Thursday, October 7, 2010

Giving Support - The Fourth Step of Encouragement

In earlier posts, I detailed the first three steps of encouragement: LISTENING, AFFIRMING and  OFFERING PERSPECTIVE. There’s a final element that you’ll want to include as you wrap up the conversation: SUPPORT.

When a person is discouraged, she often feels alone. The perception is that she’s got to handle the situation by herself.

If you’ve completed the first three steps well, you’ve helped her get a balanced view of herself and the current challenge. In the final step you remind her that she doesn’t have to go it alone.

You were there for her before this setback, and you haven’t withdrawn your support. You let her know that you still believe in her and care about her well-being and success.

You could say, “Let me know if I can help. I’m here for you.”

That reassurance gives the person permission to come back to you if she continues to experience difficulties or additional setbacks. It’s a huge relief to know she’s got someone in her corner.

It’s also a good idea to ask, “What do you need from me now? What would support look like?”

These questions prevent you from making assumptions about the type of support that would be most helpful to this particular individual. Letting her tell you requires her to think about – and then articulate – what would be helpful to her going forward.

If you follow these four steps when someone needs encouragement, you’ll be in a position to give them a gift that lasts a lifetime. You’ll convey that you genuinely care and understand. And the desire to be understood is one of the core needs of every human being.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” - Leo Buscaglia, American author 


  1. In this time of self-reliance many of us have lost our ability to ask for the help we need. When the other opens the door it is easier to step in. Thanks for the reminder, Meredith!

  2. Excellent point, Monica. Somehow many of us have gotten the impression that it's a sign of weakness to admit that we're discouraged and need support. But we actually recover faster from a difficult situation when we're able to share our burden with someone who truly cares. There's an important lesson: Pay attention to the people in your world. When you sense they are troubled, invite them to talk about it.

  3. Thanks for the article and lovely quote! I must forward this article to my husband. I'm not sure why, but many times when it comes to support, he instead wishes to quickly solve the problem for me, which makes me feel quite alone as well. Do you find this to be the case with some people?

  4. For some reason, many men want to solve the problem. It's their way of being helpful.

    I think pro-active encouragement, before something happens, is a good idea.

    And it's good to judge whether all four steps are really needed. Think about what the person needs at the time. Everyone, every situation is different.

  5. Lily,your question reminded me of an earlier post where I was guilty of the same behavior with my daughter that your husband displayed:

    I hope you'll share that with him as well and that the post sparks some dialogue between you. We can be well-meaning - thinking we are offering input that will solve the problem. We don't like to see the people we care about experience pain and discomfort. But that approach often doesn't work, and like my daughter, the person seeking encouragement needs to communicate what's needed at that moment.

    One of the issues is that the person dispensing advice can become defensive. If the recipient responds negatively, the advice-giver can perceive it as being ungrateful for the help. That's why dialogue is so important - so each person comes to truly understand what's going on with the other. Setting ego aside is critical for a positive outcome.

  6. Wonderful post Meridith. It really is amazing how profoundly we can connect with people when we behave with kindness and offer encouragement. It also helps us feel great and creates a better environment in general. It's so powerful simply to be there for someone.

  7. It is good to have these arranged in such a way as to be able to plan with sensitivity what might come next, after the initial "listening process" has opened the door.
    Thank you, Meredith, for this thought-inducing communication.

  8. Wayne, thank you for your feedback about this process of encouragement. When you keep the 4 steps in mind, you can better gauge which one to use that will be perceived as most helpful by the person you're with. I always appreciate your taking time to visit and comment, Wayne.


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