Encouragement infuses hope or confidence of a positive outcome despite difficult circumstances. Let’s face it, we live in a challenging world. Current financial situations, personal issues, health issues, and difficulties in starting a profitable business can strip us of our joy and the resolve to move forward. Affirming words create an atmosphere where we can believe that things are going to be okay even in the midst of difficult times. It is not about ignoring the very real problems that exist but rather infusing courage to take the next step to resolve them.
1. Acknowledge tough times
How do you feel when someone makes light of the situation when they have no idea what you’re going through? Many times in our effort to help others in their struggles, we minimize the obstacles they face. Instead of strengthening their resolve, we demoralize them. Do you remember how you felt as you were going from one grade into the next when in school? Just because you’ve made it through, don’t forget the struggles. Instead, reassure the person who comes to you that they have come to the right place to find a sounding board to help them work through these hard times.
2. Look at both sides of the issue
My friend, Michele Markey with SheVenture says, “No matter how flat the pancake is, it still have two sides.” Often those who are discouraged, are only looking at one side of the situation and it’s usually the downer side. Write down all the unfavorable conditions without saying them out loud. List them or put them in a web or mind map. The important part is to get them down on paper. Take a few minutes to number them with the greatest obstacle first.
One of the hardest things to do when someone is sharing their problems is to keep from jumping in with the perfect solution for them. The greatest gift you can give someone is to listen and ask questions that allow them to keep sharing what’s going on. Some people process as they talk so it’s hard to see them go in circles. If this happens, paraphrase what you’ve heard them say so far. This will help them to distill their information and get closer to a workable solution.
4. Set a timer for discussing the problems
The only danger with being a good listener is that the person you are trying to help regain their edge may get stuck in the negative cycle that pulls them down even further. I would suggest that you use a timer and agree on the amount of time they might need to discuss the problems. Otherwise, you will get pulled down also. Remember that you want to encourage them and that won’t happen if you spend all your time looking at the negative side.
5. Shift the conversation to the positive
Once the timer has gone off, it’s time to change the channel and start looking at the positive side of the situation. This is very hard for some people. As the encourager ask questions like:
- What’s the bigger picture here?
- If you take a step back can you see some of the amazing things that are happening in your life?
- What do you want to see happen in this situation?
- What is one thing you’ve learned during this difficult time?
- Who have you been able to help now that you have experience in this area?
6. Rebound by finding 5 things that are going well
After they answer the questions, inspire them to explore what’s going well or any good that has resulted from the difficulties. The goal of our lives should not be to take it easy but rather to grow, develop and become stronger as we overcome challenges. It’s about learning and growing. You may have to give the first one but after they get going, you will notice a marked shift. For more on the 5:1 ratio check out ABT in Action.
7. Express what you admire most about that person
Applaud their efforts and reassure them that they are unstoppable if they will move forward. Focus on the qualities that make them who they are and not on their appearance or what they’ve done. You don’t have to say a lot, in fact, most people will be a little uncomfortable with this part of the process since we rarely receive pats on the back.
8. Use honoring words
Honoring words are those that focus on your intrinsic value and character. Accentuating these positive qualities can become a life-long transformational habit. If you are at a loss to come up with words, create an alphabetic list of honoring descriptors. Add to it regularly.
9. Check in frequently
Establish a process of encouraging that person for several weeks. It doesn’t take a lot of time to reach out to them with a call, email, tweet of Facebook post. It doesn’t take much time to reach out and brighten their day. Additionally, you will begin to find renewed energy as you look for ways to encourage others.
10. Keep the momentum going
There are many avenues you can use to encourage others. Write a note in which you include the honoring words. Before long encouraging, reassuring, praising, restoring and strengthening others will become a way of life. What a great life it is!
Karen Sebastian is a serial entrepreneur who wants to help you succeed in your business. She is a certified facilitator with Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac. Subscribe to this blog for more inspiration on how to become a HOPEpreneur. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to book her as a speaker or want one-on-one coaching to accelerate your personal and professional growth.