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 then 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 such people are extremely rare.
What is encouragement, exactly, and why is it so rare?
The prefix en came to us through the French language extracted from Latin. When it precedes a verb, en means to include, allow, or cause to happen. So when you encourage someone, you cause courage to happen within them. You make them less afraid. You give them your courage and your confidence to carry bravely into their future.
Inappropriate encouragement is as obvious and as awkward as flattery. If you will truly encourage a person, you must speak directly to a secret hope that hides in their heart. When you see something good in a person, call it out. Empower them with your courage, your confidence, and your belief in them. To see the good thing that hides in them, you need only to pay attention.
Attention is currency in a transaction.
Attention is something you pay,
and insight is what you can buy with it.
If you want insight into a person’s needs,
you need only to pay attention.
Listen. Focus. Let them know that you care.
I know you want to empower people. You want to give them courage and hope for the future. I know you want to make them calmer, stronger, and happier.
I know these things because you choose to read these little memos I write each week. The fact that you choose to read them tells me a little bit about what is inside you. I’m sharing this so that you will know I am not flattering you.
By paying attention to me, you tell me quite a bit about you. And you do the same when you pay attention to others.