Enablers: What You Need to Know About the Human Spoons in Your Life

When I speak to teens I often speak to them about human spoons.  Spoons are enablers.

Human Spoon: n A person in your life who easily molds to you or your idea and then feeds it back to you to encourage a certain behavior that can be positive or negative.
An enabler, or spoon is someone in your life who encourages you to always act a certain way.  An example of a human spoon:
You are on a diet.  You are really trying to lose weight for summer.  You have a friend who never needs to lose weight.  When you go over to hang out at their place they have muffins ready and you just HAVE to try them because they are made from scratch.  They offer you a beer (water is so booooring!) and insist on leaving chips out on the counter.  Diet is over whenever you go over.
There are two kinds of enablers, the good kind and the evil kind.

Positive Enablers:

We love these and I love having them around because they spoon in the good stuff!
1) Have Qualities You Like (in a non-jealous way)
When I am around people I admire and they have qualities I like, it makes me want to be like them and be the best I can be.  There are a very few people in my life who I feel energized after I have lunch or a talk with them.  Somehow they spoon me what I need to hear and encourage me to be the best I can and solidify my good behaviors.
2) Remind You of Your Goals (in a Loving Way)
I have just read the book “Who’s Got Your Back” by Keith Ferazzi and think that his notion of having a close group of friends supporting you and reminding you of your goals is one of the best ways to keep you on the right track.  Positive enablers ask you about your goals in a kind and loving way that makes you feel like they are worth following.
3) They Are Close to You (and can call you on your lying)
I usually say to my closest friends, “You are my closest friend because you have the right to call me on my bulls***”  I need my positive enablers to spoon me back some of what I feed them so I can see that something doesn’t taste right.  For example I had been wanting to work on my book, but putting it off because I was ‘too busy’ and after three or four lunches of explaining this with a best friend she finally said, “Vanessa, you want to do this, you should do this, you need to just make the time.” Whoa.  I got it, and I did.  I needed that spoonful.
4) The Know Your Buttons (and therefore can motivate you)
When I am feeling down I go to my positive enablers to help push my buttons in a good way.  Positive enablers know your hotspots, they know what not to say to get you to get back on track or start something new.

Negative Enablers:

Negative enablers can be aware of the fact that they are ‘spooning’ you something negative or enabling you to do something negative.  They also might not even be aware of their affect on you or that they are enabling you to perform or do a bad behavior.
1) Have Qualities You Like (in a-hate-you-for-how-awesome-you-are kind of way)
Negative enablers can have many qualities you admire.  If they are a secret bitch,(Secret Bitches: 6 Types and How to Avoid Them) or want to encourage you in bad ways, the fact that they have qualities you like can make you feel pressured to listen to them.  I know for me, when I was younger and someone had qualities I admire, I subconcsiously (or consiously) wanted to emulate them and have them like me.  If they are encouraging me to do something, I am much more likely to listen and do it.
2) Remind You of Your Goals (in a get-off-my-back-you-sound-like-my-mom-and-maybe-you-are-my-mom-kind-of-way)
You know when your mom is like, ‘but didn’t you say you wanted to lose weight, hooooonneeeyy, I am just trying to help you with yooouuuur goal, so maybe you should go to the gym today.” I know many teens who would hear this and just BECAUSE their mom brought this up, they wouldn’t do it even if they were already planning on going to the gym.  These kind of negative enablers often think that are being helpful, when in fact they have the opposite effect. Negative enablers also have the great knack of padding the ‘reminding of your goal’ with a passive aggressive comment, like:
“You look great, soooo much better than last time I saw you, You must be doing so great on your weight loss plan!”…umm thanks?
3) They Are Close to You (as in too close)
Negative spoons often use their closeness as an excuse to offend you or make comments on things that are not their business.  These kinds of spoons use their closeness to make you feel underappreciated, self-conscious or upset.  They are also usually around a lot and so constantly encourage a bad behavior.
4) They Know Your Buttons (and therefore can tap your insecurities)
These types of enablers know they are enabling you for bad behavior.  You see this a lot with friends who smoke or drink with teens and young people. When talking to kids about peer pressure, and if they peer pressure others or what they do when they do not want to party alone they say something like:
“I know they want to party, and I do not want to drink alone so I just bring up that their girl is coming over or that it is just a few celebratory drinks because they had a hard week and then they realize it is not a big deal and fun and then they do it.”
When enablers know your buttons, it makes it very easy for them to get to you.  Spoons love to scoop.
I think that teens must talk about this so they can recognize which of their friends are enablers.  Many teens do not know what enablers are and once I explain this they are able to more easily recognize when they are being peer pressured and how to stop it.  Talk to your teens and ask them if they have examples of each type of enabling.

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