You got this…
A little bit of encouragement can go a long way. Whether someone is suffering or just a bit stumped on a problem, a few words of encouragement can give them the boost they need to keep going. However, trying to encourage someone to make real changes in their own lives will not work unless they want it. As with most things, the difference comes from within.
Life’s most valuable lessons come from our own mistakes and experiences. As much as we can listen and take on board what someone is saying, we have to decide that we want to learn and grow.
Whatever your friend needs from you, some encouraging words of support could remind them how to be confident and successful with their journey.
The most encouraging and positive thing you can do is to smile! Remember to spread your positivity by showing a sunny disposition, and people will feel instantly better!
Give just your undivided attention!
If someone approaches you asking for encouragement, most of your contribution should be giving just your undivided attention. It can be not easy to come to someone to ask for help, so the last thing you want to do is make this other person wish they hadn’t.
Looking at your phone or behaving as if you are uninterested will encourage them to withdraw and back away from the conversation.
One of the best ways to start the conversation is to ask how they are doing. Often people will tell you they are acceptable even if they aren’t.
Try to ascertain how much this person is struggling and let them tell you how they are feeling. They might pretend to cope, but they are suffering and need help. Show them you care about how they are feeling.
If you know someone struggling, don’t avoid mentioning this when you see them. You should still check in with them and see how they are coping rather than trying to skirt around it.
It can cause them to feel isolated and a burden if people behave this way around them. Allow them to share with you, and they will appreciate their feelings being acknowledged.
Let them tell you about their experience and acknowledge them. Sometimes people want to vent and have someone listen and validate how they feel. By taking the time to listen to what they are saying to you, you will become aware if this is the case.
At this point, say things like “that does sound difficult” or ‘I can see how that would be a struggle”. These phrases can help validate the person’s experience and show them you empathize with them.
Aside from these words of acknowledgment and a few nods of the head, you should stay quiet and let them do the talking. Try to demonstrate active listening. Face the person, make eye contact, nod, say yes when you agree, etc.
When your friend has finished talking, try to summarize what they have said and repeat it. This shows them that you have listened and allows them to clarify if you didn’t fully understand them.
Listening and showing genuine interest are crucial when someone opens up to you. They are allowing themselves to be vulnerable to you, so you should respect them and show them that what they are saying is essential.
Sympathy and empathy can be helpful tools when having personal conversations. However, overdoing it can look like pity.
Pitying someone who is struggling is the last thing that will help them. They have probably spent a lot of time climbing out of that self-despair hole. They might have felt very low and now finally can seek help.
Restarting a pitying mindset can intensify the negative feelings about themselves and set them back emotionally. Pity will undo this if they have been working to reach a more favorable position. They could begin to spiral downwards again if negative thoughts surround them.
Acknowledge their pain and the struggles they have endured. Validate them and show you recognize their struggle, but try to veer towards a more positive outlook.
You could remark on their strength for reaching this point and try to uplift them with a compliment. Acknowledge what they have done so far and how difficult it must have been.
Even if you can think of solutions immediately, don’t start with them. People want to feel understood and acknowledged. So telling them, there is an easy solution to their problem could make them feel invalidated or unheard, especially if you start giving advice that doesn’t entirely relate to their concern.
Show them you care by really trying to listen and understand them. This way, they will be more receptive to your encouragement.
They might be feeling a bit useless if they can’t see a way out of their issue, so try to listen with no judgment. No one truly can understand what another person is going through, so don’t assume they haven’t tried hard enough or that they don’t want to make improvements.
Assuming the person can be detrimental to the conversation. We must remember this is about them, and our experiences don’t influence the way the other person experiences the world, so we cannot judge them.
Ask them to explain their situation further or ask for clarification instead of making assumptions. It is straightforward for someone who has been able to make significant changes in their life to presume that everyone is capable of the same. Don’t forget; we are all different and experience the world in different ways.
At this point, it is a good idea to check with them what they want from you. Now they have expressed themselves and hopefully feel heard. Is there anything else they need? Perhaps they don’t want any advice or encouragement, and you have satisfied their needs for the time being. In that case, well done, and carry on with your day!
They might now tell you something specific they want to work on or need advice on. Depending on the situation, you can judge how much you need to input. Perhaps they are in financial trouble and ask you for budgeting tips. In this case, you can begin to outline some advice and encouragement for saving money. If they tell you “you’re so good at saving money” but don’t directly ask for help, they are probably just commenting on it and don’t want any help. It is best to check with them if you are unsure of discovering what you are required to do next.
Rule number 1 for encouraging people: AVOID CLICHES! Don’t, for god’s sake, tell them “this will pass”, “you’ll be fine”, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Not only will you sound like a total wally, but you’ll likely lose their trust and make them feel worse. It will not increase their level of hope like you think it will, and most people in challenging situations won’t believe it anyway.
Most importantly, be sensitive when you encourage.
You might think the answers are obvious and very simple. But telling them, that is not a great idea. They might feel patronized and shy away from the rest of the conversation.
Even words of wisdom can be rude, so be mindful of your language in this situation.
Start by acknowledging their progress. Tell them they have done a great job so far, and you are proud of what they have achieved. You could make some simple observations about the person’s life to show you are aware.
For example, “going to that meeting must have been so difficult for you at that time, and I was so impressed you went.” These encouraging words can show the person that you have been paying attention and are invested in their progress.
Once you have shown you understand their issue and what they need help with, you can make suggestions.
Don’t overload them with information or set homework for them just yet. It is just human nature to back off if you feel overwhelmed.
Give them some ideas so they have an opportunity to mull them over. If they want to pursue a specific idea, you can talk more about it then.
Remember, the person has to want to make these changes, so it is essential to let them do this in their own time.
Similarly, please don’t make assumptions about what they are capable of. Setting deadlines or expectations can also feel overwhelming and can undo some of the work they have been putting in.
Making a person’s life easier
Depending on what they need encouragement with, you could provide some helpful resources to your friend. For example, let them know if you have seen a website that could provide motivation or information.
This also will allow them to view the information in their own time and approach you if they have any questions.
It can be helpful to ask them if there is a specific challenge they need help with. Then, if you have a focus, you know better how to encourage your friend and what specific advice you can give them.
It might also be helpful for them if you can assist in decision-making. At this point in their life, your friend probably feels quite overwhelmed. So, being able to take a load off by answering something might provide them with a boost in motivation.
Small gestures can be a great way to encourage people. For example, share a funny video, suggest meeting for coffee, or send them a little gift.
These actions can be a great example of how to show someone you are thinking of them. They will find this encouraging, and it will help build confidence if they know they are not alone.
However, you should bear in mind flashy gestures could come across as arrogant or insensitive.
Most importantly, you can encourage someone by just being available. In the same way that gestures show you care, being available demonstrates you are committed to helping them build a better life.
It can be an encouraging thought just knowing you have people on your side.
The best way to encourage someone is to be supportive. Giving your friend praise and showing you care will most likely be very encouraging. You could even give them compliments in front of other people for an extra boost in confidence.
It can be frustrating to see someone you love not making the changes you want. But try to avoid letting them know this frustration as that will not benefit their progress.
Often people don’t want to change. It is so much easier to stay as you are than to put any effort into changing. So if someone is putting in any effort at all, you can be proud of their achievements.
It is common for individuals to be very hard on themselves, especially if they struggle. Therefore, try to role model positive behaviors for them to copy.
Repeat positive affirmations about yourself and avoid making self-deprecating statements, particularly in front of your friend.
Just a few words…
Your friend or loved one will need further encouragement throughout your relationship. As will you.
Knowing the best ways to help in various circumstances can be a powerful encouragement.
There are many ways to be encouraging, and most of the time, it is all in the words we use.
Remember to be mindful that everyone has a different set of experiences and will manage their feelings in different ways. So we must be sensitive when we talk to our friends about their personal information.
Providing small encouraging gestures can be lovely to motivate your friends and are always great to receive.
Learning these tips for encouragement can positively impact many areas of your life. Your relationships will benefit as you become a more supportive and understanding friend. You will develop better leadership skills and understand how to lead a team through a hard time.
Using these skills with a friend or colleague who is suffering will help them. Plus, you get the bonus of feeling good about yourself!
Celebrate yourselves and each other when you do a good job and bring your positivity to others’ lives.