Are you encouraging or nagging? Five questions to ask.

At Doubting Believer, 2021 is all about encouraging others.

In our online class You Got This: How to be an Intentional Encourager, one of the things people have struggled with is being accused of nagging when they’re trying to be encouraging.

Here’s the thing: nagging and encouragement are not at all the same. Encouragement should always be about that person you are encouraging–lifting up his/her/their strengths and gifts.

Here are five questions to ask yourself to make sure you are encouraging and not nagging.


Are you using “I” language?

If you’re using words like “I want” or “I think” when you are encouraging others, make sure you’re not making it about you. Nagging is about what you’re feeling or what you want to see happen. Authentic encouragement is never be about you and what you want for or from the other person. Sometimes “I” language is just fine…even great, as in “I believe in you,” or “I know you can do it.” Just check yourself on how you make use of that personal pronoun.


Are you using words like “should” and “ought?”

Again, check your language: nagging often involves words like “should” and “ought to.” Those words imply that the person is doing something wrong, that their behavior is not okay or (worse) that they are not okay…because they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing.


Are you listening?

Encouragement is about the other person. Being an intentional encourager often requires active listening to the other person and even asking what that person needs.


Are you actually nagging?

Encouragement is never about reminding people about what they haven’t done.

“Didn’t you say you were going to start exercising?”

“I hate to see you ruin your diet by eating that cake.”

“Have you gotten your taxes done? You know you always wait til the last minute.”

“Don’t you think you should get dressed today?”

All of the above–nagging.

Nagging involves people’s shortcomings and missteps. Encouragement highlights their strengths, gifts and potential.


The big question to ask yourself when wondering if you are nagging or encouraging is:

“Is this about what I want or

about what they need?”

Of course, there are times when nagging is called for. If homework is not done, if the garbage is beginning to stink up the house, if the water is about to be shut off because the bill hasn’t been paid, then nagging is appropriate. Just don’t confuse nagging with encouragement.

Intentional encouragement always lifts up. It never tears down.

If you’d like to be an intentional encourager, check out the online course here.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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