"There are moments when people are more open to being affirmed. There are also times when they are not as willing to hear or believe anything positive you might have to say about them. While you might think that we should be eager to hear affirmation when we need it most, it doesn't always work that way. In fact, when we need it most we may be quite unwilling to believe it!

"Discouraged individuals often have a difficult time accepting encouragement. They are reluctant to hear it. They need it, but they can't seem to accept it. It appears to bounce off them. Unless, of course, it is sent in a way, and at a moment, that allows it to penetrate their defenses.

"Call these 'reachable moments,' times when someone is ready to receive affirmation. Part of the art of affirmation involves learning to recognize these openings. Certain moments are better than others. In these moments, kind words are more likely to be heard. In a reachable moment, affirmation is accepted and allowed to take root. These moments may be fleeting and easily missed, so we need to keep an eye out for these opportunities.

"A good deal of affirmation is delivered in loud circumstances. There's the cheering that comes for an athlete at a sporting event, or the applause for a graduate as she walks across the stage for her diploma. Applauding for a child after his piano recital is also an affirming moment. Loud affirmation can be good for the soul. Cheering for someone is life-giving: it provides energy and confidence to those who send it and those who receive it. In these moments we are reminded how invigorating affirmation can be.

"This type of affirmation is indeed powerful. Being appreciated by a group can produce healthy memories that may last forever. This kind of affirmation is a celebration of one's gifts. It is a ritual where a community expresses its appreciation of someone's character or abilities. Feeling appreciated in this way can have a very special impact.

"Although we often think of affirmation as the voice of an audience, the opportunities for effective affirmation are even more likely to occur in quiet moments. A coworker sits slumped at his desk after hearing he did not get the promotion. A ten-year-old walks slowly behind his classmates after a particularly difficult day. Or a friend calls you for 'no reason' and you just sense that she could use an encouraging word or two. In the art of affirmation there are times when you simply feel the opportunity. These moments are often quiet moments — and we must seize them!

"In quiet moments there may be fewer distractions. It may be easier to hear what otherwise might be missed. In the more silent moments, there may also be greater opportunity for people to feel connected with each other. When you join someone in his or her solitude, you may find a very reachable moment.

"The art of affirmation involves recognizing these moments when they present themselves and being prepared to act spontaneously. But this art can also involve planning. Sometimes you have to arrange the occasion for someone to become reachable. Sending a note, letter, or recording that reaches that person in an appropriate time and place can have lasting effects. Giving someone a message that she can hold on to until she reaches a place where she can soak it in is quite a gift. A gift that keeps giving.

"Affirmation sometimes requires forethought. You have to ask yourself: What do I want to convey to this person? What is the most effective way to send this message? When might she or he be most open to receiving it?”