P is for Pot Fillers And Pot Drillers

Encouragement gives us energy. Discouragement can sap our energy and dilute our ability to do good work. It is vital, of course, to be an Encourager for other people.

There are many models for looking at encouragement. One of these is based on Virginia Satir’s work with the Self Confidence Pot.

A great family therapist, Virginia invited people to see their self confidence as a pot. Sometimes they would have lots of confidence in the pot, other times they would have little.

Sometimes this was related to whether they were surrounded by Pot Fillers or Pot Drillers. She outlined this concept in her books, such as Peoplemaking.

Virginia introduced this idea in the 1950s. It was later used by many other people who talked about Energy Givers and Energy Drains. But it is worth going back to her original work.

You can learn more about Virginia via the following link.


Clarify Your Level
of Self Confidence

Imagine you are looking at your own level of confidence. Try tackling the following exercise.

Start by drawing an imaginary pot. Looking at the pot, draw a line that corresponds with how high you feel your self confidence is today.

If you have high confidence, draw it high up the pot. If your confidence is low, draw it at a lower point in the pot. The next step explores why it may be at this level.

Clarify Your Pot Fillers
and Pot Drillers

Write the names of your pot fillers. These are the people who give you encouragement and energy. You look forward to seeing them and feel more alive after meeting them.

Also, describe the things you do to give yourself energy, such as listening to music, reading, gardening or whatever.

If you have lots of things that give you positive energy, then your pot will be overflowing and you will be more able to pass on encouragement to other people.

Write the names of the pot drillers. These are people who sap energy. They leave you feeling drained and discouraged.

The more significant they are in your life, the nearer they will be to the base. You may also do things to drill holes in your own pot.

One athlete, for example, continually criticised himself with negative self talk after competitions. Reviewing performances is vital, but he devoted 90% of his energy to focusing on his failures, rather than his successes.

He finally managed to change his script by adopting a different approach. After each performance he focused on:

The specific things he did well and how he could do more of these things in the future.

The specific things he could do better next time and how.

The athlete grew in stature and immediately improved his performances.

One key point is worth bearing in mind. Whilst we may have people who discourage us, we may also allow them to have this effect.

If a person is being negative, for example, sometimes we have the option of going out of the room, giving them a positive alternative or doing other things to stop their energy affecting us.

This is not always the case, but there are options we can apply for dealing with the negative energy.

Some people may, of course, be both pot fillers and pot drillers. They may have a ‘pleasing–hurting’ pattern. Sometimes they are positive then, without warning, they lash out.

If this is this case, go back to each of your lists. Clarify the specific things these people do to encourage or drain you.

Clarify How To Raise
Your Level of Self Confidence

“It is my responsibility to take charge of my future,” said one person.

“I need to spend more time doing the things that give me positive energy.

“Sometimes I allow some people to have a negative influence on me. I am going to control what I can in those situations.”

How can you continue to raise your confidence and also encourage other people? Here are some suggestions you may wish to consider.

Spend more time with
people who give you energy

Start by spending time with your encouragers. If possible, only work with colleagues you find stimulating. People often find that, as they get older, they spend more time with personal and professional soul mates.

Encourage yourself. Do more of the things you love, for example, listening to music, skiing, visiting the theatre or whatever. Pursuing these activities will put more energy into your pot.

Spend less time – or no time
– with people who drain energy

Radical changes are difficult to make overnight but, unless the holes are filled, encouragement will simply flow out of the bottom. You can do two things with the stoppers.

Stop seeing people who drain energy

Why take such a drastic step? Energy is life. You need pure energy, rather than poisonous energy. For example, two of the main reasons why people leave their jobs are:

They are working for a manager who makes life difficult each day.

They are doing work that no longer gives them a sense of fulfilment.

So they begin searching for satisfying work with a manager whom they respect.

Start making clear contracts with the people who both encourage and stop you

Reward the positive. Give clear messages about the specific things you do like them doing. Explain how you would like to build on these parts of the relationship.

Give positive alternatives to any negative behaviour. Say:

“In the future, is it possible for you to …?” or, “I would prefer it if you…”

Present suggestions, rather than label them as ‘bad’. Don’t expect people to respond immediately, everybody needs time to lick their wounds. Don’t argue or fall into the blame game.

What if the person refuses to respond? Then make the decision whether to stay or leave.

Focus on the things that give you positive energy and meaning in life.

Do things that give you positive energy. You may get this from playing music you enjoy, walking, encouraging other people or whatever. Doing these things can put energy into your pot.

What if this does not work? Today many people experience difficulties with the challenges of life. Some people work through these challenges by themselves, some do so with friends. Some want help but do not know where to turn.

Many organisations across the world are now providing services that offer people support. Such organisations also offer practical tools that people can use to shape their future lives.

The Better Help website in the United States provides such a service. Its mission is:

To make professional counselling accessible, affordable, convenient – so anyone who struggles with life’s challenges can get help, anytime, anywhere.  

Here is a link to a piece on their website that provides ideas about to how to find and pursue a meaning in life. 


During the COVID-19 challenge many websites providing tools that people could apply in their daily lives. Here is a link to one such site that offers ideas people can use to care for their wellbeing.


Be an encourager and
a pot filler for other people

Encourage other people and they are more likely to support you. Give and give, but don’t become a victim. Do not stay around to have your pot drilled by people who choose to be miserable or observer critics.

Finally, when in doubt, ask yourself: “Does this activity give me energy?”

If not, switch to spending time with the people – and on the activities – that provide stimulation. Here is the exercise for filling your pot.

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