More Adlerian Ideas From
Wes Wingett PhD
Encouragement: The Eighth of Nine Essays
“Thank you for reading these essays. I appreciate your taking the time, effort, and energy to read them.
Alfred Adler’s theory of understanding people and the practice of empowering people to change is based on movement from a sense of “I can’t” to “I can” to “I will help.”
Adler believed that infants were born observers and perceived others walk or talk or feed themselves or crawl and infants want to overcome that feeling of inferiority and move toward a mastery of an observed skill. That sense of movement from a “felt minus” to a “perceived plus” is the focus of today’s essay on encouragement.
This essay is the eighth of nine essays on some principles of Adler’s psychology.
Here is a summary of the first seven principles.
People are social beings seeking ways to connect and contribute in families, schools, and communities.
People are creative, responsive, and responsible for their thinking, emotions, and behaviors.
People develop their individual view of themselves, others, and events and decide through the development of a private logic system how to proceed through life.
People are holistic, indivisible creatures functioning as biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual/philosophical beings.
People are goal directed, seeking in early childhood a distinct purpose for living life in a meaningful and useful way contributing to the good of society.
People throughout their life span are faced with challenges of living that require communication, co-operation, and contributions to family, schools, communities, and Adler added in his later writings to the cosmos.
People are seeking to be useful in families, then schools, and then in the larger community.
From my perspective the eighth principle of Adlerian psychology is: People need to be encouraged and to encourage others by focusing on assets, strengths, contributions, effort, and improvement. Encouragement is a necessary element of positive growth and development across the life span from infancy and childhood through adolescence through adulthood.
From an Adlerian perspective encouragement focuses on the process of movement of individuals as they move from a sense of “can’t” to “can” to “helpfulness.”
Encouragement is contract with the idea of praise. Encouragement focuses on the process; praise focus on the final product or outcome.
Encouragement can take place at several times in the process of moving from a sense of inferiority to a sense of having overcome a challenge. Encouragement can be conveyed before a task is started, during the process of doing the task, upon completion of a task, and any time thereafter. “Here is a new task that you can manage.” “You are doing it! One step at a time You are figuring it out.” “Congratulations you did it. Look at what you can do now that you could not do a few days ago.” “Wow, I remember when you struggled and the struggle has disappeared.”
Encouragement focuses on the positive and social useful character traits that we notice in others. An encouraging individual observes a positive character trait in an individual and then informs the individual of that observation. Here are some encouragement starters that I have collected from many Adlerians: “I like . . .” “I appreciate . . .” “I think . . .” “I enjoyed . . .” “I value . . .” “I respect . . .” “I noticed . . .” “I like how . . .” “Thank you for . . .”
“I admire . . .” “Next time . . .” and “Your contributions . . .”.
Adlerians believe that a misbehaving individual is a discouraged individual. Alfred Adler, an avid gardener, believed that individuals needed encouragment like his roses need water.”