North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

January 30, 2013

Danielle Cater: Encourage or discourage — your words matter

By Danielle Cater
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — Would you be classified as an encourager or a discourager? This past weekend, I was reminded of what a difference our input has on those around us. Your actions and comments have a heavy bearing on the people around you whether you realize it or not.

Just think of the high school student who is full of excitement to tell their teacher of their decision to follow their example and become a teacher themselves. They approach the conversation with fire in their eyes as they dream of filling the minds of their own students one day. Then the teacher snarkily remarks, “Well, I hope you don’t like making money then.”

That conversation could have a life changing influence on that student. Our reaction to others effects them.

I’ve noticed in the past couple of months that people’s reactions can weigh heavy on your mind even if you don’t care to think about it. Your thoughts matter to those closest to you, so be careful about how you react and display your innermost feelings.

We have the power to encourage those around us to do great things, or we have the power to pour water all over their fire and vigor and leave them feeling stupid and useless to accomplish what they had in their heart to do.

A little word of encouragement may be all that your child needs in order to be better at baseball, but if you are constantly letting them know what they did wrong on every play, they may never want to try to get better.

Use positive reinforcement and see if that doesn’t make a difference, not only in the child, but also in your relationship with him or her. This could also be applied to our work relationships. Think of the employees who have an idea to improve company sales. When they pitch the idea to the boss, they have the power to give them the tools to make the idea take off and see what happens, or they can discourage the employees and make them feel like they wasted their time to even bring the idea up. When we feel like we can’t do anything good to better our circumstances, we get in a rut and that leads to unhappy employees and disgruntled individuals.

This principle could also apply to married couples. Think of the newly engaged couple who wants nothing more than to just be together. They hold hands and steal every kiss they can sneak in. They think of each other throughout the day and anxiously await their date nights together. When you see them, you can either congratulate them on the happiness that they have found, or you can say things like, “Well, that will wear off soon.” or “Just wait until the honeymoon is over.” What good does it do to try to discourage people?

If someone has discouraged you lately, use it as an opportunity to prove them wrong. Student, keep your excitement and get that teaching degree. Child, practice hard so that you can be MVP next year in baseball. Employee, keep coming up with new and innovative ideas, and engaged couple, keep the honeymoon going past the fiftieth anniversary. Instead of letting nay-sayers throw water on your fire, use it as gasoline to fan the flames.