Truett Cathy wrote in his book It’s Better to Build Boys than Mend Men, ‘How do you know if someone needs encouragement? …if they are breathing!’ The truth is that EVERYONE needs encouragement at work and at home. I’d like to give you four phrases that will encourage the people around you and create a positive atmosphere wherever you are.
‘I love you.’: This is a phrase we find difficult to say. Perhaps if you have some Mediterranean blood it is a little easier for you. My wife laughs at me because I can’t say ‘I love you’ to my brothers without saying ‘man’ at the end. Somehow that tag makes it more masculine and easier to say. But when we say ‘I love you’, it lets a person know that they are appreciated for who they are. Okay, okay, it may not be the best idea to tell everyone at work you love them. However, you could tell them you love working with them, or enjoy doing projects with them, or they are fun to be with. All these phrases convey the idea that the person is valuable and appreciated just for being them – no strings attached, not if, or when, or only. Love is a powerful force for positive transformation.
‘I’m proud of you.’: While ‘I love you’ focuses on the person as a person, ‘I’m proud of you’ focuses on the person’s abilities and accomplishments. Kids often say, ‘Watch me! Watch me!’ Children find out quickly enough that they are not to draw attention to themselves, but we all long to be seen and recognized for what we can do. Supervisors and parents can fall into the trap of pointing out shortcomings and mistakes, and forget to point out contributions and excellence at work. Ken Blanchard talks about catching people doing something right and then giving them a one minute praise. Tell the person specifically what they did well. Let them know how you are impressed and proud of them, and what it means for the organization or family. Finally, seal the affirmation in their memory with a handshake, pat on the back or hug. Never miss an opportunity to let a person know they are needed and make a difference.
‘You can do it!’: This phrase is forward looking. As people us their talents and grow in the breadth of responsibilities, they will inevitably face daunting challenges. We all need that bit of encouragement that let’s us know we can do it. Henry Ford famously said, ‘Think you can; think you can’t. Either way, you are right.’ If you tell someone they can’t do something, all they will see is insurmountable obstacles. Tell a person they can do it and they will find ways to accomplish their goals and overcome any difficulties that arise. Remind those around you of the gifts and talents they have demonstrated and the experiences they have learned from. Let them know that they are prepared for the new challenge they face.
‘God is with you.’: One of the most comforting and hope-filled realities of life is that God is with us. There is no where in all the world, nor heights, nor depths of our psyches, that God is not there. We are never alone or on our own. There are enormous resources that God wants to pour into our lives so that we are blessed and can be a blessing. People who have difficult decisions to make that will affect the lives of others need to be reminded that God is with them and wants to grant them wisdom. As James writes, ‘If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask it of God who gives to all people liberally.’ Others may be going through a dark time relationally and be loosing hope. There is no more powerful way to let them know God cares about them than to take a moment, put your hand on their shoulder and pray for their specific need. We can be assured that God hears and will answer our prayers on their behalf. Jesus said, ‘Ask and it shall be given.’ Just one minute praying with a friend in need can change everything. Most of all, it is an affirmation that God loves them, cares about them, and will guide them through whatever difficulty they face.
These are four simple phrases can make a world of difference. I know. I have seen them build an atmosphere of energy, joy, creativity and camaraderie. Now go speak life into your colleagues and family members!