“I could fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings.” – Bette Midler

Every day we can be the wind beneath someone else’s wings simply through the words we choose to speak. It’s a big responsibility. It’s a bigger opportunity.

Affirming words are like balm for the human soul. They can help others feel seen, heard, valued, appreciated, and loved. They can embolden someone to face a daunting challenge, uplift them when they’re feeling discouraged, or empower them to share their unique gifts with the world. Words can inspire human beings to be more than they ever thought possible.

Years ago, I read a memorable story that so beautifully demonstrated the power of words to change the trajectory of another person’s life and their ultimate impact on the world.

In the wake of World War II, the United States experienced an economic recession as the country transitioned from a wartime to a peacetime economy. For a period, jobs were hard to come by. Young couples, attempting to restart their lives after the war, took on debt at an unprecedented rate to purchase suburban tract homes and vehicles to transport their growing families.

Bob and Dottie Walters were one of those couples. They had a new tract home, a new business, and a new car – all purchased on borrowed money. Two children soon followed. And then, the bottom fell out.

“There was no money for the house payments or anything else,” explained Dottie.

She felt compelled to contribute to the household finances to ensure her children wouldn’t lose their home, as she had so often done as a child, but what she could do to generate income, Dottie did not know.

As she wrote in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’, “I felt that I had no special talent, no training, no college education. I didn’t think much of myself. But I remembered someone in my past who thought I had a little ability – my high school English teacher. She inspired me to take journalism and named me advertising manager and feature editor of the school paper.”

Recalling this vote of confidence from her teacher, Dottie thought, “If I could write a Shopper’s Column for the small weekly newspaper in our rural town, maybe I could earn that house payment.”

Her teacher’s words of affirmation gave Dottie the inspiration and courage she needed to take the first step.

With no car and no sitter to watch her kids, Dottie put her two children in a rickety baby stroller and rolled them from business to business down the dirt roads in her small town. One of the stroller’s wheels fell off repeatedly. Dottie kicked it back on with the heel of her shoe and kept going.

Eventually, her newspaper column idea took off and allowed Dottie to make enough money for the house payment, an old used car, and a babysitter for 2 hours each afternoon. Over time, her little advertising venture expanded into four offices, with 285 employees serving 4000 continuous contract advertising accounts. Sometimes, words of affirmation and encouragement are all that’s needed to unveil greatness.

What exactly are words of affirmation?

Words of affirmation are spoken or written words that support, encourage, uplift, and affirm another person. According to Gary Chapman, author of ‘The 5 Love Languages’, “They are simply true statements affirming the worth of another person,” and the reason they are so important in human interaction is because “all of us blossom when we feel loved and wither when we don’t.”

How to affirm and empower others with your words

When we understand that our words have the power to draw out the untapped potential of another human being, we become much more conscious of the words we speak. Here are some simple, yet powerful ways to affirm another human being and encourage them to blossom:

  • Acknowledge efforts, achievements, and strengths verbally or in writing.
  • Give sincere compliments for a job well done.
  • Compliment people in the company of others.
  • Communicate specific qualities you appreciate about the person.
  • Demonstrate your belief in a person by providing opportunities for them to step into their greatness.
  • Encourage others with the words, “You can do this!” or “You’ve got this!” or “I believe in you.”
  • Remind people of their strengths and / or how far they’ve come.
  • Express gratitude verbally or in writing for something they did for you or how they’ve blessed your life.

“Empowering those around us can help manifest humanity’s greatest potential. We build a world that lifts us all when we empower each other.” – Maryville University

Colleen Kilpatrick

Colleen Kilpatrick is a multi-talented business owner, creative collaborator, and author of the transformational book, “Eliminate What You Tolerate: A Simple, Proven Way to Regain Focus, Increase Productivity, and Liberate Your Energy for the More Important Things in Life.” Colleen is known for her exceptional ability to break down complex concepts into practical, step-by-step solutions that can be understood and implemented with ease. With her extensive experience in marketing, business innovation, personal development, and spiritual teachings, Colleen brings a unique perspective to her work with entrepreneurs, inspiring them to unlock their full potential and courageously share their best gifts with the world.