I have written a lot about how to show authentic appreciation to others. But sometimes we need to be encouraged. Work is hard, draining, and sometimes the challenges we face just wear us down. We can get discouraged and would value someone saying something nice or encouraging to us.
While it may feel “weird” to some, the best way to get some encouragement is to let people know that you are discouraged. Waiting for others to notice — or “moping around” with a long face — typically isn’t a successful strategy.
Some people are not real self aware, and may not know what is encouraging to them (especially at work), so, the question to ask is:
“When you are discouraged, what is something that someone can do or say that would encourage you?” (or, “What has encouraged you in the past?”)
Here are some factors to consider when you are seeking encouragement:
The Nature of the Relationship
If you are fairly close to a colleague, I think it is reasonable to say something like:
“Just wanted to let you know, I’m pretty discouraged and not feeling too valued for what I do. I don’t want to be a whiner, and it is not your responsibility to make me feel better, but if you have any input or suggestions, I’m open.”
This at least opens the door for the other person to give you some feedback (hopefully, positive and supportive) OR for them to follow-up and ask you more about the situation – they may be totally surprised at your comment.
Family & Friends
If you are new to the group, not especially close to anyone, or if there has been tension with your supervisor, I would not recommend (#1) above.
Rather, I think it may be better to look for support and encouragement from friends and family – letting them know that you are pretty discouraged at work, and any support / encouragement they can give you would be appreciated.
At the same time, trying to start communicating appreciation to others at work may be a good step, as well – to start modeling the type of communication you’d like from others. No guarantees but it may “prime the pump” for others to start being more supportive.
Encouragement & Appreciation
It’s important to note that encouragement and appreciation are quite similar (appreciation tends to focus on the past, while encouragement is about the present and future). Thus, to find out for yourself how you like to be shown appreciation and are encouraged, an online assessment tool is available that identifies the primary language of appreciation of individuals, along with the specific actions that are most important to them. (The results can be compiled to create a group profile and list of valued actions for a team who works together.)
Finally, if you feel overwhelmed by the negativity in your work environment, I written two resources that should be helpful. The first, Rising Above a Toxic Workplace, gives practical suggestions on how to survive an unhealthy workplace. The other is my recently released book, The Vibrant Workplace, which gives tips and resources for helping your workplace become more positive and supportive.