3 Ways to Be a More Affirming Friend

I have never been someone who craves words of affirmation. As a writer who loves words to the ends of the earth, it’s a strange conundrum. When I receive compliments or praise, my knee-jerk reaction is to downplay them or change the subject. I am trying to be more open to receiving compliments, encouragement, and praise, because I know it comes from a place of love. However, my lack of desire for this love language doesn’t simply mean that I’m uncomfortable receiving a “job well done” or “you’re so great.” I am also uncomfortable doling out love in this way.

Giving compliments and talking up others simply doesn’t come naturally to me. I live very much inside my head, so even when I do think the world of someone, chances are they won’t hear it from me. However, this is one love language that I know I shouldn’t ignore. Those who speak this love language feel most loved when others lift them up verbally. While being told, “you did such a great job on this” might make me blush, it might make another person beam with pride.

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It takes so little effort to be a more affirming person, and it can have such a fantastic impact on someone else’s life. While it may take some time to develop an affirmation habit, the more you practice sincerely loving others in this way, the easier it will become. Here are three tips to help you use language to love and lift up others.

1. Practice spontaneous praise

You don’t need to save up your kind words for a special occasion. Realize that wherever you are, whoever you are with, you can use language to spread love. If an old friend crosses your mind – send them a Facebook message to let them know how special their friendship is to you, even if you don’t see each other much anymore. If you find yourself explaining the impact a certain teacher had on your life, reach out to them and let them know how fondly they are remembered. The words you choose to speak matter, so find ways to communicate your love as often as possible.

2. Give encouragement

We all need a little encouragement now and then, and times that test us are often when we need affirmation the most. When your friend is getting ready for a big presentation or a big exam, instead of simply saying, “you’ll do great,” let them know how much you admire their strong speaking skills and focus. Give them a concrete reason to believe in themselves if you want to be a more affirming friend.

3. Notice the actions and work of others, no matter how small

All too often, I take the work of others for granted simply because I am not paying enough attention. If someone always brings doughnuts for folks to enjoy after the church service, it becomes an expectation rather than a treat – but it is still an act of love bestowed upon the parish week after week. If your friend is always the one who sets up dates to go workout together, let her know you appreciate her holding you accountable. When offering to help out with cleanup after a party, point out to your host some of the details you loved. Let people know that you see their effort and hard work, and that you appreciate it – no matter how small it may seem.

Originally published on October 5, 2018.

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