You’ve been there, I suspect. You were with your friend at lunch or at the coffee place. Later in the day, long after you left your friend, you realized that you felt more discouraged and more negative about your day after spending time with that friend.
The other day, I was visiting with a guy who was describing one of his friendships. His friend is a minister and a very unhappy one at that. My friend said that he needed to spend less time with this friend. "I feel so down after I have been with him." Another friend described her time with one of her friends as a real "drain." "She goes on and on about what she doesn’t like, complaining about this person and that person."
Certainly all of us are going to have bad days. I certainly have them. At times, it can be good to be able to talk through some of these tough days with a friend. I am not suggesting that friends should not do this. Rather, I am talking about a person who has a regular disposition or attitude of being negative, cynical, and sour. Too many hours spent with this kind of friend can be draining.
Let us take this one step farther. Some of us are a part of groups at work. Project groups. Staff meetings. Task groups. Do you ever go to some of these meetings and just feel absolutely drained after the meeting is over? Perhaps the meetings are basically negative. Perhaps affirmation and encouragement are rare. Maybe some in these meetings tend to focus on how others could do it better, say it better, plan it better, but say little or nothing that might show appreciation or encouragement toward someone else. Does this sound familiar?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Perhaps you and I can’t control the way these groups function. Perhaps we can’t stop people from being negative and endlessly critiquing one another. What we can change is the way we handle ourselves with various people.
This morning I was sitting in a Panera Bread working. I overheard a conversation between three women (I gathered they were friends) at the table next to mine. These were three young mothers. One of them was also a school teacher. At one point in their conversation, she talked with them about relating to their children’s school teachers. She said, "After the first day, approach the teacher (sincerely) and say something like this, ‘Yes! Yes! I am right with you. Tell me how to help you this year! I can be here tomorrow and talk with you about supporting some of these projects you have in mind.’" Wow.
So, this is what I would like to be:
- I would like to be a person who affirms, encourages, and, in general, brings out the best in others (instead of dragging people through the muck and mire of my negative, pessimistic, cynical remarks).
- I would like to be a person who is a raving fan of anyone who is doing the right thing (instead of forever critiquing others).
- I would like to be a person who pays attention to people and affirms the good in others (instead of picking apart others when they have worked hard on a project).
- I would like to be a person who communicates love and appreciation to people who try to make a difference (instead of always communicating where they have fallen short).
What would you add to this list?