Listening and encouragement foster team spirit Print
Youth Column
Thursday, May. 19, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

It's not easy being a teenager. It's also not easy being a preteen, toddler, senior citizen or anything in-between. No matter our age, there is one constant: Life is not easy.

Every step of the way, life throws us new obstacles. We're born without knowing how to walk or talk. We go to school to learn reading and math. We graduate and become employed and need training. We retire and need to eat better and exercise more to keep healthy.

Every step along the way, people expect us to do things we've never done before, and do them well. How amazing is it that we succeed at each of those challenges and all others we face?


That's not to say we're perfect. Some of us have no aptitude for math but are creative in other ways. There are some who can't draw but can program a computer. When people with different skills are put together, they can create wonders.

In the end, we belong to a never-ending series of teams. We're a team when we study for an exam. We're a team when we clean a store at the end of a shift. We're a team whenever we're working together toward a common goal.

Coaches say teams are most successful when members constantly acknowledge one another's strengths, rather than highlight weaknesses. It's easy to tear people down, but it's in our best interests to build each other up.

Sometimes, that's a difficult burden. Teams are only as strong as the weakest link. Sometimes, that's us. Sometimes, we're the ones being held back. It's in our best interest to face struggles together.

It's not just those facing difficulty who need encouragement. Think about all the times we should have felt success, but only felt uncertainty. We all need encouragement, no matter how well we're doing in any given moment.

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to provide encouragement and support, even to team members who seem to be doing well. First, we should always acknowledge our team members, point out successes and celebrate small accomplishments. Share what they mean to us. Also, appreciate the ways those small successes make life better.

Equally as important is to learn to take blame. When we do something amazingly silly or stupid or hurtful, we should admit fault and not hide behind excuses. We should say we're sorry and mean it.

Likewise, no one is perfect. Someone is going to do something amazingly silly or stupid or hurtful toward us. If they take responsibility, be appreciative. Forgive them. If they don't take responsibility, let it go.

At the same time, life is too long to hog the stage. We should be quiet every now and then and listen to others. When we listen, we'll often hear something deeper than what we first perceived. When we listen, we can make corrections that will prevent hurt from recurring.

Finally, and most important, we should take time to look in the mirror every day and give ourselves a pep talk. We are capable of anything. Today, we might not be successful, but tomorrow is coming. Once upon a time, we couldn't add 2 plus 2. Today, basic math comes without thinking. Any distance can be bridged if we put our minds to it.

After all, we're a team. And it's in our best interest to build each other up.



Erick Rommel is a former staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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