Differences in Encouragement Styles

By Carly Fierro

Encouragement is a powerful motivator, but we all encourage differently. Some people provide encouragement at the drop of a hat. Others only offer encouragement or approval for definite improvement.

How often should you provide words of encouragement? There’s no right or wrong here; the answer depends on both you and the person you’re trying to motivate. What type of motivator are you?

The Introverted Encourager

I trained karate for several years under the guidance of a sensei who was at best described as taciturn. He was also one of the most motivating people I’ve ever met.

Praise was not something you heard often from sensei. You were expected to show up and train hard. Even so, he had a talent for offering encouragement when it was needed most. At the end of one particularly grueling set of kicking exercises he watched my form and made a grunt of approval.

That grunt was one of the most encouraging things I ever heard. In it, he managed to approve of my effort and express approval. He gave me the motivation and strength to continue with that one non-verbal noise. He didn’t have to say anything; he knew his students respected him and wanted his approval. All he had to do was indicate I had that approval and I was inspired.

The Extrovert Encourager

At the other end of the spectrum are the extrovert encouragers, which I suspect are more common. These are the cheerleaders of motivation, who never miss an opportunity to give you some praise or encouragement, whether you’re installing Mustang parts or writing a novel.

If overt encouragement has a downside, it’s the possibility the person being motivated will start to tune out a steady stream of praise and up-beat motivation. Introverted encouragers have the opposite problem — they run the risk of missing those all-important moments.

Personally (and this is just me), I find extroverted encouragement better for working with groups, while more reserved encouragement works better in one-on-one situations, where a teacher-student relationship generates a certain amount of success.

In a team environment, high-energy encouragement generates feelings of teamwork and striving for a greater goal. I know a particularly extroverted volunteer who works with a local beach-cleaning organization. Her high-energy exhausts me talking to her one-on-one, but I love being on her team, because she gets the whole group revved up and ready to work.

Individual Preferences

Ultimately, you need to consider individual preferences when you’re encouraging people. I’ve known people who seem incapable of taking a compliment or encouraging remark with ease. With them, I emulate my old sensei.


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