Encouragement, Praise and the Screaming Rah-Rahs

During the week posts have centred around the idea of encouragement as a motivator and the ways in which we can be an encouragement to those within our circle of influence.  Sometimes, I wonder whether encouraging someone else is perceived as somehow diminishing our sense of worth, because why else would we not be a source of encouragement to others.  I totally get that encouragement is outward focussing and some of us just have no capacity to be anything other than self-absorbed and (oblivious to how others are travelling) inward-focussing.

First of all there are the true encouragers who make the world so much happier to live in.  Then there are those who mistake praise as encouragement, and lastly we have the rah rahs; those fatuous platitudes that are neither uplifting nor validating.

Here then is the low down on the three groups …


  1. Increases our sense of belonging, being and becoming that are integral in maturing our identity.  Through the process of validation and recognition we grow a sense of belonging
  2. It focusses on our ability to manage our lives and teaches us that it is okay to make mistakes from which we will learn
  3. Is focussed on internal evaluation whereby we interpret our success/failure through a process of self-evaluation and progress
  4. Recognises effort and improvement.  It tells us we don’t have to be perfect; it enhances our tenacity to stay the distance and push through the rough bits
  5. Focusses on personal capacity, contributions and appreciation.  Encouragement delivered in this way is more likely to motivate us to use our skills and resources for the well being of the whole community
  6. Builds feelings of validation, belonging and acceptance.  In turn these feelings nurture social interest in our community and help to unite us in times when a community may require us to work together in its best interests

And then there is …


  1. Focusses on external control … I’ll notice you when you conform or measure up to my expectation
  2. Is an external evaluation of our self-worth and whether or not we measure up; how others interpret/measure our efforts
  3. It rewards accomplishments and achievements and can leave us feeling valued only if we’ve met the expectations of others
  4. Focusses on self-evaluation and personal gain:  If I want recognition then I have to be better than the rest which means I have to achieve over and above.  We only feel good about ourselves when we’re in the top bracket, and being noticed by others
  5. Feeds approval junkies who are looking to be noticed in order to feel acceptance and validation

And lastly there are the …

Rah-rahs (empty praise)

  1. You’re an awesome sportsman (you won the egg and spoon race at school)
  2. You’re so much better at it than I am (I can’t be bothered so you do it)
  3. The characters in your book jump off the page (Really?  How? Why?).  Turning rah-rahs into encouragement could look something like:  The use of dialogue and having placed your characters within a well grounded context made them feel like my neighbours.  It tells me you liked the piece, you validated my writing skills in a variety of ways and you created a tie between you and me (social interest, binding us together in community) = encouragement versus empty praise (rah-rah).

When we’re running on empty we need encouragement rather than praise (no matter how well-intentioned) … so please no rah-rahs.




2 thoughts on “Encouragement, Praise and the Screaming Rah-Rahs

  1. It’s really interesting to see these different forms separated like that. I’d never thought about the different ways people encourage/praise/’rah-rah’ before and now I see it written down it makes so much sense. I think I have been so use to praise and rah-rahs in my life that I began to mistake them for encouragement, creating lofty goals for myself to set myself against and seeking the approval of others rather than just trying to be a better person/artist. It wasn’t until I met some one who truly encouraged me that I started to climb higher and truly improve. Thank you for this post.


    • Pleased it struck a chord with you. I am so over the shallow comments that are meant to be an encouragement and I’m mindful to not make them. The written word is powerful which is a reason I think journalling/blogging has taken off in these time of high stress and information overload. When do we get to be still and unpack our thoughts.


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