Good Communication

Equipped: Words of affirmation

Last year I was able to attend the Leadership Matters Course. I found the topic “Affirmation — or the importance of affirming others” so helpful and I would love to share some of what I learnt! To affirm means to clearly state your support for someone. It can mean sharing a kind word with them or saying something that is truthful or positive about them. It supports or encourages them to keep going even when life is difficult or challenging. 

After physical survival, humans deeply need to be understood, affirmed, valued and appreciated. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). Using affirming words as we walk alongside others can make a world of difference to them. Mother Teresa once said, “kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless”. 

Being part of an organisation that embraces the support of women gives us many opportunities to affirm them as they come to faith in Christ, teaching, encouraging and helping them in daily living and Christian service. Recently an elderly woman told me when she was little her mother would say, “if you see something nice in a person you should always tell them”. Saying kind words to people was something she had always done and something she continues to do. This helped me understand the idea of affirming others: looking for something positive about a person and taking the time to sincerely tell them that you appreciate that in them.  

There are two important principles we need to remember when affirming others. The first is to avoid criticism, teasing and sarcasm — rather than affirming, this puts other down, even if only said in fun. The other principle is that affirmation needs to be honest and sincerely given. It is no good saying words that we don’t honestly mean. If affirming words can’t be found it is probably better to remain silent until an opportunity arises and they can be given. 

At the end of our training we were given an A–Z list of “Words of Affirmation”. See the list below, or click here to download a printable version of Words of Affirmation.

Robyn Sansbury
Development Director, CWCI Australia