The language of encouragement and affirmation does not come naturally to most of us. It’s far easier to say nothing…or even, to point out another’s faults and weaknesses than it is to tell someone what’s “right” about them. Often, we feel awkward or insincere, or fear that our motives will be misunderstood.
And yet, there’s nothing quite so energizing for most people than to be told what someone special really values about their character. It’s like a B-12 vitamin for the soul.
I’m certainly not the equivalent of the Rosetta Stone for words of affirmation, but I have learned some important fundamentals:
-Be truthful. Don’t affirm someone for being sensitive if they’re not. Or generous. Or whatever. You don’t want to be like Pinocchio! Instead, search for the strongest aspects of their character and focus on those qualities. And the people for whom it’s especially challenging to find the positive attributes are probably the ones that need your encouragement the most!
-Affirm the potential. Perhaps the person is a “work in progress.” (Aren’t we all?) And while they may not be in the all-star category for a particular character quality, if you see glimmers of a particular attribute, encourage that! Reinforce the positive and spur it on.
-Check your motives. What’s driving your desire to write or speak words of encouragement and affirmation into another? Is it for their benefit or for your own personal gain? Even truthful observations expressed for selfish gain come across as flattery and not affirmation.
-Countless people in our world never hear a word of encouragement. A friend who teaches at a middle school in a lower income area shared how few of her students are ever affirmed at home. For anything. Be on the lookout for ways to express gratitude for positive character qualities in the people around you. There is such a drought in most people’s lives, and your encouraging words might be the only ones that person hears all day or all week.
-Express your affirmation in writing. A person might feel very uncomfortable receiving a verbal compliment, but might close their bedroom door and look at something you’ve written over and over again.
We all know that it’s impossible to pour from an empty pitcher. Perhaps you don’t receive encouragement from the significant people in your life, and so feel that you have little to give. Please check out www.fathersloveletter.com. It’s 100% true and the best affirmation you could ever get.
Yes, you’ll probably feel awkward at first when trying to look below the surface and encourage someone’s character qualities. But sincere words, straight from the heart, have incredible impact. And I promise…your nose won’t grow!