The Generosity of Encouragement

Praise the good. Ignore the bad. – James Clear

When someone encourages you, it has to be one of the best feelings possible. A kind word that uplifts can shift the trajectory of someone’s life. The most significant memories that we have can be a time when someone we respect spoke words that brought life to us.

At the same time, we know that saying something negative to someone can carry much more weight than an encouraging word. The anecdotal reflection of it taking nine encouraging comments to overcome one negative comment certainly rings true. Which makes encouragement all the more important.

So how do we do it?

Be Genuine

You can’t just make up stuff that you don’t mean and expect it to land well. People can tell if you are being genuine or not and building someone up only works if what you are saying about them is true. If you are struggling to find something to be encouraging about, that’s on you to figure out. Every person around us has something worthwhile to recognize and are providing value to our lives. It just takes a moment to stop and find it sometimes.

Be Meaningful

“You look nice today” is nice to hear but that is not encouragement. There is no depth to that. Come up with something that carries meaning to the person.

“I like the way that you think” – is more about who the person is over what they do. This is a fundamental way to encourage people just for being them.

“You have made two really great decisions this week, and this is what they are…” – Recognising great behaviour is an easy way to encourage. The more specific the better.

“I am really grateful for your positive attitude. Knowing that I can rely on you makes my day easier” – Showing how someone’s behaviour or attitude makes a positive impact on you highlights how important they are.

Be Timely

Don’t wait. When someone does something worth noticing, do it in the moment or shortly afterwards. It’s a little difficult to feel encouraged about something that happened 10 years ago. In saying that, it’s never too late, so if that’s all that you have, feel free to encourage someone about something that they did 10 years ago.

Be Consistent

Don’t save it up to give it all in a once off overload of encouragement. Plant small seeds of encouragement consistently which will create a culture of encouragement around you.

Encouragement is an amazing act of generosity. It costs you nothing, apart from some brain energy, and the benefits to all involved are significant.

The Kindness Movement

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible – Dalai Lama

Our strongest memories growing up are connected to how we felt around people. Think back to your primary school years and I guarantee your main memories are from someone either encouraging you or discouraging you. Building you up or tearing you down.

I can remember one specific teacher calling me stupid, and another encouraging me to be better. The second one, I could sense that he could see more in me than what I was displaying at the time.  They are essentially the only two things that I remember from those years. A discouraging word from one and a generous act from another.

I am amazed by the teacher who encouraged me, because in the years that have passed since, I have noticed that it is so much easier to discourage. We almost have an in-built ability to tear someone down. But to lift someone up? Well that can be so rare that appears super-human. It doesn’t need to be this way though.

There is a movement to bring us back to one of the fundamental elements of being a person. Kindness. I would call in generosity. There is even a Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) week this month. With a RAK day on February 17.

Why? Because we need it. The people around you are crying out for some encouragement, a kind word, a thoughtful gesture, a hand of friendship.

Also, it is so good for us. Being kind and generous makes our life so much better; science tells us this.

RAK day is an amazing idea. Sprinkling kindness and generosity on people as you go about your day is a great habit to form. It’s really simple to, there are RAK suggestions, from planting a tree, to writing positive sticky notes, complimenting someone on their parking skills or sending an encouraging email. It starts with one act on a particular day, but it can make a significant difference to those around us.

I get the sense we could all use some more kindness in our lives.