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  • Writer's pictureJim Donaher


What does it mean to encourage? Merriam-Webster defines it this way:

Encourage Transitive Verb 1a : to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope : hearten 1b : to attempt to persuade : urge 2: to spur on : stimulate 3: to give help or patronage to : foster

If kindness is the state of heart you should be aiming for, then encouraging should be the default action you perform throughout your day. How do you do that? These are some basic steps:

1. Be looking for the positive - many/most people, especially in work environments, are fault finders. While there is a role for this, the often overlooked role is that of finding the positive aspects of even a disastrous situation. 'At least no one was killed,' and so forth.

2. Be looking for people to encourage - as you find the positive, invariably you will also find a person or group of people who are making that positive happen. Sometimes these people are rock stars who get all the adulation they need, but often they are overlooked worker bees, toiling in obscurity. IT DOESN'T MATTER - BOTH THE ROCK STAR AND THE WORKER BEE NEED ENCOURAGEMENT!

3. Be sincere and specific - general platitudes are okay ('you do a great job' is better than nothing), but specific encouragement ('I love the way you handled that meeting. You were prepared and it caused a potential hockey fight to be civil and productive') tells the person you care enough to notice the detail, their effort and what they did well.

4. Ignore status - when you are encouraging others, your status in relation to theirs is irrelevant. If you admire something about the CEO or the President of the United States or your child or your server in a restaurant, tell them about it. If not face to face, then in an email or a short note, or a word to the person's boss.

5. Don't worry about the reaction - Maybe they will be graceful or appreciative, but in the moment, they may be awkward, or uncomfortable or suspicious or even rude. Who cares? As long as your intent was pure, your comments sincere, even if the other person doesn't react in a positive way, that is their issue, not yours.

6. Channel is irrelevant - Send an email, write a note, do it face to face, sky write it. It doesn't matter as long as you do it.

We've all read moving accounts of how a kind word or a timely encouragement transformed a life. We need to make more of these moments, and the best way to do it is to encourage people.

Do it today - do it now. The next person you meet, find something positive to say and encourage them:

To your spouse: 'Have I ever told you how nice it is to wake up with you every morning?'

To your kids: 'You worked hard to be ready for your spelling test. You got this!'

To the cashier where you get your breakfast: 'You guys do such a great job of getting people in and out of here in the morning. It's not easy, but you make it look like it is.'

To your coworker: 'I liked what you said in the meeting about x. It needed to be said, and if you didn't do it, we might have gone in the wrong direction. That took courage (or preparation, or wisdom or insight or some other positive that applies to the situation.)'

To anyone you meet, whether you speak or not - Smile. Get in the habit of smiling. Practice in the mirror. I used to think that I wanted to look tough and foreboding all the time. I was successful in doing so, but unsuccessful in many more important areas. I was perceived as aloof and unapproachable. Dumb strategy.

It is our role in life to love one another. In the context of other people, love = encourage. To paraphrase the Franks Red Hot Sauce ad, sprinkle encouragement on everyone.

Life can make it easy to give up, to wallow, to spin your wheels, feel sorry for yourself and to make excuses. It's easy to presume that nobody cares, especially when no one shows it. Going from zero to knowing one person who cares is the biggest shift there is. By offering a word of encouragement, you may be that one who causes the start of the transformation that will change everything.

No go ahead. You're ready. You got this!

God Bless You!

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