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What is your language of encouragement?

I’ve seen this question in your comments  but I dont remember your answering it.  Here is my problem: my husband wont work out. He wont take care of himself healthwise at all. He makes poor food choices and whines to me and then gets mad when I try to encourage or help him. Besides leading by example (which I know you talk about and I am doing!) do you have any ideas for me?I find that I am growing angry with him which I know isn’t healthy for either of us.

This is definitely both a comment & an email I receive frequently.

The person varies (husband, wife, partner, mother, friend, child etc.) but the scenario is the same:

how do we (the royal) encourage someone to get healthy/be healthier when they seem to simultaneously seek your support and yet grow angry when you offer it.

And our emailer is correct that my go-to response is to encourage others by leading through example. To exercise regularly themselves. To eat healthy foods and treats in moderation. That type of thing.

Around here, with the Tornado, I follow the notion of if I practice what I preach theres rarely a need to preach a word.

The challenge here is that her husband seems to *want* to be encouraged (a step in the healthy direction!) & yet grows irritated when she tries to make suggestions.

My thought here, emailer, is that your language of encouragement is may not be the same as his.

That what one woman might hear as thoughtful encouragement another woman might interpret as practically criticism.

I encourage you to take the time and help your husband define precisely what his language of encouragement is.

Choose a moment when weight/weightloss/eating healthy foods isnt remotely a topic (preferably out of the house but outside of the kitchen for sure) & gently ask him what he needs from you.

Let him know you hear him asking you for help, you know how you like to be encouraged (perhaps give examples of what works & doesnt work for you), and ask how you may best help him achieve his goal?

Note my use of the words HIS GOAL.  Use these so he realizes this is not something you want for him/are trying to push him to achieve.

Ask him to list for you specifics with regards to what he needs support-wise (reminding? healthy cooking? Different groceries?)

Inquire if he wants to brainstorm together for healthy ideas or if he just wants you to listen?

Convey in whatever fashion will best be heard by him you need his language of encouragement or you will fall back upon using your language which may not be what resonates with him.

(I know. Ive kindasorta ranted. Can you tell we’ve worked a lot around here to define our *unique* Languages of Encouragement?)

Now you.

Thoughts, oh wise readers?

I know, through your emails, many of you have experienced this same thing.

What ways have you found to encourage your ‘person’ & yet not ruffle their feathers in the process?

Care to share *your*language of encouragement with the masses?

It might just spark an ah ha! (or conversation!) with someone else…

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45 Responses to “What is your language of encouragement?”

  1. Hanlie says:

    Wise, wise words! We’ve learned to explore what he said and what I heard and vice versa and it’s rarely the same thing!

    This is one area where I especially don’t want to be criticized, but rather encouraged And we’ve found that the best way is for him to express confidence in me and not nag me.

  2. Reen says:

    Wow, this really “hits home” for me. Thanks, Miz!

  3. Reen says:

    This really hits home for me. Thanks, Miz.

  4. Tia says:

    It has taken me years to realize anything my husband says will NOT be right.
    I need him to not say anything just not sabotage me.

    Fantastic post.

  5. Helen says:

    I love when you suggest we ask for specifics about what encourages other people.
    There is a lady in my running club who hates when I shout COME ON!! WE HAVE GOT THIS!! and I really didn’t know it annoyed her until she told me.


  6. Bea says:

    Thanks Miz!!!
    I have found that my husband and what he thinks is being motivating makes me more mad at him than anything else :)

    I need to think about this and maybe have him read it too.

    I wonder if he is doing what would work for him and it is pissing ME off?

  7. Jake says:

    Good post, MizFit.
    I know with my clients I always ask them for specifics about what motivates them to reach their goals.

    I need to know this inorder to help them succeed.

  8. Bella says:

    Wise communication advice for more than just healthy living I think!

  9. Lindsay says:

    My boss needs this post.

  10. JustDaisy says:

    What a timely post! I’ve been working on finding my healthier self for about a year now, and hoped that my husband would follow suit based on my own example. It hasn’t been working, but neither have my own efforts been working that well.

    When I found your blog, I also found many snippets of advice and hints that I’ve begun to incorporate into my daily habits. I’m beginning to see and feel the results of these changes, and so is my husband! That is the first step on our journey to discover our healthier/fitter selves.

  11. Roxie says:

    Good stuff. I think the question needs to be asked to get specifics about how the person wants to be supported. And they need to answer it - anything else becomes a shift in responsibility.

    While my partner usually doesn’t exercise with me, he’s incredibly supportive of all my efforts. He’s thinking about beginning a program, but it will be for him to decide what he wants to do. I can’t do it for him and if I intrude, well, it’s just annoying. The best thing I can do for both of us is to live by example.

  12. Melanie says:

    Carla, this is synchronicity (sp).

    This morning my husbands asked: aren’t you working out today?

    I heard nagging.

    Maybe he was only giving me the words he would need.

  13. Sagan says:

    Ah yes! This is so important. For me, I find that my sister and I for some reason don’t share the same language of encouragement… we often just get (lovingly) snippy with the other when talking about things like trying to be healthier.

    Interestingly, I had no idea what MY language of encouragement was until I met the boyfriend - he always know exactly what to say and how to say it, and from that I’ve been able to get a good handle on what I respond well too and what I respond negatively to… and how I speak to others when trying to encourage THEM. I think it’s good to know that about ourselves from both ends of the spectrum.

  14. JustDaisy says:

    Roxie describes exactly how it is with my husband too. “The best thing I can do for both of us is to live by example.” That’s it in our household exactly.

    My problem for a good while though was that my example wasn’t producing much in the way of results (maintaining, but not improving as I felt I should be), so hubby didn’t think it was worth the effort.

    Now I’ve added in strength training to my routine, and the differences are already beginning to show. AND, hubby is taking notice.

    It’s a small step, but at least it is one in the right direction.

  15. Helen DoingA180 says:

    That other person has to want it for themselves. Period. There’s really nothing you can do/say, whatever. It’s the truth for many things in life, including health and fitness. So the best thing to do? Just do for yourself.

  16. Jody - Fit at 53 says:

    Amazing post Carla & I love your thoughts on what to do about this. I think for some, they are just not ready & for others, like you mentioned, finding their language is what needs to be done.

    For years, my hubby just let me do my thing but he was not into anything remotely healthy beyond the fact that he was active & was part of team sports & still is BUT ate bad. Over time he just became more ready & asked me to help him eat better. Saying this, he never put me down or was against my health craziness like the lady in your email above.

    I do thing that men & women think differently & may need different approaches just as you outlined.. a great response from you.

    For others, they may not want it & are not ready & if a person is not ready to do this themselves, sometimes it is hard to help them…. but we can try! :-)

  17. Kerri O says:

    Love this. I think we’ve all been there. I have a lot of people in my family that are sooo unhealthy. It’s hard. I want to fix them all. but, i can’t. They must fix themselves. I do my best to lead by example, and encourage or answer questions when the need arises. Otherwise, preaching, etc has the opposite effect. On the bright side, hubby told me the other day he might join me for some weights! Hoorah!

  18. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    I couldn’t have said it any better than you did already Carla!! I used to be much more of a preacher and you know what? I realized that the more I preached, the less I practiced!

  19. Liz says:

    I wonder how can I check this by myself?

  20. Kelly Happy Texan says:

    I have someone in my family that can be a little touchy with encouragement. What I’ve found to work for that person is bragging on her about some small thing that I find she is doing right. For instance, “I’m so proud of you for riding your bike! You’re really doing great. You’ve inspired me to get out and ride mine.” Little compliments on something she has done seems to encourage her to do more.
    OK, it’s my daughter. The little compliments on food choices and exercise led her to do her own challenge: 30 days of no soda. She did it!! And yes, I really was proud of her. :) (she’s 15)

  21. Dr. J says:

    Thanks for visiting my web site, Carla!

    I try to encourage people with my writing and setting an example.

  22. Gretchen says:

    I don’t see anything in this email that says to me that the husband has expressed interest in changing. The only thing I see is a comment about “whining”.

    In my experience, the times I find myself complaining about what my partner is or isn’t doing are the times I need to most closely examine my behavior with a deeply honest approach. For example, in this situation I would ask: what is the husband actually saying It might sound like whining because nothing changes as a result, but the words may be important.

    For example, if he is constantly saying “I hurt” or “I don’t feel good”, the best approach might be to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way, honey. Maybe you need to talk to the doctor about this problem, since it doesn’t seem to be going away.” With my partner at least, hearing it from another person can make all the difference. It’s not that he doesn’t listen to me, but I think sometimes he just stops being able to hear me about certain topics.

    If things continue indefinitely, and nothing changes, there’s always the option of making his food/health decisions an off-limits topic. I might say, “I love you and care deeply about you, but until you are ready to make some behavior changes, I don’t want to hear from you about [your sore back/your constipation/whatever]. It’s frustrating to me and harmful to our relationship”. Then, of course, enforce that boundary.

    Only when his words say “I am going to make XYZ changes” is it the time to have the conversation about methods of encouragement. Until he has explicitly expressed a desire to change, “encouragement” is just telling him what I think he should do. If I’ve told him more than once, then if I’m honest, I know it’s nagging. Further comments from me will probably only make him resistant to the change. That’s the times I’ve found it’s me that needs to make the change - to bite my tongue!

  23. Katie @ Health for the Whole Self says:

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and I expressed some of my thoughts in a post about the difference between accountability and shaming. I reached a similar conclusion in that the person requesting support needs to be clear about what that support looks like. You can check it out here if you’d like!


  24. dawn says:

    Carla, first want to say thanks for all your loving comments to me. I know I haven’t commented in awhile. Of course this post hits close to home for me. With Mike it was just a gradual thing to get him on board. At first it was just making my home environment what I needed it to be and so even though he wasn’t ready I made sure he realized I just couldn’t have junk in the house. As time went on he wanted better health for himself. I don’t think we can force anyone into changing, they have to do it when they are ready. So I guess I don’t have any real advice other than like was already said lead by example. With time I think the people around us come around on their own.

  25. Shelley B says:

    After years of showing my sons what NOT to eat, I’m now trying to show them what TO eat - but by example only, not talking about it, so it doesn’t come across as lecturing. I hear enough of that from other family members that I don’t want to pass that along. BUT…no matter how attractive or enticing the food and exercise can look, they still have to want it, because it is a change, and we all know how hard that can be to do.

  26. Pretty Pauline says:

    I am in agreement with example, as our encouragement can sometimes seem like nagging to our men sometimes. I really like that Tony Horton has a free disc you can give out too~Pay it Forward. There are places you can download it on line (I learned about it from a blog) I am hoping to give one to my Dad….

  27. Leaving Fatville says:

    I JUST went through this with my husband. He didn’t want encouragement at all. He wanted to bitch and whine and when things didn’t go right, he’d sulk. So, I started doing it on my own. When I’d make something healthy, I’d ask him if he wanted some. When I wanted to walk, I’d ask him if he wanted to join me and the toddler. Eventually, just asking enough times, he joined in and lost 40 pounds on his own. (My cooking did help, but still.) He didn’t need encouragement so much as an example.

    Great post! We all have different ways of communicating, and if we listen to each other, we might just get exactly what we need.

  28. Geosomin says:

    For me, I tend to nag. It really doesn’t help. I’ve just taken to making healthy food and keeping out crap snacks for the most part. We’re both relatively active people, and he’ll eat what I make, so luckily if I stick to healthy stuff, he does too. Over time he’s not become uber healthy, but he keeps himself in check most times and is doing pretty good if I do say so :) Seeing positive changes in me has encouraged him.

  29. Melanie says:

    Now I want to know yours, Miz!
    What words motivate you?

  30. Miz says:

    loving all your thoughts….which have caused me again to think about what my L.O.E. is.
    I’m a misfit.
    Mine for fitness (have fun at the gym! You’re going right? Teasing is fine in this arena!) is far different than mine for other areas of my life (in my career, for example, I require a kinder gentler L.O.E.).

  31. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    You give such great examples.

    The only thing I would add, is to only do one of those suggestions at a time. Maybe one a week. A month. Depending on what the person can handle.

  32. Lisa says:

    Mizfit, love this tought-provoking, action-provoking post. You are wise and wonderful. I especially appreciate your comment above about the LOE being potentially different with respect to different life areas.

  33. Jenn @ Watch My Butt Shrink! says:

    As the person who is RECEIVING the encouragement in my house, I can tell you that the hubby and I have had these conversations. His original way of encouraging me was to say, “should you be eating that??” or “let’s not have an ice cream fest today, okay?” After putting down the frying pan (I kid…sort of), I told him that I don’t really respond well to that type of encouragement. I then explained what I DO respond well to, and he’s adjusted his style for me.

  34. RickGetsFit says:

    My wife has heard every encouraging word there is. She always has the same response - “I know, I’ll start working on it Monday”. Trouble is Monday never comes… Cheers, Rick

  35. Quix says:

    I know that before I was ready to listen/do anything about it (and that being anything), no amount of nagging helped. When I was 265 lbs, my mom would tell me every week that I should lose weight. It took ME deciding to do it and I did it in spades. I just had to be ready.

    As for encouraging others…I just wait until they reach out to me. I’m a big fan of free will and I’ll just be there for people when they decide it’s there time.

  36. Joyce Cherrier says:

    I agree Carla, the best is to lead by example. In the past one of the things I liked to do with a friend of mine was bring her healthy things to try. Sometimes it was a soup I made or organic cookies, or a dish that used healthy versions of things like pasta and potatoes. She said once her family tried it they wanted to try more healthier options. They just didn’t realize what they were missing!

  37. Jen says:

    I have been on both sides of this and I think it’s pretty simple. No one likes to be told what to do. Everyone likes their efforts to be noticed and gently cheered on. No one likes to be monitored and judged as a failure. We all want people in our lives to be on our side.

  38. Patrick says:

    I hope my progress to date and progress yet to be realized will inspire those around me who are in need of change to do so. We can’t push them the way we want to, certainly I could not have been pushed when my mind was closed. Leading by example is an opportunity we have before us. Patience and persistence will serve us in helping others as it has in helping ourselves.

  39. Pippa says:

    It took me 40 years to realize that my dad’s way of immediately shooting down an expressed goal (‘You’ll just fail again’ & ‘You call that ambition?’ & ‘You’ll never make it) that I had seen as very hurtful and negative, these are all just his L.o.E. He thinks that by goading me (or whomever) that I will get so angry that I will ‘show’ him. To finally know that he is really rooting for me, just in a language that doesn’t work for me, enabled me to switch it around in my mind to the gentler sort of encouragement (‘I believe in you’ & ‘You can rock this!’) I really flourish under. Whodathunk?

  40. Sheri says:

    For me encouragement is by example. Before losing my weight the last thing I wanted is to hear my husband ever say “should you be eating that?” He never did God love him, but if he did we’d have problems.

    I think your emailer needs to analyze what she is doing to cause the anger and adjust. Don’t ever give up, always take care of yourself if your mate wants to it will come eventually. Took me 18 years….. :o

  41. Joanna Sutter says:

    I’m a bit of a loner. Ok, I’m single w/out kids.


    I do see my lifestyle rubbing off on people in my life from time to time. While I’m not the traditional eater, I traditionally eat consistently, I’m rarely hungry or make excuses why I can’t workout. Because of this, people come to me for advice…when they are ready to make a change.

  42. Patrick says:

    Good morning, I gave you & Shauna some link love this morning, http://bit.ly/g9GyH7

  43. Skyler Meine says:

    As a personal trainer this is everyday for me. You don’t ever know what is going to work for someone unless you try. The same thing doesn’t work for everyone. This is acutally one of the challenges with being a trainer and owning a gym is the same thing doesn’t work for everyone.Dang, sometimes I wish it would.


  1. Tweets that mention Language of Encouragement | MizFitOnline -- Topsy.com - 24. Jan, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joyce Cherrier, carla birnberg and IamBlessed&Belovedr2, Kevin Green. Kevin Green said: RT @joycecherrier: What is your language of encouragement? http://bit.ly/ee7FI0 via @MizFitOnline [...]

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    [...] MizFitOnline, Language of Encouragement [...]


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