Do You Enjoy Encouraging Others? Listen Up!

[4-Minute Read + Video + Tips]You deserve five gold stars for your love, enthusiasm, and energy. But encouragement is a delicate art and assumptions can easily do more harm than good.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

Do You Enjoy Encouraging Others? Listen Up!

You deserve five gold stars for your love, enthusiasm, and energy. But encouragement is a delicate art and assumptions can easily do more harm than good.

VIDEO: Kirrily Dear introduces the delicate art of encouragement.

In the coming week, you will encounter people with varying levels of motivation. From those who struggle to do basic tasks to those brimming with ambition and drive.

But no matter where they fall on this spectrum, never underestimate the power of your words. Your words can encourage and inspire them towards progress. That’s why I want to share a technique with you. It will guarantee your words of encouragement have their intended impact.

Encouragement is a delicate art.

Before Christmas, I met with a director of a prominent Australian organisation. She invited me to her office so she could personally acknowledge the achievements of Run Against Violence (RAV), a charity I founded in 2015.

The official proceedings of the meeting took only a few minutes. She spoke of RAV’s importance in shifting the nation’s view of family violence. Then she asked how she could assist. I had prepared a small yet strategic request, to which she immediately agreed.

Then, she curved the conversation toward her personal life.

“I’ve recently started running.” A smile crossed her face as she spoke.

“That’s fantastic!” I replied. Many women in their mid-forties or above would like to run but hesitate to step out the door.

“Where do you enjoy running?”

“If I’m at home, I’ll run along the beach or around the streets near my hotel if I’m travelling. I’m very slow.”

When an inexperienced runner comments on their pace, it always catches my attention. “Fast”, “slow”, and “very slow” are all relative terms that the speaker is benchmarking in their minds.

Whenever you see elite runners on TV, they are always fast. That’s because watching slow elite runners like those in ultramarathons is boring. Consequently, many assume that slow running is the opposite of elite and, therefore, of a poor standard. So, when someone says they run very slow, the chances are they are also thinking, “I’m a bad runner”.

“What pace are you running?” I asked.

“About six and a half to seven minutes a kilometre.” she replied.

(That translates to 10.5 – 11.5 minutes per mile)

“That’s actually bang on the right pace.”
“Is it?”

“Absolutely. That’s the perfect pace for developing strength and form. Given the length of time you’ve been running, your build, and the terrain you’re running on.”

“Really?”

“Why? What made you think otherwise?”

“My husband is a triathlete…”

Once I heard those five words, I knew the ones that would follow.

I’ll write some of them for you now. Let me know if they have a familiar ring.

One day, a woman decides to do more physical activity, so she takes up running as a sport. She wants to boost her mental and emotional wellbeing.

Her husband/partner/brother/father/colleague/best mate is over the moon. He is sport-mad and wants to support his loved one/friend in being happy and healthy. For him, the fact those two passions have crossed paths feels like he has won the lottery.

He buys her a GPS watch for Christmas and helps her shop for the right shoes. He encourages her to connect her GPS watch to Strava. He can then see all of her performance data and use that to coach her on pace, cadence, and heart rate. He prompts her every morning to head out the door, rain, hail or shine. Then he instructs her to do intervals, or hills or an LSD* session.

*That stands for long, slow distance, not lysergic acid diethylamide. On some days, the two can have similar effects.

He deserves five gold stars for his love, enthusiasm, and energy.

But, encouragement is a delicate art.

“How do you feel about running now?” I asked the director.

“I’m not enjoying it as much. I feel under pressure to run faster all the time.” She replied.

“You’re under enough pressure in your day job. Running should be a release for you.”

She nodded and smiled in agreement.

“Here’s the best way to achieve that.” I offered. “Leave the GPS watch behind next time you head out the door. Also, leave your headphones behind, too. If you want to decompress, you only want to listen to your breathing.

While running, focus on inhaling for three steady counts and then exhaling for three. Your mind will drift to work or other problems you must solve that day. When that happens, thank your mind for all its hard work and refocus its energy on your breathing.”

“That sounds wonderful. That’s what I want to do. Just relax and switch off for a while.”

“Great! It’s good info to share with your husband; I’m sure he will adapt. He has made assumptions based on what he loves about running rather than understanding your motivations.

At some point, if you decide you want to race, get your GPS watch from your top drawer and dial in your training. Between now and then, run simply for the enjoyment of it.”

Productive encouragement starts with curiosity.

Have you ever noticed that we offer or give encouragement? We don’t say we will make, enforce, or install it. That’s because encouragement is a transaction of our human spirit and is best done with humility and a delicate touch.

When you share common ground with another person, it’s easy to assume they’re motivated by the same reasons. Challenge yourself to slow down and ask more questions about their inner motivations. Here are a few questions to get you started.

  • What’s your favourite aspect of X?
  • How do you feel when you do X?
  • How does X generate joy/fulfilment for you?
  • Are you seeking to gain anything from doing X?
  • Is there anything obstructing you from doing X?

Imagine the world we would live in if we asked these questions of each other more often.

When the person offers answers, listen up and be present to what they are saying. Don’t get locked onto the narrative in your own mind. When they’ve finished sharing, offer your encouragement by:

  • suggesting how you could help (ask, don’t assume your support is wanted)
  • sharing learning
  • highlighting their strengths
  • reiterating the positive intent of their actions
  • sharing their excitement and joy.

Your thoughtful response will boost their confidence and empower them to achieve what’s important to them, in their way.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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