In America, “generosity” implies an openhanded sharing of material resources.
A restaurant can serve generous portions.
A donor can be generous with their money.
A friend can be generous with their pickup truck, their lawnmower, or their cabin at the lake.
While some people are generous with their money; others are generous with their time. They will drive you to the airport, feed your pet while you’re away, and help you pack your stuff, load the truck, and move you to a better place.
Are you more generous with your money or with your time?
Those who are generous with their money are known as givers or donors or philanthropists. And those who are generous with their time are known as helpers or volunteers. But we have no special name for people who are generous with their encouragement, because those people are extremely rare.
What is encouragement, exactly, and why is it so rare?
The prefix en was extracted from Latin and came to us through the French. When it precedes a noun, en means to include, allow, or cause to happen. So when you encourage someone, you cause courage to happen within them. You give them a gift they can carry bravely into their future. You make them less afraid.
Generic encouragement is as obvious and awkward as flattery. “You’re a winner!” “You can do it!” “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”
To truly encourage a person, you must speak to an ability, a talent, or a special sensitivity they possess. When you privately tell a person about something special you see in them – something that they, too, know is there – you give them courage and confidence.
“I’ve noticed that you see connections and relationships between things that most people never notice. I think this may be one of your superpowers.”
“I’ve noticed that you can always tell when someone doesn’t feel included, and then you make them feel like they are part of the group. I really admire this about you.”
“I’ve noticed that when everyone else is making excuses, you are the one who steps up and does what needs to be done. The world needs more people like you.”
To see the good things that hide within a person, you need only to pay attention.
Attention is high-denomination currency
in any transaction between two people.
Attention is something you pay
and insight is what you can buy with it.
If you want to have insight into a person’s hopes and dreams,
you need only to pay attention.
I know you. You want to empower people. You want to give them courage and confidence to face the future with a smile. You want to help them be stronger and happier.
How do I know this about you?
By choosing to read these memos I write, you are showing me a little of what is inside you. I tell you this so you will know I am not flattering you when I say that I know you want to give that little jolt-of-joy and spark-of-life to the people you care about.
So the next time you’re with someone that matters to you,
- talk less and listen more,
- pay attention to their actions,
- and when you notice something they are good at,
- tell them what you have noticed they are good at.
Everyone else who knows them will forever be giving them advice.
Be that rare and special person who gives them honest encouragement and loyal support.
Roy H. Williams
It’s rare that I push back against a guest. In this case, Scott Jeffrey Miller is a heavyweight podcaster and author. More than six million listeners tune in each week to hear his “On Leadership” podcast, produced by Franklin Covey. Scott has a lot of good insights to share. But when I asked him what the secret sauce of his 30 featured mentors is, he said it’s hard work – their work ethic. I wasn’t buying it and told him so. Too many owners and entrepreneurs have a great work ethic and put in the hours, but they don’t rise to the top. He stood his ground. I think our friendly disagreement makes for good listening.
Sincerely, Roving Reporter Rotbart