Principles of Effective Encouragement

George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. Violet (Viola).

Have you ever wanted to become a better encourager? Or maybe you receive a lot of encouragement and think…that was really helpful, or really not helpful. Either way, there are certain truths about encouragement that can help us to understand what encouragement is and what it isn’t.

#1 Encouragement is intrinsically good. – Encouragement makes us better people, more of who we really are. It does not take a us to a place that detracts from our true selves. If you are giving or receiving encouragement that is taking you to the dark side, i.e. illegal, immoral, it is not encouragement. It may be manipulation, provocation, or bullying, but it is not encouragement.

#2 Being Aware is necessary – Since all encouragement is good. (See above.) it should always lead to the receiver becoming more of who they are meant to be. Being aware of a situation or person can lead to more effective encouragement.

#3 Just because something is possible does not mean it should be encouraged. We all make choices in our lives. Sometimes a fork in the road has 2 awesome choices. Perhaps your child is very bright and wants to pursue medicine, however you come from a long line of engineers. Your hope is that you child will love the field you love, and you know they are capable of the work involved to become an engineer. You can’t understand why they would pursue medicine, it doesn’t make sense, it is not what your family does. Remember, just because your child is capable of an engineering degree does not mean it is their only option. Yes, this one is a tough one for parents.

#4 Something good for me may not be good for you. Perhaps becoming a vegetarian or deciding to home school changed your life and you are enjoying many benefits from the decision. This is awesome for you, but others may never have the desire to become a vegetarian or home school and that is OK too. Really, it’s OK.

#5 Possibility is necessary. – We do not encourage new born babies to walk, it is not possible. Giving encouragement to someone who is not capable of success is ineffective, and it won’t go far. In fact, it may do harm to place false hope in certain situations. If there is no hope, there should be no encouragement. Encouraging a new direction may be the best plan.

#6 Words of encouragement are timeless. A kind nudge or gentle word of encouragement received as a teenager may be remembered many years later. Sometimes giving words of encouragement is like planting seeds instead of lighting a firecracker.

These are my initial observations. As more examples are added these may need to be updated. It is a good place to start.

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