Showing posts with label words of encouragement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label words of encouragement. Show all posts

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You were there for her before this setback, and you haven’t withdrawn your support.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 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Offering Perspective: The Third Step of Encouragement

Paula, Denny, Meredith
When you’re trying to be an encourager, you can follow four steps that can make a real difference in the other person’s life. The first two steps are LISTEN and AFFIRM. After that, you’ll want to OFFER PERSPECTIVE.

Remember, the discouraged individual is focused on the negatives in his situation. That’s natural—these are the issues that are causing his present distress!

To restore a balanced, realistic perspective, affirm the negatives, but remind the person that the situation isn’t all negative. There are advantages, potentials, opportunities, resources and other upsides going for it. Pointing these out is helpful, because the positives are real.

One of my two business partners, Paula Schlauch, was once out on extended medical leave. I absorbed most of her responsibilities during those two months.

At times I found myself getting anxious and discouraged from the additional pressures. My other partner, Denny Coates, works in another state and couldn’t help with most of these day-to-day tasks. But he was my encourager.

One day, when I was feeling really overwhelmed, I told Denny how hard it was to juggle everything. He asked me to talk about what was bothering me.

After listening without interruption, he acknowledged that what I was doing was hard. He reminded me of a time when I excelled despite some tough obstacles. Denny affirmed my personal strengths and reassured me that in the end I’d be able to get everything done. And he made a suggestion: 

“It’s true that the last eight weeks have been just as hard as you say. But instead of focusing on the past, try shifting your perspective to the future. You know Paula will be back in a week or so. Think about that, and how great that will be.”

That simple conversation helped change my outlook. I felt like a new person when I went home that day. I had my confidence back. And I thought how great it is to have a partner who knows how to encourage.

When you’re in a position to offer encouragement to someone else, be sure to include this key step of offering perspective to help the person view the opportunities in the situation, not just the negatives.
"What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?” - George Eliot, British novelist

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

Friday, September 3, 2010

Listening: The First Step of Encouragement

When you see that someone is discouraged or upset, you may be tempted to dispense advice or try to solve their problem. Neither of these responses is helpful to the other person and could actually result in a negative reaction. Instead, if you really want to be an encourager to someone you care about, start with listening.

The goal of listening is to convince the discouraged individual that you understand his situation and how he feels about it. This is important, because if he doesn’t believe this, he won’t accept your encouragement.

Focus your full, undivided attention on the other person. Make him feel that he’s the only person in your world at that moment. This means steady eye contact and no distractions.

Invite him to open up. If he wants to vent his frustrations, let him. Pay attention to his tone of voice and body language. This will tell you more about the level of discouragement than the words themselves. Even though you may sense that he’s over-reacting, you must NOT say so. Just let him express his feelings about the situation – without criticism or judgment. Otherwise, he will shut down. Open the conversation with something like:
“You don’t seem like yourself today. Want to talk about it?”
As you hear what he’s trying to say, check to be sure you understand. Say back what you believe he meant.
“So you’ve been working on this steady for five weeks and now you feel that all this work may have been for nothing.”
And don’t deny the reality of the situation. If you say something shallow like, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or “It’s no big deal,” you’ll lose credibility.
“You sound pretty upset. I know you feel bad about what happened, and you wish you didn’t have to deal with this on top of everything else. And for the moment you’re not sure what to do about it.”
You’ll be amazed at how people will open up to you when they sense that you’re genuinely interested in how they’re doing and you demonstrate empathy with their situation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What My Daughter Taught Me about Listening

About 10 years ago, when my daughter Alison was in high school, she used to babysit after school to earn spending money. One afternoon she had a difficult situation with one of the children, and she was very upset when she got home.
As she started telling me about the details, I found myself jumping into problem-solving mode. I started asking a lot of questions, then suggested how she might have handled the situation differently. She kept trying to tell me about what had happened, and I continued to interject pieces of advice
Finally, Alison stopped me and said very emphatically, “Mom, I don’t need your suggestions. I had a horrible day. All I really wanted you to do is listen and be sympathetic. I’ve already taken care of this.”
Boy, did that stop me in my tracks. She was looking for understanding and compassion, and I fell way short. What she didn’t need at that moment was someone evaluating and criticizing her actions or giving her advice.
I am grateful to this day that Alison confronted me and stated so clearly what she was looking for. Most of the people we interact with every day aren’t this honest when we miss the mark. As a result, both parties can end up frustrated and disappointed. Here’s the insight I learned that day. 
Anytime someone wants to talk with you about a problem, don’t assume they’re looking to you for an answer. They may simply need a sympathetic ear or some encouragement.
One of our deepest human cravings is to be understood. When we feel that someone really “gets us,” we bond with that person in a meaningful way. So when someone comes to you with a problem, your goal is to express understanding of her situation and her feelings. While this may sound simple, it requires effort to set aside your need to give advice or try to solve the problem. If you listen and encourage instead of offering advice, the people you care about will be more likely to talk with you about the challenges they're dealing with. And your relationship will grow stronger.