What Does it Mean to Encourage Someone?

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By definition, encouragement implies action.

To encourage (verb) is to spur someone on (to take action).

Usually it’s when someone is on the brink of taking a step or preparing for motion that we would think to encourage them. Whether it’s a baby learning to crawl or a mate looking to ask a girl he fancies out on a date. An impending job interview, or heading into a University entrance exam.

I think about Encouragement as a close sibling of motivation, support or inspiration, but one that is aimed more specifically at energising movement towards a personal goal, event or occasion.

While an offer of Encouragement focuses on activating the recipient wanting to take a specific step or course of action, it is also important to craft the appropriate wording and to land the timing of a message. In order to be effective it has to be particularly personal. Perhaps we could assume that our instinct to encourage is derived especially from the fact that we care enough about someone, and sense some level of need for the encouragement. So let’s consider what makes encouragement effective, or how it might have its greatest impact.

An impersonal missive or cliched words of Encouragement offered willy-nilly can be vague, impersonal and not equate to much value. However, when it is the right moment, and the right person offers the right words, it can have the greatest impact/effect. When someone is about to take a leap of faith, it can be the encouragement from a mentor, a respected peer, friend of family member, that can give the most-needed boost into action.

Oxford English Dictionary
Encouragement – The action of giving support, confidence, or hope to (someone)

Encourage – To inspire with courage, spirit, or hope  /  to spur on  /  to give help or patronage to
Encouragement – The act of giving hope or promise.

Cambridge Dictionary
Words or behaviour that give someone confidence to do something.

Collins Dictionary
#1 Verb: If you encourage someone, you give them confidence, for example by letting them know that what they are doing is good and telling them that they should continue to do it.

#2 Verb: If someone is encouraged by something that happens, it gives them hope or confidence.

#3 Verb: If you encourage someone to do something, you try to persuade them to do it, for example by telling them that it would be a pleasant thing to do, or by trying to make it easier for them to do it. You can also encourage an activity.

#4 Verb: If something encourages a particular activity or state, it causes it to happen or increase.

What do you think makes Encouragement so effective as an empowering exchange of energy? What occasion can you recall where Encouragement really hit its mark with you and made a real difference to your course of action? 

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.