.” I stood straighter and smiled. A warm glow enveloped me. That is why I am passionate about the power of encouragement--because I know it works.
So how can you say words of encouragement to those struggling around you? It’s more than a slap on the back, a high five or a ‘you can do this’ phrase. A genuine awareness and understanding of what people are going through is the number one secret to saying encouraging words. Listening patiently to them sort through their pain and hurt moves the process of healing along in a healthy manner. An encourager sees the possibilities in people and inspires with energizing words to help them reach that potential. The greatest gifts of encouraging words are door-openers that invite the discouraged to talk instead of shutting down their feelings. Here are some practical words of encouragement that respect the process of felt pain:
This must be very hard for you (opens the door to acknowledge the hurt)
I have no idea what that feels like (opens the door to describe the feelings)
It must be hard to accept this difficulty in your life (respect difficult circumstances)
It’s ok to have a bad day (accept and allow for mood swings)
I believe in you (be sure you can say this with conviction)
I am here for you (even if you disagree with the action taken)
Let me know what you need (be proactive and suggest specific offers to help)
I always try to understand you(tell me more)
I am so proud of you-who you are-your accomplishments (takes the focus off the problem)
Don’t give up-don’t ever give up (gives alternate action)
You showed courage in that situation (gives alternative feeling)
“Do not keep the alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up until your friends are dead.”
Henry Ward Beecher
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us."
Alexander Graham Bell
"If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.”
"One has to remember that every failure can be a stepping stone to something better."
Col. Harland Sanders
"A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure."
“When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”
Barbara J Winter
"Be of good courage."
"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this...I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
“An experiment was conducted years ago to measure people’s capacity to endure pain. Psychologists measured how long a barefooted person could stand in a bucket of ice water. They found that one factor made it possible for some people to stand in the ice water twice as long as others. [That factor was] encouragement. When another person was present, giving support and encouragement, the sufferers were able to endure the pain much longer than their un-encouraged counterparts.” John Maxwell & Jim Dornan