We all need encouragement.
Encouragement is so important for growth and development, and for building confidence and mastery, especially when you’re a mum and you get no real feedback.
Anyone who worries that too much encouragement makes for arrogance and big-headedness is missing the point, and living with a a fear of scarcity.
So here are 5 tips for doing encouragement well.
1. Don’t be stingy, be generous
If you give someone encouragement that’s genuine, you are not going to run out, so don’t be afraid to be generous with your encouragement. Be free in how much you give and don’t hold back when you see something that is worth applauding. Whether that be a job well done, or an attempt made with real integrity and courage, your words will make a difference.
2. Help them be courageous.
The purpose of encouragement is to spur someone on to go further and be more fully who they are made to be. So remember when you’re encouraging someone you’re not just trying to make them feel good, you’re also helping them gain courage to go further and be more effective in what they are trying to do. Be warm and hold the empathetic space with them in their struggles to gain the strength to go on. Help them see how far they’ve come, remind them of what they are good at and how they will totally overcome their challenges with time, commitment and kindness to themselves.
3. Be specific.
The more specific you are, the more the person you are encouraging will be able to receive it. Your specificity will let them know that you’ve seen them, heard them and understood where they’re coming from or what they’re trying to do. This is always more valuable than a generic “well done”, which though kindly intended, doesn’t always help or make them feel like your words are true.
4. Encouragement does involve feedback.
NB. Be careful with this one – as it’s usually an ‘invitation only’ kind of deal!
Critique is not the same as criticism, but if you are trying to encourage someone to go further, and you have the relationship with them to give them helpful critique and feedback, then this is such a beautiful way to encourage. But do so tentatively or at least do it sparingly.
Being specific with your critique and feedback is really important with this kind of encouragement, so long as you know that the recipient has the opportunity to correct it or implement it, should they choose to.
For example, if it is the final night of a performance run, and you offer someone feedback about what they could have done better, but they have no chance of changing it, they’ll be left feeling frustrated, which is not encouraging.
It doesn’t mean that you can never offer feedback on a past event, but it needs to be the right moment to still give it, and it has to be invitational!
If your friend has shared with you that they felt they never quite got it right, ask if you saw what was missing, and if they show you by their body language, their voice and their words that they want to hear what you think, then giving helpful critique and feedback is so valuable.
But always do it kindly and sensitively!
5. Encourage yourself too.
You also need to be reminded of when to take courage, and be encouraged that what you’re doing is worthwhile and valuable!
So whether you are working on a piece of writing or a composition, maybe you are developing a character in a piece of work, but you are struggling to get your head round it and your body into it, or perhaps when you don’t get any feedback in your mothering in an area that you keep trying to grow – you can encourage yourself.
Look at the things you have done well, be kind and gentle about the things you struggle with, honestly voicing where you can do better, but always offer yourself gentle critique, don’t be harsh.
We all need encouragement, and there truly is plenty to go around.
I truly think that the more encouragement we offer, the more we generate, the more chance we have of bettering the world, and bringing a greater joy to the things that matter to us.
Intentionally encouraging one another means we have more chance of deepening connection, making better, more meaningful work and intentional growth in our family relationships.
For more thoughts on this – check out my podcast on The Generosity of Encouragement here.