Once upon a time.
Chapel Hill a mysterious land far, far away.
I opened a personal training studio.
One of the many benefits of ownership was The Husband & I could always find time to lift together.
Not only did these training sessions strengthen our muscles—they bolstered our marital bonds.
In addition, working-out together provided me a life-insight which serves me still 2+ decades later.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When we trained & I was his spotter *and* his cheerleader.
Two more! Come on! You have two more reps left in you!! I’d
scream remind him.
The majority of the time, he’d eek additional reps surprising even himself with his strength.
When we trained we quickly learned I required only a spotter—-never a cheerleader.
(the 90’s were very serious times.)
Two more! He’d encourage when I’d falter and move to rack the weights.
I’d stop anyway.
Ten more pounds! He’d suggest as I’d slide plates on a barbell and ready to bench press.
I’d ignore him & lift the weight I’d already planned.
It wasn’t I didn’t value his opinion or knowledge—he simply wasn’t choosing words/phrasing to which I responded.
When cheered on I tended to stop sooner than I otherwise might (hence the play on the word MISFIT when I launched the blog).
When on the receiving end of encouraging words the Husband was motivated to do more than he’d thought he could.
It was during those weights sessions it began to dawn on me how unique each person’s Language of Encouragement is.
(serious. serious. dreadlocked business.)
Around the same time a friend, whose goal was weight-loss, asked if I’d be her accountability partner.
We chatted daily. I asked about her workouts & eating plan. I’d make suggestions where I thought she needed help.
Our calls soon tapered to weekly and then more sporadically than that.
When I asked what happened she explained my “nagging” made her feel pressured.
She shared she felt like a failure if she didn’t measure up to what she thought I expected of her.
Cue life-insight moment part two.
Instead of shouting a metaphorical two more reps!! at her (I knew how little that motivated me) I fell back on my Language of Encouragement.
A language which wasn’t hers.
The experience with my friend reinforced how vastly different all of our Languages of Encouragement are.
- I do not respond well to “cheering-on” as I believe I intuitively know my limitations better than others.
- I do respond well to “check-ins” about my goals. I perceive these not as nagging, but as indication the person has heard me and is invested in my success.
- Learning someone’s specific Language of Encouragement allows me to move from intention (wanting to help) to concrete action (speaking her language).
I began asking everyone (loved ones to clients) to define her Language of Encouragement for me.
I now knew if I didn’t ask I’d accidentally fall back upon using *my* language. Actions and words which most likely would not resonate.
(looks up from memory lane travels to see if anyone is still reading)
Two decades later I think about these scenarios frequently.
They taught me the importance of defining what I require to feel supported/encouraged (check-in with me. offer gentle reminders of my goals.).
They showed me encouraging others necessitates I view the world through their perspective and must pause, ask the person what’s important to her and learn how she best gains momentum to achieve her goals.
Good gosh we humans are complicated.
Amazing, beautiful and complicated.
- Have you considered your Language of Encouragement? Have you shared it with others?
- What well-intended words can cause you to feel discouraged?
Susie @ SuzLyfe saysMarch 16, 2016 at 5:09 am
I. Love. This. (and you). Totally going to be thinking about this today with my clients.
michelle saysMarch 16, 2016 at 5:16 am
I am going to have to think about this. Very interesting.
Alana saysMarch 16, 2016 at 5:22 am
I’ve never used a personal trainer but this stopped me and I am thinking – if I did (and I’ve thought about it) – what WOULD I respond to? One thing that has steered me away from using one is that the trainer would would scream at me (all I can think of is Jillian Michaels?) and I would never return for a second training session. On the other hand, I would need some pushing and some “no excuses” to exceed my own expectations. If a prospective trainer asked me that question I would have no answer but it would certainly make me less concerned about using one.
Corinne Rodrigues saysMarch 16, 2016 at 5:51 am
I’m thinking of this beyond just working out, Carla. I have a huge problem when someone is watching me work or do a new task – I just freeze. Most often, if it’s someone I know, I’ll tell them to leave me alone. You’ve given me much food for thought here. Thank you.
Love the pics too!
Samantha saysMarch 17, 2016 at 3:01 pm
I’m the same way!!
Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home saysMarch 16, 2016 at 6:05 am
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’m nursing some injuries. I’ve chosen to downplay them when I talk about it on the blog, but the interesting thing is how so many of my readers jump on it. Their well-meaning ‘feel betters” don’t make me feel better, in fact, they make me feel injured! I like to hear things like “way to push through”, stuff like that. It’s been interesting.
Very thought provoking post. I’ll be ruminating on this today.
Coco saysMarch 16, 2016 at 6:54 am
Hmm. I should figure this out. I do get miffed when the husb gives me cycling tips while we’re riding. And there are some spinnign instructors whose words of encouragement rub me the wrong way, while others’ nail it just right.
Liz saysMarch 16, 2016 at 7:09 am
Thanks for this. I wonder if there are any commonalities among introverts and extroverts when it comes to encouragement language.
lindsay Cotter saysMarch 16, 2016 at 7:19 am
I have clients who get encouraged with Tough love while other need tons of affirmation. I’m definitely affirmation and my husband is the tough love with actions needed. Now to figure out the rest of my friends and family!
Maureen saysMarch 16, 2016 at 7:29 am
Perfect timing! I am meeting with a personal trainer on Friday to go over my goals for the next 2 months that we will be working together. I will need to think about what language of encouragement I respond to the best.
Leanne saysMarch 16, 2016 at 8:08 am
this reminds me so much of the 5 love languages and how different we all are with those. My husband and I have to remind each other all the time that how we think we’re showing love is not necessarily how the other person sees it – and I’m sure encouragement is much the same. Really interesting ideas here Carla x
Catherine saysMarch 16, 2016 at 8:32 am
Great post, Carla! I’ve never thought of this but it totally makes sense! (Reminds me of The Five Love Languages.)
We all respond to encouragement and support differently and it is invaluable to know how to respond to individual preference if you’re a coach or trainer.
As for me? I need tough love. Otherwise, I’ll stop because I’m lazy.
Chris saysMarch 16, 2016 at 8:34 am
I can’t help but give you the flippant response that’s been going through my brain the whole time I’m reading this post:
My Language of Encouragement involves a LOT of F-bombs.
It’s flippant but absolutely undeniably true. I swear in my self-talk – “alright grrrl, let’s get this effing thing done.” “What, are you gonna effing quit NOW? you have two more reps, finish the effing set!” etc. F-bombs are the language of my internal AND external voice. it’s what I’ve got, and it works for me.
Carol Cassara saysMarch 16, 2016 at 8:35 am
How very true this is. I see it in different trainers I have had for fitness. I work better with some styles than others.
Lisa @ RunWiki saysMarch 16, 2016 at 8:38 am
This just happened to me yesterday. Someone texted me some “words of encouragement” and it felt so yucky. I had to sit down, really think about what this persons intention was (all good and kind) and then walk myself of the “yucky” cliff. My language is complex and deep, so I do not expect everyone to speak it… hence the introversion. I feel much more comfortable when someone is open, honest, respectful, passionate and direct. Let’s just say my language has a New York accent.
Carly @ Fine Fit Day saysMarch 16, 2016 at 9:18 am
Yes, yes, yes! Whenever I start with a new client, the first few sessions I’m feeling out what they will respond to best. Sometimes I use a questionnaire before we even begin and I can start to guess their training type from their responses. You know what’s funny, though, it never occurred to me that everyone has a different language of encouragement in everyday life as well as working out!
AdjustedReality saysMarch 16, 2016 at 9:37 am
For sure. I don’t know that I’ve ever crystallized it like this, but yes yes yes. My husband at a race is motivated by pacing people and the crowd and external encouragement. I’ve only been able to transcend what I thought I could do when I take it WAYYYY internal and chant a mantra and focus on what *I* am doing.
Stephanie Weaver, MPH saysMarch 16, 2016 at 10:03 am
This is something I will definitely use with my health coaching clients! Self-awareness is so important. You know I love your posts, right?
Elle saysMarch 16, 2016 at 10:49 am
Interesting. My husband responds to praise and encouragement to do more (he’s a LEO and I can almost see him purring as I ‘stroke’ him.)
I am more like you, I think… don’t need it, don’t care about it. I am my OWN boss and my OWN best critic/cheerleader – and in silence.
But I am also a cynic and ALWAYS wondering what the payoff is for the other person who may be praising me. Yikes!
Linz @ Itz Linz saysMarch 16, 2016 at 11:13 am
that’s really interesting but makes a lot of sense!! not a language, but an action – i hate when i run with someone and they run ahead… even if they’re trying to “push” me
Marcia saysMarch 16, 2016 at 11:41 am
So many parallels here. My hubby and I have had a weekly lifting date since before marriage. We’re both the same though so no cheering is perfect on both sides. Any nudging gets a “shut up” from me. ;p
And the Ah ha! moment. This is the issue between my MIL and I. She requires all the cheering and handholding. Sigh.
Sagan saysMarch 16, 2016 at 1:08 pm
“It wasn’t I didn’t value his opinion or knowledge—he simply wasn’t choosing words/phrasing to which I responded.” This! Nailed it.
It’s something that REALLY hit home for me when I was working a 9–5 job and supervising interns. It was amazing how different everyone was, and how they all needed to be managed in different ways in order for them to truly flourish and get their best work done (and for them to enjoy the work the most).
This is also a crucial area where so many people fail — in assuming that everyone needs the same things and the same language to encourage them. The more that we talk about this topic, the more that we’ll all be reminded to tailor our language to each individual, and the happier (and more inspired and motivated) all of us will be!
Love it 🙂
Becki @ Fighting for Wellness saysMarch 16, 2016 at 1:27 pm
I was just thinking about this the other day. What really motivates me is when someone asks (usually my trainer) if I think I can do more. My competitive streak comes out and my brain screams, “Of course I can do more!” So when the trainer tells me 8 minimum, I do my absolute best to hit 10. If at 10 he asks how I’m doing, you better believe I’m getting 12.
On the other hand, if I just have a written program, I’ll just do whatever it says (or less) because I’m not feeling challenged.
Erin @ Erin's Inside Job saysMarch 16, 2016 at 2:08 pm
Aw this is so great. I love it. I definitely respond to being told I’m almost done or to push it and finish the last couple but I can totally see how that may not help someone else. Thanks for sharing this!
Jody - Fit at 58 saysMarch 16, 2016 at 2:16 pm
So important & important reminder. Kinda like the Jillian vs. Bob in the older days of BL. SOme did not like her hard core approach & yelling yet preferred Bob’s approach.
I think the tricky part is for some, they like to avoid so there is a balance with those that you have to push with a gentle touch to make sure they don’t lie to themselves.. 🙂
Haralee saysMarch 16, 2016 at 5:32 pm
Thank-you for articulating just what a friend and I were talking about with one exercise instructor versus another! In a group class I would imagine an instructor needs to hit on the majority positive response from her cheering/direction. Something for me to think about!
KCLAnderson (Karen) saysMarch 17, 2016 at 12:09 pm
I consider myself to be pretty freaking aware…and yet, I am not not sure I know the answer to this! Thanks for the prod to get to know myself even better 🙂
Nellie saysMarch 17, 2016 at 8:30 pm
I am actually a lot like you, I don’t like when people are cheering but I love a personal email to see how I’m doing with my training, that to me is super motivational and appeals to me way more.
cheryl saysMarch 18, 2016 at 6:07 am
This is something we fine tune daily with preschool kiddos- I too often hear “good job” or other statements that are really meaningless to the person (this applies to adults also). When I see a person struggling with whatever they are trying to accomplish, I often say things such as “you are trying SO hard! you should be proud of yourself” to keep them going. Too often the wrong things are said which causes a “shutdown”. See it daily.
Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table saysMarch 19, 2016 at 1:29 pm
This is a great point… I’ve never really considered it! I response to taunting I guess… growing up playing sports and being competitive left me pretty thick-skinned. I’m sure other wish I’d be more gentle… something I likely need to be more conscious of.
TriGirl saysMarch 20, 2016 at 7:12 pm
This is so relevant to me right now (I believe I say this every time I read your posts. So interesting.)
I think what I need is validation that I’m struggling with something and not the generic “you can do it!” If I could, I would. If what I’m doing isn’t working, first I need the person to agree, then I can often work through what I need to change with some suggestions.
Psychic Nest saysMarch 23, 2016 at 9:49 am
Your article makes so much sense. Every person has different words of encouragement they respond to and it is not necessarily the same with someone else’s words. It is great knowing that you have someone who can encourage you without pushing your limits on a negative way. Thank you for sharing this!
Ask Helen saysMarch 24, 2016 at 9:13 pm
“I do not respond well to “cheering-on” as I believe I intuitively know my limitations better than others.” – This is just so me. I love your articles! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!