Reality Check: An Encouraging Word

The act of offering sincere encouragement can be as satisfying for you as it is helpful for the person being encouraged. Encouragement feels good. Encouragement can be motivational. Encouragement can be the key to a win-win in many areas of life, whether it’s work, school, or family.

With all those positive effects, encouragement is a useful skill to develop!

You’ll notice that I said, “skill to develop.” Doesn’t everyone know what encouragement is and how to give it? Surprisingly not.

Have you ever offered encouragement to someone, only to be informed that they don’t need your help, thank you very much? Or come away feeling that your encouraging words were perceived as condescending, or were met with anger, resentment, or simply not appreciated.

Why do some folks respond negatively to encouragement? After all, you are only trying to help them. Take a look at this example: do you see any possibilities for why this encouragement might not be effective?

Maurice has tried to encourage his son to take a more active role in sports. Maurice says, “I tell him all the time, ‘Get out there. You can do it! You can do it!’ But he doesn’t try. He gets discouraged and walks away. His favourite saying seems to be, ‘No, I can’t.’”

Why might Maurice’s encouragement not be working as he hoped?

First, for any encouragement to be effective, it’s important that the person want, for themselves, whatever they are being encouraged to do.

A good question for Maurice’s son is, “Do you want to be more involved in sports?”

Listen carefully to the answer. Many children (and grownups) have a highly developed skill of telling people what they think you want to hear. If that’s been the norm in your relationship, and if you now really want to hear the truth, you will need to listen closely, keeping your judgments and opinions to yourself!

Second, can Maurice’s son, in fact, do it? If you don’t have a skill, then no amount of chanting, “I can do it, I can do it,” will make it true. If the son wants to develop skills, then a more encouraging act for Maurice would be to find ways to make that happen, such as through extra practice, improved coaching, and so on.

Working on the skill itself, especially if Maurice works with him, can be much more encouraging than enthusiastic words which are essentially no more than wishful thinking.

One characteristic of effective encouragement is honesty. Does Maurice believe himself when he says, “You can do it.”? Encouragement based on fact will have more impact than wishful thinking and empty words.

Encouragement is such a wonderful gift that we can give each other. I encourage you to practice it often and watch what happens.

In that light, I want to thank the folks who have encouraged me to continue writing these columns. Your kind words continue to encourage me, and I appreciate the fact that you read and enjoy this ‘reality check’.

Are you grateful for encouragement that you receive? How do you encourage others?

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