Essays,  Friendship and relationship advice

How to be a badass encourager

  “Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already.” ~Dave Willis

The hilarious mug in the photo was a gift from dear friends last year. While I don’t think of myself as a badass, I break into a smile each time I fill it with morning coffee. It’s a daily reminder of how good it feels to be supported, validated, and encouraged. 

Note to self: Find ways to encourage others who might need an extra boost too. 

After all, everybody’s muddling through the start of another crappy pandemic year. It would help if we’d all be nicer to each other — more encouraging, less critical.  

In addition to the badass couple who gave me the mug, I’m lucky to have several friends who cheer for me on a regular basis. While I’m not an approval seeker, I appreciate and enjoy affirmation. I like knowing that what I do has meaning or value to someone else. Working at home, as most freelancers do, it feels at times as if I’m delivering speeches to an empty room in the dark.  It’s not that I’m opposed to constructive criticism. I believe we can learn a thing or two from our misfires and errors, and that we can evolve into better, smarter humans if we’re willing to consider different points of view. 

Lately, though, it seems everyone’s an angry critic, hellbent on pointing out what’s wrong. With everything. 

Negative energy and know-it-alls

According to one definition, a critic is a man who knows the way but can’t drive the car. 

Consider all the grumblers and chronic complainers — on TV and on the street — who disparage national politicians yet never make an effort to serve their own local government or attempt to repair what they believe is broken. In the arts and entertainment, there are scores of snarky film reviews written by critics who’ve never participated in the school drama club or made a film. And oh, the arrogance of those food and wine snobs who find fault with anything they’re served, but can’t even put together a decent sandwich at home. Do they ever get tired of hearing themselves complain? 

I’ll bet you know a few of these disgruntled demigods, personally or professionally. 

Negative energy is highly transmissible. Just like omicron. You’re more likely to spread it around if discouragement has become the lens through which you view things. Maybe you work in a culture of cynics and skeptics, where new ideas are shot down before they fly. Or you were raised by a hyper-critical parent who couldn’t be pleased. Or maybe you’re simply more comfortable pointing out flaws than paying compliments — and you don’t realize that others rarely enjoy your critical “feedback” as much as you do. 
Along these lines, here’s an excerpt from a discouraging letter in yesterday’s Dear Abby column: “Today I watched another driver run a red light, and I proceeded to honk my horn, lower my window, and give the guy my middle finger. I know it was risky, but I couldn’t resist the impulse. I am sick of people!” 
The elegance of encouragement

The good news: Positivity is contagious, too, but we have to look harder to find it now. 

This year, I want to spend more time with the encouragers — people who make a habit of catching others doing something right. Encouragers don’t waste their time (or yours) on complaining because they’re too busy exploring solutions. Encouragers look for the bright side, whenever possible, and take pleasure in offering praise when it’s deserved. Encouragers are unifiers. Who wouldn’t feel empowered, or downright badass, in their presence? 

So, try be an encourager when you can. Work at being exceptionally kind. Be a bearer of hope, truth, goodness, and reliably sourced news. I guarantee, you’ll stand out for it. 

And before you criticize or complain, ask yourself if what you’re about to say will help or hurt someone. Will it help or hurt the relationship or the situation?  

“If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback,” Brene Brown reminds us in her bestseller, Daring Greatly. Someone should print that one on a coffee mug.

~Cindy La Ferle

Photo by Cindy La Ferle

Throughout my career, I've worked as a book production editor, travel magazine editor, features writer, and weekly newspaper columnist. My award-winning lifestyles features and essays have appeared in many national magazines and anthologies, including Newsweek, Reader's Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, Writer's Digest, Victoria, Better Homes & Gardens, Bella Grace, and more. My weekly Sunday "Life Lines" column ran for 14 years in The Daily Tribune (Royal Oak, MI) and won a First Place (Local Columns) award from the Michigan Press Association. My essay collection, Writing Home, includes 93 previously published columns and essays focusing on parenthood and family life.

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