Flipping the Ratio
About a month and some change ago I had the opportunity to hear a really challenging message that I feel is practical for anyone. Do you remember a time in your life when someone said something to you that was extremely discouraging? Isn’t it amazing how well and how clearly you remember those words? One example that immediately comes to my mind happened when I was in the 10th grade. I had a geometry class with a particularly bonkers teacher who I couldn’t follow to save the life of me. Of course, in the first marking period I didn’t do so well grade-wise, not to mention that math is so not my strong suit. So I remember it being report card night and my mom visiting with this nutcase of a teacher. My mom and I both mentioned the possibility of switching me into a different class that would have a better pace for me to follow. What the teacher said next just blew my mind: “If you switch out of my class you will amount to nothing.” Ouch. Now obviously this man was a lunatic and I was in several high-level classes in high school…I’m not a complete moron, I just stink at math. But those words stung pretty badly. Now, I was able to indeed switch into a different class where I could understand the work and I finished geometry that year with A’s. Boom. Fast-forward and I have a Master’s Degree and I’m doing well for myself. KA-BOOM. But man, I can’t lie and say those words didn’t bother me or fade for a long time. Luckily it just gave me something to prove. For others, though, discouraging words really hurt and they drag people into a scary abyss.
The Gottman Institute did some research surrounding encouragement. Basically their research found that, on average, for every 1 word of encouragement someone receives in life, they will receive 6 words of discouragement. You read that correctly…1 good, 6 bad. SIX! Now stretch that out 20, 30, 40 years and you’ve got a grim picture, don’t you? But this is the sad reality for some people. We live in a judgy world sometimes; people cut others down because it just makes them feel a little better about themselves. When I heard about this study it really stuck with me on a variety of levels: as a dad, as a friend, as a husband, as a boss…am I really being an encourager?
Heart Dads, it isn’t enough to just get your kid through the scary medical stuff…get them through life in one piece by giving more words of encouragement to build them up. Let the medical team build them up physically while you build them up mentally and emotionally. But beyond our kids, are there opportunities where you can encourage other families? Like really encourage them. What about your spouse? What about your staff at work? Learn to ask “How are you doing” instead of “What are you doing.” What about your kids’ medical team? They see some scary things too…
And speaking of medical personnel, I want to talk to you for a minute. Doctors, nurses, Nurse Practitioners, CNAs, ultrasound techs, receptionists, etc. You can make a massive impact on a family’s health and well-being by being more encouraging. I know you’re busy, so are we. But I want to challenge each and every one of you: the next time a family is in your clinic, even if just for a routine check-up, take 30 seconds to look them in the eye and acknowledge the work they’re doing to make the best life possible for their child. A simple, “Hey, I just want you to know you’re doing a great job at this…it’s hard work, but we’re in this together and you’re doing awesome.” You wanna inject some energy into a tired family? That’s how you do it. Try it…I beg of you…if will work.
The encouragement-to-discouragement ratio is a bad one right now. So how about we flip that around and give more words of encouragement? I mean think about how amazing it would be if parents, who have been through some rough stuff, are the ones who lead the way in encouragement. How amazing would that be? Together we can make the world a better place, so let’s be thinking about what we say to one another!