5 Things You Can Do to Encourage a Loved One
When you have a loved one going through a rough patch, it can be tough to know what to say or do to help them. Sometimes, there is nothing you can say to make it better or magically fix it. Sometimes they just need to know that someone is in their corner no matter what; that they don’t have to go through it alone. And sometimes they’re not so much stuck in a rough patch as they are just . . . stuck. And those situations often call for something totally different.
The word “encouragement” comes from a Latin combination of terms: “en,” meaning “to put into,” and “cor,” which means “heart.” So literally, when you are encouraging someone, your words and actions are going straight to their heart.
Whatever your words or actions, it’s important to remember that your tone and body language can have a big impact, too. You want to get across a loving, encouraging message, not a “suck it up and deal with it” one.
1. Validate their feelings and listen.
Reassure them that it’s 100% okay to not be okay. A lot of times people can make things worse by constantly striving for perfection and setting completely unattainable goals or expectations. But challenges are a normal, natural part of life. Remind them that having problems doesn’t change their worth as a human being—having problems means they are human.
Sometimes people don’t want advice or solutions. Sometimes they just want to talk and be heard, and a nonjudgmental listening ear is more encouraging than any words of unsolicited advice would be. Be there for them as they vent, dry their tears as they cry, and just try to understand them with zero judgment or reservations.
Identify with them when you can, so they know they’re not alone in their struggles. If applicable, you could point them in the direction of a support group that you found helpful in your time of need.
2. Water the flowers instead of pointing out the weeds.
Try to notice situations when you might be nitpicking or nagging. When we do these things—even if we mean well—it’s not constructive, it’s not nice, and a lot of times it just means we’re projecting our own weaknesses onto someone else. And when nitpicking becomes a habit, we can gradually lose the ability to notice and appreciate what they’re doing right.
So, learn to notice. What do they do well? In what areas of their life are they most successful? Point those things out to them. Boost their confidence about those areas. Because people are typically their own worst critics, positive reinforcement—when meant sincerely—can go a long way. Think about how great it feels when someone has something nice to say about you. Are they organized? Thoughtful? Punctual? Hardworking? Try to come up with concrete examples of when they may have demonstrated these qualities, as this feels more heartfelt and sincere.
3. Have them work at it little by little.
Looking a challenge in the face can often feel overwhelming. From that proximity, nearly anything seems all-encompassing and impossible. That’s why it’s always a good idea to take a step back. Doing so makes it easier to see things in a new light, get some fresh perspective, and come up with solutions you hadn’t thought about before. If your loved one seems to be too enmeshed in an issue, help them to back up a bit.
Stepping back can also help if they feel paralyzed about a decision to be made or an action to be taken. Remind your loved one that there’s no need to solve the problem all at once—Rome wasn’t built in a day. Break the problem into pieces, and work on it bit by bit. Just start somewhere, no matter how small.
4. Learn their love language.
If you haven’t heard of the concept of “love languages” yet, study up on them. Basically, they’re a way of explaining the various ways different people’s emotional needs are met. There are five basic love languages: physical touch, gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, and quality time. Everyone has one that is their primary language, meaning that’s how they tend to express their love, and how they feel the most loved.
It’s important to both be aware of your own love language and to learn the languages of those close to you. By learning how to speak the other love languages, you will know the best way to help them feel loved and supported when they’re going through a rough patch.
5. Encourage them to go back to school.
Is your loved one waffling over a career change or what the next step in their life should be? Finishing a college degree can be the answer to both of these questions—and you being there to support them along the way can only help. Research has shown that the more supported a college student feels, the more successful they’ll be and the more likely that they will actually stick with their program and earn that degree.
So what are some things you can do to encourage them in this endeavor?
Believe in them and cheer them on
The foundation for supporting someone in any undertaking is believing in them. This is especially true in the case of returning to college after an extended leave of absence—because doing that is scary! Make sure they feel your support. Give them encouraging messages in person, by text, or even on social media. Notice their successes and let them know you’re proud of them.
If your loved one is a parent with kids young enough to need childcare, college experts agree that this is one of the biggest obstacles for them returning to school. So offer to help with the kids when you can, or if you personally can’t watch them, help them in finding consistent, quality childcare.
Are you or a loved one thinking about returning to school? Request more information about Independence University’s programs today!