Saturday, August 31, 2013

The right way to encourage friends

When your friend is down... when your friend is experiencing a setback.. when you friend is hurt.. when you friend has failed.. What do you do?

Every brainless idiot knows the answer to that - Encourage them.

We hear the cries all the time. From something as simple as "I'm so sick and tired of life" to "I failed my test......................". It can be anything - injuries, failure, rejections, emotional breakdown, etc. Our response?

"It's okay, you did a great job!". "You're not a failure, you're perfect the way you are". "You deserve a break, go take the day off!". "Give yourself a break!". "It's okay, don't be too hard on yourself!"

We often misunderstand encouragement for comforting. To comfort your friend is not to encourage him or her. Sometimes to encourage your friend is to have to hurt them further in the process to bring out a side of them they never knew existed.

The moment you start your "encouragement" with "it's okay", you are leading them to feel comforted. To comfort them is help them get over their feelings of disappointment/sadness/failure. These feelings can make or break a person. These feeling ARE what make or break people. Removing the feelings keep them where they are. Give them the soft mentality that whenever they fail, it's okay because they have comforting friends around.
Handing them the sense of security that you will always be there for them may seem like what friends should do, but what does it result in? It makes them feel okay with what they are not okay with deep down.

When it comes to make or break feelings, the rightful duty of a friend should be to make sure the feelings make them, not break them. Certainly not remove the feeling altogether.

So your friend failed the test. So your friend tried so hard and so many times but never made the school team. So your friend has been trying so hard but can't lose weight. So your friend is just sick and tired of life he/she wants to throw in the towel and quit. Your friend is crying. What do you do?

Encourage, not comfort. Never say it's okay, even if it is. Credit their effort if it was there, but never say that "so long you've tried your best it's enough". Not that it's not true, but trying your best isn't the effort one puts in during a particular period of time. Trying your best doesn't end when you fail, it ends when you succeed. So to say that would be to imply that it's over, game over. Which is never the case. As you can see, that was a comfort, not an encouragement.

How do we encourage? Feed the fire. When someone is down, there's heavy emotion, heavy feelings. Feed it and get them to use it to drive themselves. Encouragement is simply letting them know, it's not over. It's not yet time to settle and accept failure. Comfort is precisely that - helping one accept failure. To encourage, we must never speak in a way of closure. "It's okay." "You tried your best", these are phrases that implies it's over... closure. Letting them know the game is not over is encouragement. "A setback is a set up for a come back", "So you're hurt, I dare you to go through it. I dare you to suffer. At the end of pain is success. Pain is temporary.". Notice the difference? You have led them to see their situation from a positive point of view and still part of the game. You get them to use their situation and feelings and channel it to becoming who they are - Make them. Whereas the former phrases you have let them to believe it's over, it's okay, let's go eat ice cream now.

Of course using cliché motivational phrases aren't always the ideal. You have to be down to earth and real. Keep the words your very own. Throw in quotes, as a form of quotes not words, if you want but explain them. Speak from your own heart and your friend will listen and not think it's some cliché bullshit.

If you think hugging your friend, whispering words of COMFORT and treating them to ice-cream or a meal is being a good friend, your intentions are right but actions are wrong. That's what you should do to your enemies if you're the type that wants to see them lose.

I must warn that you won't become the most ideal/liked person to go to as far as friends in trouble are concerned. The fact your friend is down, he/she is probably already looking for comfort. You may get hated in the process, seen as insensitive and not understanding. Your friend might snap and go bananas on you for being such a hard ass. The tougher friends will rise easily. The weaker ones will think you're a lousy friend and you'll just have to bear with them losing it and encourage them longer.

I can't say for a fact everyone can be encouraged. Perhaps it's a matter of skill that determines who you are able to encourage because some might be so weak/soft-minded and buried in the idea of failure it won't be easy digging them up. Sometimes them having to lose it on you is part of the process of them reaching the point to which they had enough and will go all out for what they want.

Nonetheless, letting your friend think you're an insensitive mofo is better than comforting them in my opinion. At least you know you are not responsible for them never reaching their goals. At least you did not preach a weak mind set. Preaching a weak mind set leads to a weak mind set. So be hard, be an encouragement. Don't comfort.


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