I was recently presenting to a group of Gen Z college students. In discussing challenges and barriers they face, one of them commented, “the older generation frowns on us.” While I have heard similar comments in the past, there was a deep sadness that struck me in this statement. Generational misunderstandings are not new, but today young people desperately need hope and encouragement. They need trusted leaders and mentors to believe in them and tell them so.
Dr. Tim Allchin wrote an article titled The Power of Encouragement. In it he discusses benefits of encouragement. He explains that encouraging words create results that are positive. In my presentations, I often get the question, “aren’t we just catering to young people’s sense of entitlement when we give them encouragement instead of correction?” Dr. Allchin indicates, “Some might wonder the danger of speaking too much encouragement when they feel like criticism might have been more warranted. However, we never lose when we give sincere encouragement, even though other types of conversations are needed as well in healthy relationships. If we aren’t in a pattern of regular and sincere encouragement, other types of hard conversations will have a lesser impact, because we do not have a consistent track record of being an encourager. Encouragement is a more powerful motivator than criticism every day of the week…if our words are going to be valuable to others, we need to learn to be a wise reprover, one that reflects a balance of grace and truth with a combination of hope and help.”
Relationships with a lot of criticism and little encouragement usually fail to bring great value. Dr. Allchin explains, “If you want to help others grow, practice encouragement ten times as often as you bring a word of correction.” We don’t lose by encouraging others, even if they are not ready to hear correction yet. Young people learn to trust those who are sincere and speak the truth in love. It takes courage to change, and one of the greatest gifts we can give a young person is the confidence that they can really grow, change, and make a positive impact.
It is interesting to consider how different our families, organizations, and society would be if we were committed to encourage more than we criticize. As we head into the holiday season, one of the greatest gifts we can give the young people in our lives is that of encouragement; for them to know that we “smile” rather than “frown” on them. For more on the best gifts we can give Gen Z and Gen Alpha, check out this month’s episode of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast.
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!