Words have incredible power, and we can often recall certain things that were said to us, both good and bad. Every time we open our mouths, we have the opportunity to make an impact with our words and positively influence those around us.
Growing up, one of our favorite times of year was when school yearbooks would come out. Now, we could have been a little biased, since we both spent several years on the editorial committee, tirelessly working on layouts and crafting every detail of the pages that would tell the stories of the school year. However, our fondness for this time started before we were high schoolers old enough to have an input on how it looked, and here’s why…
It wasn’t so much about what was printed on the pages, it was more about what our friends and teachers wrote on the inside covers.
Like the two of us, you can probably think of some meaningful words said about you that have shaped who you have become today.
Now that we find ourselves in the role our teachers once held, as university professors, we know that our words have weight, and we don’t take that lightly. It’s one of the things that we try to be intentional about with our students: giving sincere, thoughtful encouragement.
Encouragement is something so easy to share, costing us nothing but a few kind words, that we can sometimes forget just how powerful it can be. The truth is, we are all craving encouragement. Everyday. From the young child to the grandparent, the rookie to the esteemed leader, we all need to hear these words of support, affirmation, and gratitude.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way to help us all be more encouraging people… and we all can agree that our world would benefit from more of that.
Make it specific, even if it’s small.
While a simple “good job” is appreciated, it’s not nearly as impactful as a specific compliment that highlights the details of what the other person appreciates about you or your work. In fact, sometimes these generic phrases, though well-intentioned, can go in one ear and out the other.
For example, an artist showcasing their work at a gallery frequently hears, “Beautiful work,” “Nice painting,” but it adds another layer of meaning when someone says, “I love how you captured the light in this piece. The reflection seems so magical!”
People want to be noticed and thought of as someone who contributes something unique. So, make a point to verbalize details within your compliments.
Don’t just think it, say it.
Imagine what the world would look like if all the silent thoughts of admiration and appreciation we have for others were shared. Our world, our days, and the way we think about ourselves would be that much brighter and more beautiful.
Life is too short to keep these thoughts inside; they do the other person no good if they are never heard. In work cultures, it is sometimes the practice to save the accolades for reviews, celebrations, or future meetings. This is good, but with the passage of time, sometimes good intentions are forgotten. Instead, say it when you see it, and it doesn’t hurt to repeat it later on.
Just the other day, we sent an email telling a podcast host, out of the blue, how much we enjoyed one of his episodes. Who knew those were the exact words he needed to hear, giving him a positive boost during a difficult week?
There’s a little game we play with ourselves to help us make encouragement into a habit, and we invite you to join us. It’s simply aiming to give at least one compliment or word of encouragement each day. We challenge you to try it this week. You’ll find that it not only brings joy to someone else, but it also makes you feel good in the process; it’s quite fun!
Check your motives.
One of the mistakes we’ve made before is thinking that highlighting someone else’s accomplishments might take away from our own. We’ve since learned that not only is there space for all of us to shine but also, giving someone a compliment also reflects well on the compliment giver. When you hesitate to share the kind words you’re thinking, ask yourself, “What’s holding me back?”
Manipulative intentions can stand in the way of people benefitting from your encouragement. Perhaps you’ve experienced a boss starting with a compliment only to couch it with one of those dreaded qualifying statements, “You did a good job with the report, but…” quickly turning a word of praise into a critique. Avoid using encouragement as a way to uphold impossible standards or flattery in an attempt to get a favor.
Multiply the impact.
There are many ways to give encouragement. It could be a handwritten note, a verbal compliment, or recognition in front of a group, so it’s worth giving thought to what would be most impactful to the person you’re wanting to uplift. Many times, it is even more meaningful when you share the compliment with someone that the recipient is trying to impress—be it a supervisor, family member, spouse, friend, etc.
Any time we go on a trip, we always tuck a pack of stationery in our luggage so that we can write thank you notes to managers complimenting those who have gone above and beyond to deliver exceptional service.
Don’t assume people know that they are doing a good job. Go out of your way to be an encouraging person, and you never know how impactful it will be.
P.S. Don’t forget to encourage yourself too!
About the authors: Candice Henry and Lauren Henry are success and influence strategists for the next generation of leaders and co-founders of Aretios. When these sisters aren’t in the classroom teaching leadership and personal development as professors, you’ll find this dynamic duo traveling the world, living out their dreams, and teaching other young professionals how to do the same! Ready to start living your best life? Connect with Candice and Lauren at aretios.com and @aretiosofficial.
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