The Secret Hidden Powers Of Encouragement

We all like to hear words of encouragement, someone telling us we’ve done a good job, or they like something we created, or that they believe in us and that we can do what we’re setting out to do.

But encouragement is even more powerful that we at first think.

When you encourage someone once, it gives them a little boost in confidence and a nudge forwards. But when you do it regularly, you give them not only that injection of motivation each time, but you actually help them change the way they see themselves.

If someone feels for example they are no good at writing, that every poem they write doesn’t rhyme properly, or is too simple, then a few words from you one time might not have much impact.

By giving consistent encouragement and support though, you give that person something to live up to. They feel, consciously and subconsciously, that because someone has, to use our example, told them they are a good writer, they better step up and be a good writer. And so, without really thinking, they raise their game, and write more, write better, write more deeply, and give it more focus and energy. And more encouragement comes.

Of course the opposite of this can happen too, we can give people a negative role to live up to.

If you are told constantly that your artwork is poor, or not good enough, then you will, in almost exactly the same way, focus your creative forces on living up to this negative role. The attitude almost becomes “Well you said I was useless so I might as well show you how right you were.”

Being aware of this side of encouragement is as important as the positive side.

Can you think of a time in your creative life, or any part of your life, where someone gave you a few kind words of encouragment, and you felt so proud and motivated?

I remember when I was around 12 and in English class I’d written a poem called The Hunter. It was about a lion hunting their prey, who then in turn became the prey, hunted by man. My English teacher loved it and asked me to stand up and read it in class. Then again. Then a third time! I was very shy and self conscious but I did it, and the glow I had from someone believing in what I’d written and wanting me to read it not only once but three times gave me huge confidence, and overcame the embarrassment and shyness of having to read out loud in class.

The next school year I was put up into the higher set for English by the same teacher, and his influence way back then resonates still.

Encouragement is incredibly potent, and it doesn’t cost anything to give.

In what ways can you encourage someone close to you in something they’re doing today?

Finally, a quote to sum up the value of encouragement more succinctly and elegantly:

“Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit: we cannot flower and grow without it.” – Jess Lair

5 thoughts on “The Secret Hidden Powers Of Encouragement”

  1. How amazingly true! A critical comment at the wrong time can devastate a person, while a compliment on a bad day can lift your spirits. I’m trying to be more aware of the power of communication in my life. I’ll have to remember to encourage people more. Thank you for this article, Dan!

    Anne

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  2. Always welcome Anne!

    Just wrote another article today on here about language actually, and how we sometimes try to trick or manipulate ourselves by the language we use. Important to stay vigilant about our own inner dialogues and the power of the things we say to encourage, and discourage, ourselves.

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  3. A wonderful creative writing teacher I had in high school would read aloud some of the better papers written for an assignment. Often, he would read mine aloud, but never reveal the name of the author until after the reading, for a more objective reaction from the listeners.

    Hearing everyone laugh at the satires or listen attentively to my words was important for a shy, mousey girl that was drowning in self-doubt. He loved my work and this encouragement meant the world to me since I hadn’t received this kind of positive reinforcement anywhere else. If more teachers, parents and employers would remember positive reinforcement, there’d be more happily productive people in the world!

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  4. Totally agree Diane. I love that your teacher didn’t read the names, so it gave everyone an unbiased objective view of the writing.

    In a way that must have made it easier to (anonymously) receive praise for your work, because it was more genuinely about how good the words were, not being clouded by anything else.

    The memory above about my “Hunter” poem is probably the most positive vivid one I have from my five years of secondary school, and though it took a few years (and an extended computing/ maths/ physics diversion) to filter through, his praise, encouragement, and belief in my writing prove to be well founded.

    That’s the ability in me that has risen to the top in so many things I now do.

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