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Encouragement – the art of supporting people

By encouraging colleagues, you support them in recognizing their strengths and resources so that they can become aware of their power and are more capable to make decisions and choices. The article gives a clearer explanation of what encouragement is, gives specific tips on how to encourage colleagues at a greater level.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt desperate, unwilling to do something, or exhausted at work? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt a colleague of yours was desperate, unwilling to do something, or exhausted? Have you ever been in a situation where a colleague was not confident enough about his or her abilities? What did you do and how did it work? What motivated you to offer help or what held you back?

When you have answered these questions, think of someone who has encouraged you. What did this person do? How did this person behave towards you?

These are a few questions you should try and answer yourself when you start thinking about the topic of encouraging colleagues.

“Encouragement” is a very common term in positive psychology and also in the world of trainers. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it means “words or behavior that give someone confidence to do something”. Adlerian psychology explains it as a “continuous process aimed at giving one a sense of accomplishment and a more positive self-concept.” Therefore, encouragement is about you, another person, the process that is in between and the outcome of this process. In other words, encouragement can be seen as an attitude directed towards a specific person. By encouraging colleagues, you support them in recognizing their strengths and resources so that they can become aware of their power and are more capable to make decisions and choices. Encouragement is one of the most common ways through which individuals express support for one another. Encouragement is also strongly correlated with an optimistic philosophy of life. Support and encouragement can significantly influence emotional well-being and profoundly affect the quality of life.

Encouraging people to have the ability to perceive the spark in others and then act as a mirror to reflect that uniqueness back to themselves. Successful encouragement is a felt emotional experience that translates into better cognitive decisions. It means that people who are being encouraged might not even notice it at a conscious level, but the results of the process can be seen in their actions. Encouraged people are more willing to take action, take responsibility, show initiative, express their opinion and they generally feel more energized and motivated.

Encouragement of others is a social-emotional intelligence skill. It requires the ability to know yourself and be aware of your own state and feelings, and then sense what is happening with another person.

There are several ways to encourage colleagues, however, the best way to do it, is to be completely present when you’re with that person. Encouragement of a colleague or a group, practically, means:

  • Appearing caring and willing to listen;
  • Allowing a person to share their ideas freely;
  • Fostering an atmosphere of trust;
  • Offering support to overcome self-doubt;
  • Maintaining that it’s alright to be imperfect;
  • Giving a person recognition for a job well done;
  • Demonstrating empathy for a person’s feelings;
  • Recognizing the potential of a person;
  • Inspiring a person to seek more in his or her life; and
  • Holding a person responsible without allocating blame.

You may go through each statement and try to measure how good you are using this specific skill from 1 – 10. It will give you a clearer picture of how to improve your ability to be encouraging towards colleagues.

Tips and exercises:

Connecting to a colleague

The first element of encouragement is being connected. Being connected, understanding, and feeling empathy for the person is essential. Sometimes encouragement can happen only if one person is there for the other – by listening, paying attention, being emphatic, paraphrasing, and showing real interest. It helps to build a base of trust and openness. Be aware of your body language and other non-verbal signals you may be expressing.

Knowing your colleague’s FLOW

In positive psychology, FLOW is a conscious state where a person is completely into a process. It is a state in which people are completely focused on an activity or task, and because of this FLOW, the activity or the task is carried out successfully. There is a high level of excitement, concentration and enjoyment during FLOW. FLOW happens when an individual encounters a challenge that tests their skills and with their set of skills and capacities it is possible to meet the challenge. Both the challenge and the skills needed for FLOW are high, almost stretching the individual to their limit. Some FLOW examples from trainers’ field include:

  • Designing the methodology for the training;
  • Presenting a new topic;
  • Participating in a discussion with other trainers about specific methods to use; and
  • Focusing before the training session.

In reality, each person has many FLOWs, however, only a few people are aware of their FLOW. How is this related to encouragement? By knowing where your colleagues find their FLOW it is possible to support them in realizing their strengths and abilities and then expand them even more. If you do not know your colleague’s FLOW, you can help them find it and make them realize their possible potential.

(Reference of the model: I can not find the precise site where I took this photo from. There are many of them. One –

Some questions that might be useful to help find FLOW:

  • What activities do you do every day or week because you want to?
  • In which kind of activities do you participate daily/weekly, because you want to?
  • What activities make you so involved that time seems to fly by?
  • In which activities you are so involved that you feel like the times flies by?
  • What do you enjoy doing at work?
  • Can you find a way to do it more often?

More information:

Asking questions

Questions are one of the most beautiful gifts you can give to a person. This does not include every question you have on your mind, but instead, the right question, at the right time, with the right tone, by the right person. The human brain is naturally organized to search for an answer when you pose a question. The direction of that search task will depend (very much) on how the question is asked and what kind of question it is. Questions are a powerful means to support a person in the process of reflection and growth. They can unleash a person’s potential in a truly inspirational way.

Strengths orientation:

  • What do you consider to be your strengths?
  • If your close friend described you, what would he or she mention as your core strength?
  • In the past, what kind of things did you do well?
  • What has always given you confidence or made you proud?
  • What kind of tasks come easily to you?
  • What are the recent accomplishments that made you feel proud or successful?

Future orientation:

  • If nothing else mattered, what would you like to do?
  • What change would you make in your life or work? Imagine that one day you wake up and what you wanted to change has come true. What does your life look like? What are you doing, saying, and feeling? What is that one step you can take today, to get closer to that desired feeling and that future? What resources do you have to help you move forward?

Be aware that by asking a question you open a space for reflection, conversation, and connection. Encouraging a colleague means not only asking a question, but also listening carefully for the answer and, if it is needed, reflecting on the answer or asking more questions. Patience, focus, and interest are the key.

How does this apply to be a trainer?

Encouraging a co-trainer is a skill that not only brings value to you and the person you are encouraging, but the group of trainees will also benefit. During a training session, there is often a moment when the group, the content, or the methodology seems more important than the quality of the relationship with the other trainer. Sensing it, being aware of it and having the ability to encourage the other trainer takes patience and a change of your focus. However, the outcome can be much more than just appreciation from your co-trainer. By encouraging another person, you are actually helping yourself to grow as well and you are delivering a better training session for your group.

From my own experience as a trainer, I truly can say that getting into a good connection with the other trainer takes some effort. It is not only about how we both see the training, how will we divide responsibilities, how will we cooperate. It is more about feeling each other and understanding each other. When the connection is built, cooperation comes in a completely different quality. Moreover, when I started to practice the skill of getting to know my colleagues’ FLOWS and finding the ways how they can be implemented, I realized how encouraging it can be for the other people and for me as well. It is a life-long exploration and a process of development and it is brilliant when all the colleagues are aware of it and can mutually support each other.

Finally, I want to mention how shocked I was, when a couple of years ago I started to observe conversations between trainers. A lot of them were monologues, some were discussions, very few had emphatic listening. Asking the right questions and being truly interested in what the other person says and feels is a step closer to empathy and pure encouragement.

Reflection Questions

  • How do you know that the person needs encouragement?
  • Which of the skills mentioned in the article do you want to focus on, in order to encourage your colleagues more?
  • What will the benefits of encouraging colleagues be? How is it useful for you or others?
  • When do you want to be encouraged more? How can you make it explicit to your colleagues?

“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” Author – unknown.

“Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is.”– Anne Frank

Author of the article: Lauma Žubule

Lauma Zubule has been involved in youth work for more than 15 years. Starting out as an active member and later peer educator in Scout and guide movement, participating in youth educational programs, she continued with her studies in organizational psychology, supervision and coaching. She is a non-formal education trainer, psychologist and supervisor working with groups of youngsters, youth workers, teachers, social workers and people from the business field and state institutions. Subjects of her work involve emotional intelligence, team work, motivation, reflection and learning.

Editor: Darko Mitevski

Darko Mitevski has been an international trainer, project manager and youth worker since 2002. In his career, he has been a trainer for different kinds of NGOs and social enterprises, a lecturer at different universities, trainer for companies and consultant for development of organizations. He has been leading the “Train the trainers – It’s up to me” which is going to have its 7th edition in 2020 and is the founder of the Trainers Library. He is passionate about innovation, the development of young trainers and transfer of know-how. Darko has created many manuals, tools, guides in a formal and non-formal education environment. He has experience in managing virtual multinational teams, leading a different kind of organizations, taking part in a variety of task forces and initiatives. He has an MBA degree and a Bachelors in Business Administration.

Click here to read more about Darko Mitevski

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Cambridge DictionaryBeets, Cardinal, & Alderman, 2010. Parental Social Support and the Physical Activity-Related Behaviors of Youth: A Review. Health Education & Behavior 37(5):621-44Boniwell I., 2017. Living in Flow: What is it and how to enter the flow state? Positive psychology.Li C., Lin Y., Lai Y., Eckstein D., Mullener B., 2011. A research study of student teachers implementing classroom encouragement. International journal of academic research, Vol.3 No.1Wong, I. Y., 2015. The Psychology of Encouragement: Theory, Research, and Applications. The Counseling Psychologist, Vol 43(2), 178 – 216.Theory of EncouragementFinding FLOW

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