One Thing We All Need and Three Things We Don’t

Do you have people in your life that are a source of encouragement for you? If so, who are they? And what about yourself; are you an encourager?

Frankly, encouraging others is like breathing to me – it’s effortless. However, through 24 years of studying relationships and working as a life coach, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of encouragement. So…here are a few tips that can help you encourage others and have a positive impact on all of your relationships.

If you’re an encourager, others can easily forget this one simple truth: Everyone needs encouragement. Unfortunately, people fail to recognize that encouragement isn’t meant to be one-sided. In other words encouragers also need encouragement. Whether you’re an encourager or not, what people don’t need – especially when going through hard times, is to be forgotten.

In addition, there’s a second thing people don’t need, and that’s the wrong type of encouragement – which causes further damage. For example, if someone says they are mad, sad, disappointed or frustrated, encouragers often say something cheerful and positive to try to make the person feel better. However, by doing so, the encourager is actually avoiding the other person’s pain. And that’s a big problem (also called “toxic positivity”) because facing the pain is what the person needs to begin healing; the wound needs to be addressed and then washed out before applying any bandage!

The third thing people don’t need is your unsolicited advice. Usually people don’t’ share their pain with you because they want you to solve their problem – even though you might think by doing so you’re providing encouragement. What hurting people really want (and need) is a confidential, empathetic, listening ear.

Often, the best response is to acknowledge their feelings, express empathy and then be quiet (listen). Then, when they’re wrapping up their sharing, remind them that they’re not alone and that you’re there for them. In many situations that really is the best kind of encouragement.