To encourage is to be supportive and providing positive energy to the recipient. For it to be well received, a key step in the process is to understand the recipient’s situation – where they are? how they feel? and what they need?
Without that understanding, attempt on encouragement risks over or undershooting the target, and elicit “easy for you to say” or “not helpful” reaction.
One common cheer I hear from bystanders at marathon is “you can do it!” Depends on where I am on the course and how bad I feel, these well intended words could feel more like the dubious words that I try to convince myself with.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate crowd support. Especially on a lonely stretch of the marathon course, volunteers and spectators add so much lift to the runners’ strides. They are an important part of the race.
Just the same, I would be hard pressed to come up with something different as a spectator, but I do think about how I can better encourage others. The challenge for me is getting to the level of understanding with the recipient.
To figure out where they are? how they feel? and what they need? is no easy task. Not to mention the situation is often complicated (hence the need for encouragement). Ideally, empathy and good listening are useful skills to have. Hasty words or trying too hard often comes across contrived.
But the solution is NOT withholding encouragement. To get there, I must be willing to be vulnerable and take the risk of barking to the wrong tree.
Are you an “Encourager”? What suggestions would you give?