Encouragement is something few people ask for, but everyone needs. It fits various purposes and seasons in life, and there’s no specific size or form for it. We needed encouragement when the training wheels came off our first bicycle. We needed encouragement when we started a new school year. We need encouragement when we walk into a job interview. We need encouragement when we face monumental life changes – from wedding celebrations to surgery and illness to saying goodbye to a loved one. Sometimes encouragement comes in the form of a kind word and sometimes it takes the shape of tough love.
While encouragement comes in different shapes for different reasons, the art of encouragement comes naturally for some, while it’s a very learnable trait for others.
Encouragement starts with empathy. It’s a heightened sensitivity to what others are experiencing and the challenges they may face. Encouragement is taking that awareness and backing it up with both words and action. Bonus? Giving encouragement rarely costs anything and is at the top of the list of priceless gifts you can give.
With all that said, some ideas for encouragement include:
- Look for the unknown qualities. People rarely think twice about things they are naturally good at. Let them know you see and value what they do. For example, someone who is naturally kind and patient with small children may not think a thing in the world of it, but the encourager in their lives may point it out and say something like, “Children really love the way you talk to them; you’re very kind and make them feel heard and valued. That’s a special gift.”
- Do something nice for them. Busy mothers with young children often feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. Take a load off her one night by bringing over a casserole with a note that says, “You work so hard to care for your family; I wanted to do a little something to take care of you.”
- Step away from the keyboard and actually pick up the phone. Our days of texting and emailing have created a chasm in actual conversation. Even if the person you’re calling doesn’t answer, leave a voicemail. Let them know you were thinking of them and just wanted to say hello.
- Piggybacking on that, send a card! Letter writing is quickly becoming a lost art, but you don’t have to be a prolific wordsmith to simply write, “I was thinking of you” on a card. Hallmark has a ton of options if you’re short on words.
- “I understand” goes a long way to encouraging someone who is going through a difficult time. It doesn’t work in every situation, but the simple act of being there and listening is, in itself, a wonderful form of encouragement, even if you can’t say, “I understand” from a voice of personal experience.
- Give them a shout out on social media. Tag them and let your friends (and theirs) know how much you appreciate them. Watch the snowball effect that happens when others follow your example. What a great team-approach to encouragement!
- Don’t say, “What can I do?” but instead, just do it. If someone is having a hard time, they won’t easily ask for help. Just do what you would want others to do for you in the same situation. The fact that you cared enough to just do it will speak volumes.
- Celebrate with genuine happiness when a friend has a special occasion.Encouragement doesn’t always accompany hard times. For those who are celebrating a big birthday, anniversary, or a new job – encourage them by acknowledging how far they’ve come and how well-deserved the occasion!
- Let others know you pray for them. We don’t tell each other often enough that we pray. When they’ve asked for prayers, let them know days and weeks later that you remember their request.
- Give them positive affirmations – tell them job well done; let them know their efforts are noticed. Those words of encouragement show a person they are valued and important.
- Ask about their past and show interest in their lives. The time spent learning about another person is a gift of encouragement for anyone!
When it comes to being an encourager, practice matters. Encourage often. Think of the people who have encouraged you and how it made you feel. Then go out in the world and give it back to others.