How to Be Affirming – for Others and Yourself 

In my other job, I am an artist. Most artists produce art because of an inner need for creativity and expression, but there is no denying the incredible feeling that comes from having your artistry affirmed. Like all artists, I have spent many long days exhibiting at an art show where many people came to my booth, admired and complimented my work, but did not buy anything. For years, these shows left me feeling very disappointed. A few years ago, I had a shift in my thinking. While it was originally a way to bring a bit of humor to the situation, it occurred to me, “Where else could I go and stand for two or three days and have random people come up to me and say how wonderful I was?” Let’s be honest: affirmation is also an encouragement to keep going. 

The need for affirmation is not unique to artists. During my career, I have worked with many successful leaders who also needed affirmation. The most successful are those who know how to keep going when the affirmations are scarce or non-existent. And they know how to affirm others, a practice that can be delightfully contagious. “What comes around, goes around,” so to speak. 


  ~ affirm others, a practice that can be delightfully contagious ~ 


I formerly worked for a company that created a group charged with improving the morale of 750 local associates. One of their best ideas was the “Thank You Campaign.” During the campaign, every associate could access a template and write a note to anyone in the company thanking that person for any reason. At the end of the campaign, the notes were printed and delivered to the recipients’ desks overnight. The campaign was a major hit. People were surprised and thrilled that someone took the time to acknowledge them. This was simple but powerful stuff.  

In a breakout session at a coaching conference I attended, a master-level coach ran the microphone between attendees in the Q&A session, usually a thankless job. I noticed how this coach quickly and gracefully ran from one part of the room to another, so attendees did not have to wait long to ask questions. After the session, I thanked the coach for being willing to take on that very humble job and then doing it so well. She beamed because someone took 30 seconds to affirm her small contribution to the conference’s success. It is not that hard. 

Giving affirmation is the best first step to receiving it, but there will still be affirmation droughts for all of us. What if you could affirm yourself during those droughts?  

No one strategy works for everyone, but here are some techniques that work for me most of the time. I confess that sometimes nothing seems to work, and that is OK. What I want for you is for you to develop strategies that will work for you most of the time.  

Among my affirming techniques: 

  • Remind myself to remain confident despite the lack of external affirmation. Do not interpret a lack of affirmation as a lack of worth.  
  • Make a point of genuinely affirming someone else each day. 
  • Keep a file of notes, emails, awards, or any record of affirmation you have received, and review them when you feel a void of appreciation. 
  • Maintain a network of friends who are affirming just by the fact they choose to be my friend. 

Are you up for a couple of Challenges? 

Let me leave you with two challenges. First, list strategies to affirm yourself during an affirmation drought. Second, take a page out of Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers, and for the next month, ask yourself at the end of each day, “Did I do my best today to affirm others?” and keep a record of how you are doing.  

The fact that you took four minutes to read this article tells me you desire to learn and grow. You are amazing! 

Terry Warren, ICF Associate Certified Coach, equips his clients to see new perspectives, gain clarity, and achieve results. He leverages his reputation as a trusted advisor with his collaborative style and successful executive experience to ensure clients achieve their desired results promptly and with long-lasting results. 

Using a collaborative and compassionate approach, The Art of Choice: Making Changes that Count in Work and Life offers lessons from business leaders, along with keys for gaining perspective, experiencing clarity, and achieving results whether you are starting out in your career, facing a major life decision, or nearing retirement.  

Author Terry Warren is passionate about helping people employ intention and commitment to achieve what they may not have believed was possible. 


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