Weary? Discouraged? Approaching Burnout? How to Use the 5 Languages to Encourage (and Be Encouraged)

June 26, 2023 9:00 am Published by

All of us have moments when we are emotionally worn out, become discouraged, and want to give up. Some of us cycle through these periods rather quickly, others linger in the dark space for a while, and some of us have difficulty climbing out of the cave.

Enter: the need for encouragement and support. Yes, we are all ultimately responsible to motivate ourselves and keep going. But we were also designed to live in community – that’s why we are born into families, to be raised, nurtured and protected. And why we live in broader communities with friends and neighbors. We are meant to live and grow into interdependence with others – where there is a give and take in life. We cook for one another; we clean up after one another; we help provide what is needed, not only for ourselves, but for those who are part of our daily lives.

At some time, each of us becomes sick or hurt. Or we become physically and/or emotionally tired. Or a tragic event happens in our lives that takes away our resources and our ability to get what we need. Enter: the need for one another.

I’m best known for helping team members learn how to show authentic appreciation to one another through The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. The funny thing is: appreciation and encouragement are like siblings – they look alike, sound alike, are closely related but aren’t exactly the same, though people sometimes confuse them.

In reality, appreciation and encouragement are similar in three important ways. First, their overall goal is the same: to communicate support for others. Secondly, the actions used are essentially the same. That is, you can use the same action both to show appreciation and to encourage a co-worker. Third, the following premise is true – not everyone feels appreciated or encouraged in the same waysTherefore, a word of encouragement that motivates one person to keep going may or may not have the same impact on another team member. This is the underlying principle of the 5 languages of appreciation.

If encouragement and appreciation appear to be so closely related, how are they different?

The key difference between these ways to support one another is their focus related to time. Appreciation is primarily focused on the past. We communicate appreciation for an action someone has already done, for example, they got the report we needed to us on time. We also appreciate the character people have demonstrated in our working relationship. Character, in this sense, is behavior demonstrated in numerous situations over time. Dependability, honesty, kindness, commitment to excellence, friendliness, and cheerfulness all are examples of character qualities we often value in others.

Conversely, the focus of encouragement is on the present and future. We encourage a colleague to persevere on a project even though they have encountered numerous obstacles. We come alongside a coworker who is getting discouraged and wants to give up. We can encourage them, maybe just by stopping by and seeing how they are doing, or possibly by bringing them one of their favorite desserts, to keep going.

Remember, however, that neither appreciation nor encouragement are just words. They may include the use of words, but for some (actually, many) of us, words just don’t get it done. We need a little help, or someone stopping by to let us know that we haven’t been forgotten, or (literally) give us a pat on the back.

So, when you see someone who needs encouragement – take the time to act. Choose to take time to check in on a colleague; reach out and call or videoconference a coworker; offer to do something that will lighten their load a bit. Don’t just think about it. Do something for someone, even if they don’t “look” discouraged. One of the days it will be your turn, and that “cool cup of water” of encouragement will be refreshing and energizing!


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June 26, 2023 9:00 am

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