The Enjoyment Of Encouraging People Approach

This is a more personal article because many people have given me encouragement. They have had a strong influence on the work I have done during the past 50 years.

There are many ways to help people. Some people follow a path that sometimes involves the enjoyment and excitement of encouraging people.

Different people choose to follow this route in different ways. They may do so as a parent, friend, colleague, educator, artist, counsellor, leader, inventor or in another role.

Some people take this route early in life; some take it after a particular experience. They choose to help others and sometimes, as a by-product, get what is called the helper’s high.

Alec Dickson, one of my mentors, built on this approach when founding Voluntary Service Overseas and Community Service Volunteers. He said:

We are here to serve and help other people. In act of giving, however, sometimes the giver can also benefit.  

Alec gave me the opportunity to serve. Leaving school at 15 I worked in a factory for six years. During this time I tried to get a job doing social work but was told I was not qualified.

After lots of research I found Community Service Volunteers, travelled to London and met the Chief Executive, Elisabeth Hoodless. She said there would be an opportunity for me to do six months as a full-time volunteer.

Alec walked into the room, talked about our need to serve and emphasised I had something to give. In 1967 CSV me the chance to help others. Today I still get excited looking forward to encouraging people when working as a mentor or helping them to build super teams.

As mentioned earlier, different people pursue different ways to help others. Sometimes this can also involve enjoyment and excitement when encouraging people.

Looking at your own life, can you think of a situation when you took this route? You may have been encouraging others as a parent, friend, teacher, coach, leader or in another role.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you found it enjoyable and exciting to encourage people.

Describe the specific things you did then to encourage people.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

The encouragement approach played a key role on my early career when I was given the opportunity to work in therapeutic communities. At the time I had little formal training, so it chose to focus on what worked.

Bearing this in mind, I approached many different people to learn about development. The people I interviewed included teachers, artists, social workers, professors and leaders in their respective fields. The first question I asked was:

What has helped you to grow most in your life?

Different people answered the question in different ways, but several key themes emerged. They said some of the following things.

I had somebody who encouraged me. They made me feel as if I was the centre of their world.

They encouraged me to build on my strengths. They also offered positive suggestions about how to deal with my weaknesses.

These people were supportive, but sometimes they were tough. They encouraged me to take responsibility for shaping my future life.

Different people give different reasons about why they enjoy encouraging people. Here are some of the most common themes.

The reasons I enjoy encouraging
people are because:

I simply enjoy giving to people … I enjoy cooking food for people and seeing them enjoy it … I enjoy helping people to see how they can build on their strengths.

I enjoy helping people to find satisfying work … I enjoy giving people hope … I enjoy passing on knowledge people that can use in their lives … I enjoy seeing people grow.

Many people love to give. When faced by difficult situations, they try to get win-win solutions. They also want to plant seeds of hope that encourage both present and future generations.

Good encouragers are often like good educators. They enjoy working with motivated people who want to develop. They love to encourage, educate and enable people to reach their goals.


They provide encouragement. This sometimes involves creating a stimulating and supportive environment in which people can grow.


They provide – in its widest sense – education. This includes providing knowledge, wisdom and models that people can use to achieve positive results.


They provide knowledge that enable people to shape their futures. This involves providing tools that are personal, practical and – in the widest sense – profitable.  

People often feel good after helping others. They can experience a rush followed by a sense of calm. It is as if they have served something much greater than themselves.

Allan Luks and Peggy Payne described this in their book The Healing Power of Doing Good. They found that people who helped others also received benefits themselves.

Below is an extract from Allan’s website. Whilst the piece focuses on volunteering, the same principle applies to helping others in our daily lives.

Based on national research that Allan did 20 years ago, he introduced the term ‘Helper’s High’ – the powerful physical feelings people experience when directly helping others – to explain the real benefits to volunteers’ physical and emotional health.

People have known for ages that helping others is good for the soul. But the study that Allan Luks conducted of over 3000 male and female volunteers has proven it is good for the body and mental health too.

His research concluded that regular helpers are 10 times more likely to be in good health than people who don’t volunteer.

And that there’s an actual biochemical explanation: volunteering reduces the body’s stress and also releases endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers.  

Allan and Peggy describe the experiences of Mary, a volunteer, who enjoys a feeling transcendent calm after giving her best. Here they describe what Mary says about this feeling.

On a recent night, driving away from the prison parking lot, she listened to a piece of music by Mozart on the radio and realised that the work she had done with imprisoned people and with others who needed help was her own piece of original music, lifting her own spirits.

“It’s for me a creative work. It’s a concert,” she said.

She could never be a preacher and doesn’t write as well as she’d like. But she knows how much she can help people, and that feels like a good talent to have.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you would enjoy and maybe be excited about encouraging people?

This could be a personal or professional situation. You may want to take this step when acting as a parent, friend, educator, coach, mentor, leader or in another role.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may find it enjoyable and exciting to encourage people.

Describe the specific things you can do then to encourage people. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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