Can Positive Words of Encouragement Really Make a Difference?

Alli Wiseman • 5 minutes

Can positive words of encouragement really make a difference? I think so. In fact, I don’t think I’d be writing this article right now without them. Let me explain. Remember how awkward middle school is? Well, I was the definition of awkward. Seriously, people used to call me awkward Alli because of how shy I was (and the frizzy hair, braces, and glasses combo didn’t help matters). But one day in English class, my favorite teacher at the time had us write poems to read aloud to the class. Naturally, I was petrified. But after I read mine, I’ll never forget the positive words of my teacher. She paused and said, “You have a gift.”  

Words have the power to shape our worlds because they inform the stories we tell ourselves.

Those few words—said with such certainty and authority—shaped my life. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I think words do that. Words have the power to shape our worlds because they inform the stories we tell ourselves. And those stories in our heads influence the way we act and the people we become. So, those words? They were game-changing for me. Why? 

I was a gangly kid who had never felt good at anything. So to be told I was gifted at something—let alone something I really enjoyed—was truly transformative. And that’s why positive words of encouragement are so meaningful. It may seem insignificant—especially if it’s just a passing remark. But it’s often the seemingly insignificant things that make up what’s really important. 

What might your positive words of encouragement do for someone else?

My teacher’s words encouraged me to become a writer, which I love. Now think about your life. Can you think of a time when someone encouraged you with positive words at the right time? What impact did it have on your life? Now, consider the impact of your words. What might your positive words of encouragement do for someone else? 

In Scripture, we see just how much weight our words carry.

Here are 5 Bible verses about the power of positive words:

  1. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:21 NLT
  2. And never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others; do this by speaking words of grace to help them. Ephesians 4:29 TPT
  3. Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. Proverbs 12:18 NLT
  4. Kind words are like honeysweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24 NLT
  5. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! James 3:5-10 NLT

Our words have the power to bring death or life to any situation. With one sentence, we can either destroy someone’s confidence or remind them of their identity in Christ. We can either encourage them with life-giving words that will shape their story in a positive way—or we can discourage them with harmful words that damage them. 

We also see the effect our words can have in brain science research. According to scientists and medical researchers, a single negative word can increase the activity in the amygdala (the part of your brain that processes fear). When your amygdala gets triggered, it interrupts your ability to think clearly and rationally because it floods your body with fear messages.

However, positive words can stimulate our brain’s frontal lobes, which is the part of your brain you want to make decisions with. Positive words can help you avoid that fight-or-flight response, and it can help you process emotions in a helpful and healthy way instead of from a place based in fear and insecurity. 

Even more than that, other researchers have discovered that receiving a compliment sends dopamine to the brain, which is a “feel good” chemical. When you hear a compliment, it triggers the same feeling as receiving an award. So our positive words wield far more power than we often credit them for. 

So what does the Bible tell us about how often to encourage people? It’s not just when you feel like it. It actually tells us to encourage one another daily (See 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and Hebrews 3:13). Pastor Craig Groeschel says it this way: “Every time you think something good about someone, share it! Never rob someone of the blessings of an unspoken treasure.” 

That doesn’t mean you say compliments you don’t mean. But it does mean that we are on the lookout for ways we can genuinely encourage others around us. You’ll find what you look for. So if you choose to see the good in others you interact with, you’ll likely find something praiseworthy. So say it! Don’t allow insecurity in you to fuel insecurity in others by not encouraging them. 

Positive words of encouragement matter more than we think. And giving positive words to others actually helps you start thinking of yourself more positively, too. When you look for the good in the world and in others, you start finding it. That helps you start staying positive and developing a more Christ-like attitude. 

If you could bless someone’s entire day with one small act, wouldn’t you do it? You have that power every day simply with the words you say. So look for ways to sincerely compliment and encourage those around you. Make it a challenge for yourself to find one good thing in someone each day, and share it with them, because positive words of encouragement really can make a difference.