Be an Encourager

We all go through rough patches at different times in life. And times have been tough for all of us during 2021, because of COVID restrictions and even losing friends and relatives to the virus. I was thinking about how, when a family member or a close friend is going through a tough time, it’s not always easy to know what to say or how to support them.

Then I started thinking about my friends in the dulcimer community. Some of them are going through a tough time musically. They have gotten discouraged, even considered packing up their instruments and taking up new hobbies. I wondered if the same principles that apply to helping someone through a tough time could be applied to helping a friend going through a musical meltdow.

I think so and here are tips that might help us encourage others in our dulcimer world.

  • Listen with compassion. Approach a person who is struggling and seems discouraged. Let them know you’re there for them if they want to talk about their challenges. Repeat back what you’ve heard to show you’ve understood what they’re saying. Don’t minimize their feelings.

  • Make yourself available to help in private.  Offer to listen to them play. Then spend time affirming their progress by pointing out everything they are doing right. If you can identify a specific issue, perhaps explain how the same technique gave you trouble “back in the day,” and that they can and will overcome it with practice.

  • Look out for them. Watch for them to show up at jam sessions, and make a special effort to be sure they feel welcomed – at whatever level they are playing.

  • Help them break up challenges in a tune into bite-sized pieces. Or maybe they’ve taken on something beyond their current ability and need guidance on how to simplify the arrangement.

  • Remove from their practice list (temporarily) a tune or technique that’s gotten them “down.” Sometimes folks just need a break from the old challenge and a chance to focus on something new to reignite their love for playing the dulcimer.

  • Get on their level. Avoid speaking to them as a superior. We’re all in this together.

Have you ever argued with a person going through a tough time, attempting to change their feelings? It’s futile. Confrontation closes discouraged people down. Instead, be an encourager … working side by side with them to overcome whatever issue has stirred up the negative feelings. Make every effort to encourage them and fill them with hope.



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