When my sister was in medical school she shared a fun turn of the phrase with us. One of her colleagues would often compliment students with the stoic praise, “strong work.” And while this has become something of an internal joke in our family – “Strong work on dinner” and so forth – I got to thinking about encouragement recently.

All of this started as I began running again. I’ve never been a particularly gifted athlete, but I’ve always been a runner for the simple reason that I am usually able to continue running over long distances. However, a busy work schedule and having our fifth child this past year resulted in me being a bit out of shape. In an effort to get back to something closer to my fighting weight, I registered for a race — albeit one where the finish line was a brewery.

On a long training run, I was startled when an anonymous yet affable runner came up behind me and said, “Great job! Do you need some water?” This simple bit of praise took so little but meant so much as I struggled through my first longer run in years.

While recently I’ve explored borrowing strategic recipes from brands you admire and keeping a digital swipe file, it’s also important to take a lesson from that anonymous runner and offer encouragement to our peers. In a talk about how work works at Hubspot’s recent Inbound 2013 conference, I noted that one of the downsides to how connected we all are digitally is the fact that judging and negativity is more pervasive than ever.

Just as all of the online armchair quarterbacks are quick with negative commentary on Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman (I think he’ll be great by the way), we’re also quick to pile on new content from businesses, brands, and bloggers. Whether it’s a controversial new logo like The Gap a few years back or an offbeat social media campaign from a venerable brand like Mr. Clean, our digital society has a hair trigger when things rub us wrong but we get pretty quiet when we see something we like.

Like me huffing and puffing down the trail, there are many new content creators trying new things online. Many new bloggers and content marketers are outside of their comfort zone and could benefit from some praise. Helping them out costs you nothing more than a little time. I know that I’m just as guilty as the rest of society. I don’t spend as much time building up others online as I should even though the compliments I’ve received from others along the trail have helped me keep going.

What if you set an easy and attainable goal of offering some encouragement to someone — a friend, blogger, or brand — each day? This could come in the form of a blog comment or a response to a Facebook status or a tweet. At the very least, if you post something negative, atone with something positive somewhere else. Or maybe you should remember what your mom taught you: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

How have compliments helped you along your journey as a content creator? How could you encourage others as they struggle down the path?

Photo via Flickr user ronsaunders47