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The Socially Radical Potential of Encouragement

The purpose of our togetherness is to enable us fight the ravages of our times and together, as human history shows, we can and shall overcome every adversity. So, let us go ahead, encourage generously and create a world that revitalizes itself through organic human kindness.

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“Instruction does much, but encouragement everything." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Letter to A.F. Oeser, Nov. 9, 1768

Getting disenchanted and demotivated by the everyday grind of life is a routine spectacle in our times and our social lives allow little space for positive affirmations. Everyday life before and during the pandemic has been stuck in rigmaroles of negativity which can debilitate our spirits and making a positive difference often takes a back seat as a priority. According to Gallup, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in a week. One can imagine that against a viral spread that endangers the mental well-being of people, not getting encouragement for doing our best can be tremendously disparaging. This is where we can start rethinking our social connections and orient them towards encouragement, a word that finds increased usage but little meaningful frequency in our daily lives. 

It is necessary to understand that motivation is dependent upon social variables and the support we garner from people is instrumental. If motivation causes us to act, encouragement as motivation can inspire action on micro and macro levels for social change, national development and global progress. Since the self is in a social context, self-affirmation can be backed by affirmations from people. For instance, Margie Warrell in a Forbes article shares an anecdote about how encouragement saw her through a tough time. 

“You’ve got this,” my friend Mary said after I shared the news that my husband Andrew had been hospitalized for Covid-19 […] It took thirty days before he finally came home. […] It was many things – overwhelming, anxious, testing… yet also immensely uplifting. Why uplifting? Because of people like Mary.”

This is a story of the potency of human connections in adverse times and exemplifies what our social imperatives should be. While the crisis was dealt by Warrell and her family, Mary’s support did add fuel to their resilience. Affirmation from others thus consolidates our will to affirm ourselves.

Interestingly, the equation works even in an opposite way. Fostering a culture of emboldening others brings reassurances to our individual and collective lives. It is an act of self-empowerment to enable ourselves to empower others and it simultaneously provides the basis for utilizing the best of our untapped social potentials and bolstering cohesion, cooperation and unity. Kathy Caprino in a 2016 article takes the example of the most popular TED talks that have gone viral and touched millions of people and noted how the speakers who struggled in their past, decided to use what they personally experienced to facilitate positive change for others. Thus, self-affirmation can be deployed for encouraging others, creating a cycle of positive social interaction in its wake. 

From these cases, we can discern the valuable, untapped potential of encouragement. As several studies demonstrate, there is a positive correlation between employee encouragement and the productivity of workers. When the company fulfils the emotional needs of its workers, it directs them powerfully to the goals they have to achieve. Encouragement and emotional backing also arrives in the forms of financial rewards, incentives and recognition, apart from words of motivation. Since motivation and productivity are linked and mutually causative, by investing in a regime of encouragement, companies can massively increase output and accomplish extraordinary milestones. 

Similarly, on an interpersonal level, a culture of encouragement cements social cohesion and meaningful engagement. Supporting a family member through acts of kindness and words of comfort can go a long way in making them do their best against their everyday struggles. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center showed that 42% of US adults under the age of 50 reported difficulties in finding the motivation to work since the beginning of the pandemic. Morale boosters from people who matter, no matter how simplistic they sound can be powerful furtherances in such circumstances. As opposed to cold instruction and speaking of functional necessities, incorporating uplifting interaction in our personal domains can provide a much-needed boost to the energies we need to sustain. 

With isolation in the pandemic, the world increasingly woke up to the fact that all we have is each other and we must make the most of our interconnectedness. Embedding encouragement in this connectedness can just be what we need to refuel and recreate our collective lives. The purpose of our togetherness is to enable us fight the ravages of our times and together, as human history shows, we can and shall overcome every adversity. So, let us go ahead, encourage generously and create a world that revitalizes itself through organic human kindness.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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social programmes social gathering pandemic

Viiveck Verma...

The author is Chief Impact Officer - Recykal Foundation

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