Encouragement literally means ‘putting heart into someone.’ Coaches can be like time travellers from the future coming to report on how far you’re going to travel in ways that you may not yet recognise. It is also about giving the coachee an opportunity to recognise skills, changes, and new developments that the coachee may not yet be fully aware of.
Encouragement is not about shying away from or minimizing real difficulties. We need to sit with these challenges and develop realistic strategies for addressing them. Encouragement, rather, is about acknowledging steps along the path towards a deeper truth.
Encouragement also differs from praise: praise is a judgement on an action’s quality or completion, an approval of reaching a standard set by another person. Praise can lead to the fear of disapproval, shifting the balance of power away from true acknowledgement and affirmation towards an unhelpful dependence on the opinions of others rather than genuine self-worth.
Acknowledgement and affirmations, celebrating a job well done, are also very important aspects of coaching, but true affirmations are guided not by the coach, but by the coachee’s definition of success. When we have a real acknowledgement of who we are, it is not a fleeting gratification which we must seek over and over, but a truth that resonates to our very bones and stays with us always.