Encouragement goes straight to the heart. In fact, the word itself comes from a combination of the prefix en which means “to put into” and the Latin root cor which means “heart”. Knowing what a big difference encouragement makes in your own life, what can you do to help others to take heart when the going gets tough and the way feels long?
- Tell people how they’ve encouraged you! Learn individuals’ “love languages,” the special ways in which they feel most valued. In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains that not everyone’s emotional needs are met in the same way and that it’s important to learn to speak others’ love languages. The five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
- When you introduce someone, add a few words of praise for the person’s abilities, accomplishments, about how they’ve helped you or about the nature of your relationship. It’s encouraging to be praised in front of others.
- Send flowers. A surprise delivery makes any occasion or accomplishment feel more momentous and is a tangible sign that you are thinking of someone even when they’re not around.
- When someone is discouraged or hurting, offer specific, practical help. If you ask, “How can I help?” the person might be at a loss to answer. It’s better to ask, “Would it help if I…” or say, “I would like to…”
- Update your address book. In a digital world, there’s nothing like receiving a hand-written note in the mail.
- Make celebration a more regular part of your relationships. Celebrate others’ victories, large and small with a note, coffee together, a special meal, a congratulatory phone call, or just a high-five!
- Be specific when you offer words of praise; it makes your encouragement more credible and concrete: “You did a great job at…”, “I really appreciate that you…”, “I was really impressed that you…”
- Realize the power of presence. Just being there can be encouraging! When you’re with others, you’re telling them that they’re important.
- If someone you know is working on a large project, send her a single flower to encourage her at the beginning of the project, and a full bouquet when it’s done.
- Use encouragement as an outreach. Write a letter of appreciation to people at work, your apartment manager, your child’s teacher, or your doctor. Often when we interact with these people, we are asking for their services. Take time just to say thank you!
- If you really want to encourage someone who gives you excellent service, write a letter of commendation to the person’s boss.
- We could learn something from the way team athletes freely pat, touch and high-five each other in competition. Touch is a powerful encouragement. Be sure to be sensitive in this area, though. Ask someone if you can hug her first. And be careful to be above reproach with persons of the opposite sex.
- When you see someone making positive changes in their lives, affirm them. “You seem to have a really great attitude about…”, “It may be that I’m just starting to take notice, but I see that you’re…”, “Do you think that you are becoming more…?”
Choose one or two items on this list to encourage someone in your life today!