Knowing how to encourage someone is a valuable skill today. In this article, you’ll learn how to be a terrific manager or friend who knows how to encourage and uplift someone who needs it. You may even find some tactics helpful for motivating yourself.
Why Learn How to Encourage Someone?
If you’re a manager, then knowing how to encourage someone will make you a better manager because you’ll be able to motivate your team. Motivation improves performance at work. Motivated employees are also more engaged, which means they’ll feel more fulfilled and produce better results. Not only will they perform their work better, they’ll also be happier. Ultimately, higher motivation leads to better retention.
Encouragement is also good for mental health. Mental health disorders are common: a global study in 2017 found that 792 million people live with a mental disorder. And since the pandemic, that number has only increased. The World Health Organization raised the alarm in March 2022 that the global prevalence of anxiety and depression has increased by 25%.
On a personal level, you’ll find that encouraging someone improves your relationship with them. They feel heard, acknowledged, and supported. And if you’re successful, then you’re helping the other person achieve their full potential.
Finally, you can use the techniques below to motivate and encourage yourself. Why wait for encouragement from others? If you've got goals that are important to you and you’re feeling discouraged, you can give yourself the boost you need to stick to it.
What Drives Us: The 2 Types of Motivation
To encourage someone, you must understand what motivates them. There are two basic types of motivation:
1. Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is when you do something for its own sake, for pure enjoyment, and for personal satisfaction. For example, you may get out of bed at 5 am every morning to go for a run because it feels exhilarating. You get a “runner’s high.”
That’s intrinsic motivation. The fact that running keeps your heart healthy, your weight down, and your muscles strong is a bonus.
2. Extrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic motivation is when you do something to gain a reward or to avoid punishment. At work, these include:
- salary raises
There are also many external rewards in everyday life. In our running example above, extrinsic motivations include the reward of losing weight.
Another extrinsic motivation, which is based on avoiding punishment, is the fear of needing open-heart surgery or getting a heart attack.
People have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for doing things. The runner, for instance, runs for both the euphoria and the health benefits of running. But intrinsic motivation is stronger and longer lasting. You’ll get your run in despite bad weather, for example. There’s a blizzard? Then you’ll run indoors on a treadmill.
But extrinsic motivation is weaker and more fragile. It can lose its power at the first sign of trouble. When it looks like rain, for instance, you hit the snooze button on your alarm and tell yourself you’ll run tomorrow.
Extrinsic motivators such as incentives can also backfire and even weaken a person’s intrinsic motivation. Let’s say our runner decides to focus on their weight loss goals. This pressure may remove all the pleasure from running because the runner’s attention and energy are now focused on the weighing scale.
When and How to Encourage Someone Using Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is more enduring than external motivation. So, it’s always good to find a way to encourage someone using intrinsic motivation. How do you do that? By finding out their values and psychological needs.
According to Intrinsic Motivation Theory, people have psychological needs that must be met for them to feel fulfilled and satisfied. In Why Motivating People Doesn't Work . . . and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging, author Susan Fowler says almost every person has three psychological needs:
- Autonomy or having control and agency in the situation. People want to have choices and be able to decide for themselves instead of having decisions imposed on them.
- Relatedness and connectedness with others. Human beings need to have genuine and meaningful relationships and to contribute to the greater good.
- Competence and effectiveness. We all need to know that we can handle daily life, that we have skills, and that we can excel at something.
According to Fowler, motivating people doesn’t work because they’re already motivated by the above psychological needs. What does work is helping others understand what motivates them and creating an environment that’s conducive to satisfying their psychological needs.
One way to discover individual employee’s motivators is to let them take industrial assessments. There are many available, and some of them are designed to help uncover a person's motivators. The results can help your team members develop self-awareness and help you better understand them.
When and How to Encourage Someone Using Extrinsic Motivation
By now, it may sound like intrinsic motivation is all you need to encourage someone. That’s not the case at all. Extrinsic motivation does have its own place when it comes to encouraging and uplifting people.
There are at least three situations where extrinsic motivators work best:
1. Performing New Tasks
When a person is performing a new task, they don’t yet associate that task with any intrinsic values. The same applies to a new habit you’re trying to develop. In this case, external rewards can motivate them to give the new task a try. Eventually, the task or habit may become satisfying enough that external rewards will no longer be necessary to sustain the activity.
For example, your partner wants to develop the habit of exercising regularly. Physical activity is new to them, and they don’t find it enjoyable. You can encourage them with external motivators like sticking a star on the calendar for each day that they exercise. Seeing the page fill up with stars will positively reinforce the new activity until they’re intrinsically motivated to do it. And on days when they’re discouraged, the stars may uplift them enough to persevere.
2. Executing Algorithmic Tasks
Algorithmic tasks are those that don’t need thinking to complete. You only need to follow a specific set of steps or a process to complete them. These tasks may be inherently boring and not intrinsically motivating. Extrinsic motivation is more effective for these tasks.
A good example is having to install and update security applications on employees’ work computers. This task is extremely important for everyone to complete, and it only requires them to follow a specific set of steps. But not all employees may find it satisfying in itself. Furthermore, it takes time and may be boring for some. External motivators like digital badges may encourage them to complete the task.
3. Giving Measurable Feedback
Another situation that warrants extrinsic motivation is when giving measurable feedback on something that’s not easy to quantify. You can use extrinsic motivators as a way of giving quantifiable feedback on performance, for example.
Let’s say your friend wants to become more creative. It’s hard to measure creativity. But you can encourage your friend to perform more creative activities through external rewards like praise and public recognition. You could encourage them by saying something like,
“I know you wanted to quit the painting class, but you stuck with it. I’m so proud of you for persevering. And now look at all the paintings you completed! I can see a definite improvement in technique from your older paintings.”
You can also encourage your friend through public recognition. You could post a picture of her painting on your Instagram account with a caption praising her for nurturing her creative side.
A Caveat When Using External Rewards
Beware of reducing intrinsic motivation when giving extrinsic rewards. The external reward should be given to recognize excellent work—not to bribe or manipulate. As social psychologist David G. Meyers explains in Psychology: Eighth Edition in Modules:
A person's interest often survives when a reward is used neither to bribe nor to control but to signal a job well done, as in a "most improved player" award. If a reward boosts your feeling of competence after doing good work, your enjoyment of the task may increase.
Tips for Having an Effective Encouraging Conversation
Aside from leveraging intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, it’s also useful to know how to be more encouraging during a conversation. Whether at work, school, or in personal life, these tips will serve you well:
1. Be 100% Present
When speaking with a person who needs encouragement, it’s important for them to know that you’re completely present and that you’re listening to them. So, choose a quiet and private location where you won’t be interrupted. Switch off your phone and give them your full attention.
2. Leave Your Personal Agenda
It’s also important for you to leave your personal agenda outside the door and make the conversation all about the other person. You may be their manager and have a vested interest in their job performance. But this conversation won’t be as effective if you’re focused on your own interests. You’ll be a more effective manager if you genuinely want your team members to succeed.
3. Listen Actively
Use active listening to gain a deeper understanding of the other person, their situation, and the best way to encourage them. Active listening is how you’ll uncover what a person truly values. You can ask them. They may give you an answer, but often, you’ll also have to “read between the lines” and draw conclusions from what they don’t tell you.
4. Let Them Come Up With Ways to Fulfill Agency, Relatedness, and Competence
If you recall, the three psychological needs of people are agency, relatedness, and competence (ARC). When encouraging someone, it’s vital to help them meet these psychological needs.
But you can't do so by dictating to them. The first psychological need is agency, or having control of one’s own destiny. And so, instead of imposing your solutions on them, guide them towards coming up with their own strategies for achieving ARC.
5. Give Advice Only If They Ask for It
Related to the previous tip, refrain from giving the other person your unsolicited advice. Just listen, ask questions, and listen some more. According to Michael Bungay Stanier, author of Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, some helpful questions include:
- "What’s on your mind?"
- "What’s the challenge for you?"
- "What are your first thoughts [on how to overcome the challenge]?"
- "How can I help?"
Sometimes having someone listen without judgment is all the encouragement a person needs!
But if you feel strongly that you can help them, ask permission first. Say something like, “I have an idea that might help. Would you like to hear it?” or “Would you like to talk through this with me?”
When and How to Use Praise
Praise is a verbal extrinsic reward that can be encouraging and uplifting. It can be a two-edged sword. It can either bolster or tear down a person’s intrinsic motivation, depending on how it’s given. In a study on the effects of praise on children’s intrinsic motivation, researchers found that praise encourages performance when it:
- attributes performance to controllable causes
- promotes autonomy
- enhances competence without relying on comparisons
- conveys realistically attainable results
How do you apply these findings when giving praise? Here are some tips:
Praise what the person did and not just the achievement. Recognize the person’s efforts and progress. Give them a pat on the back for what they’re doing that isn’t visible or known to many.
Overpraising is praising more highly than the situation warrants, including when the person doesn’t deserve commendation. It comes off as either insincere or incompetent.
Know When to Praise Publicly
While major accomplishments should be publicly recognized, some praise should be given more discreetly. Private recognition can be delivered through face-to-face meetings, email, or chat.
Recognize the Impact of Their Achievement
Tie their accomplishment to the bigger picture by acknowledging how it made an impact. For example, don’t just recognize that they reached their sales target. Say how that increased the entire team’s profitability.
Follow the above tips when you're wondering how to uplift someone with verbal praise.
Make Compelling Presentations With Envato Elements
Need to make a presentation during an awards or recognition ceremony? Start with a PowerPoint template from Elements. With a PowerPoint template, you’ll cut down your workflow while delivering a professionally-designed presentation. And with Elements, you get unlimited downloads of everything you’ll need for your presentation—all for one low monthly subscription fee.
You can also go to Envato Elements when creating extrinsic rewards like certificates, badges, and stickers. Download a template from Elements, customize it with your branding colors and logo, jazz it up with photos or icons, and you'll look like a pro.
What’s more, all the creative assets in Elements, from photos and fonts to videos and music, come with a commercial license. You don’t have to do anything or pay extra to use them for business. That means you don't have to worry about copyright issues.
Encourage Your Team, Your Friends, and Yourself
At several points in your life, you’ll find that you have to give encouragement to someone. It could be a friend, a co-worker, an employee, or a family member. It could be yourself. In this article, you’ve learned how to encourage someone and uplift anybody.
Using both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations at the right time and in the right manner is the best way to motivate someone. A well-deserved and perfectly timed praise brightens up anybody’s day. It can be just what they needed to keep persevering.
And if you want to create an uplifting presentation, use a professionally designed PowerPoint template from Elements. It’s also your one-stop shop for all the creative assets you need to make rewards like badges and certificates.
Apply what you’ve learned here to encourage others and yourself. We all need a boost now and then.