Thursday, September 9, 2010

Affirming: The Second Step of Encouragement

In an earlier post, I explained why LISTENING is the first step you need to use if you’re genuinely interested in encouraging someone who’s experiencing a difficult time. It’s important to let the person talk about what’s bothering her and to show that you understand what she’s saying.

If you know the individual well, you’re aware of her strengths. You know what she’s capable of. The problem is that at this moment, she’s not thinking about that. She’s thinking about what went wrong.

So now it’s time to AFFIRM.

What you do is remind the person of her strong qualities. When things go wrong, people often blame themselves. They may feel inadequate. They may feel a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. They temporarily lose sight of who they are and what they’re capable of.

Painfully focused on their shortcomings, they need to be reminded of their positive qualities. And they’re probably not thinking about past achievements. This is your opportunity to remind the person of her personal strengths, the ones that will get her through this challenge. You can remind her of obstacles she’s faced before in equally tough or even tougher situations - and what she did to succeed.

A favorite colleague who masterminds with me excels in this second step of encouragement. We’ve worked together for five years so she knows me well. If she detects any discouragement in my voice during our monthly phone calls, she listens and then reminds me of the skills and strengths I’ve used in the past to handle a similar challenge. She affirms the specific qualities I possess that will help me deal with my current hurdle. After each of our calls, I feel encouraged and stronger.

The gift you give people through AFFIRMING is a strengthening of their belief in themselves. Whether you’re a manager, a coworker, a parent or a friend, you have the opportunity to encourage another person every day. When you see someone who’s facing a setback, consider how you can listen and affirm. Your support can make a difference not just for that day but for the rest of their life. 
"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." - Mother Teresa, Indian humanitarian


  1. Thanks so much for reminding us of the critical role of affirmation. Your post helps us to understand that affirmation is not merely "praise," but instead is a way to build belief in one's strengths. That belief is what helps us meet challenges and be willing to take risks, in addition to feeling pride in our accomplishments.

    People are often told that they must get out of their comfort zones. I am sorry that this phrase is so popular, because for many, what appears to be a "comfort zone" is actually a place where fear resides. When we affirm another's strengths, we can help them walk through that place of fear, to a place of courage. And acting from courage is where the real comfort comes.

  2. Lori, Your comments reflect a tremendous amount of life wisdom. I absolutely agree that our beliefs define what's possible, and affirming serves to expand the other person's self-belief. Your words about moving through fear to courage are beautifully said. Thank you for your significant contribution.


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