Do we really know how powerful our words are? I’m not just talking about thinking and speaking positively – which has benefit and we need to do for sure – but on an even more powerful yet everyday level that can impact the world around us.

I’m talking about encouragement.

We seem as a society a discomfort with expressing encouragement and also receiving it. How often does someone praise us or communicate their thanks to us and we sidestep it and say “Well, it was nothing” or immediately returning the praise with a compliment of our own, rather than squarely receiving the thanks?

Or how often do we fail to communicate to others our own thanks, love and appreciation, not through a text or email, but by sitting someone down and telling them directly face-to-face how we value them? (And, hopefully without them squirming to sidestep the praise as above!)

The Power Of A Word

I mention this because I was recently contacted by someone from my Feedback days 5 years ago who I hadn’t seem in as many years. This young man had once been part of the Feedback youth organisation and regularly attended our church. He had, as most did, a troubled family life and struggled with insecurity, rebellion, ego, fear and the usual teenage emotional cocktail.

One night all those years ago, I was praying for him and I looked at him and told him “You’re a warrior.” Saying things like this to people isn’t something unusual for me, and really it wasn’t anything that I thought was life changing – it was just something encouraging I said to him – but what happened next is something amazing.

This young man had moved away years ago and, as I heard from someone else I happened to bump into from the Feedback days, had just moved back to Exeter. He sought me out just the other week – the first time we had seen each other for years – and we went out for lunch that week.

There, sat at the table, he told me that for all these years one of the things that he had held onto in the good times and the bad was that single word I’d said to him – warrior.

Opening Our Mouths, Closing Our Discomfort

I don’t know why we get some uncomfortable about expressing ourselves like this. But what I have found is that as we become more secure of ourselves, we become more secure about others. I can directly correlate the support and encouragement of my wife with my ability to support and encourage others.

What I have learnt through all the people that I mentor, and the interns that I praise on the last day of work, is we have to open our mouths and shut up our discomfort. The way that I learned to encourage people at first was to literally write down what I wanted to say and then find a movement to sit someone down quietly and encourage them. At first it was very uncomfortable, but having it written down meant that the discomfort didn’t stop me from saying what I needed to say.

The worst thing is when we have the encouraging words right there in our mouths, but our discomfort keeps them closed.

We Need Your Encouragement

The main point of what I want to say is that in the instance of this young man, he needed encouragement. And today, we need your encouragement. You need mine and I need yours. So let’s not let our pride or discomfort hold it back.

Equally, we need each other to speak plainly into our lives when it comes to correction, and if we haven’t developed the maturity to encourage without discomfort, we certainly can’t correct without discomfort.

So here’s to an encouraging 2011. Now, open your mouths.


Archived Comments

  • Andrew Blanda

    Thanks for the post, Scott (there, that was easy) :-)

    I, too wonder why we’re ‘quick’ to sidestep praise and thanks – I think it has something to do with our upbringing and not being able to ‘take something without giving’. I also think that people have not truly understood how to take the praise/thanks in the spirit it was given. It’s a complex interplay with many unwritten rules.

    I have been making a conscious effort to praise and thank more than I receive. I’ve always believed in the power of words and your post above is reinforcement that is a powerful tool.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Andrew

    Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the compliment which I dueley accept!

    I think you’re right on the give/receive angle, as humans are scientifically disposed to give when we receive something. But I also think this is something that we can train in our lives, and so I think it’s just as much of a byproduct of us not regularly receiving encouragement in our lives in a meaningful way. “Well done” is one thing, sitting someone down and praising them in detail is another.

    Glad to hear this post as reinforced your encouragement – do you have any tips to share on how you encourage others?