Micro-Affirmations: The Power to Make Others Feel Good

Have you ever suffered a micro-aggression? How about a micro-affirmation? The latter are small acts with which you make those around you feel validated. Find out how to carry them out.
Micro-Affirmations: The Power to Make Others Feel Good
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 19 December, 2022

Making someone feel good doesn’t cost anything. Even so, not everyone makes the effort to do so. Perhaps they don’t do it because life goes by extremely fast, pressures are many, and self-interest outweighs collective well-being. Yet, many realities would change if we all did our part to validate the identity, worth, and efforts of those around us.

It’s a sad fact that micro-aggressions are frequently encountered. They’re subtle, but clearly harmful interactions that seek to discredit, undervalue, and even attack another person because of their sex, race, or condition. They’re experiences that occur all too often in work environments.

Instead, we should practice micro-affirmations. These are behaviors aimed at favoring the assessment of another. After all, there’s nothing more comforting than feeling supported and perceiving, through small gestures, that we’re accepted and valued. So, let’s learn how to employ these simple acts that help us live together and appreciate each other.

“Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness of people.”

-Roy T. Bennett-

Friends talking in the office giving each other micro-affirmations
Asking someone how they’re feeling on a daily basis is a highly powerful form of micro-affirmation.

Micro-affirmations: how to make a difference in your relationships

Only you know how lost, alone, and stressed you often feel in your daily life. There are days when everything weighs heavily on you and the whole of your life feels like an uphill struggle. However, suddenly someone smiles at you and, to your surprise, tells you that “You look terrific today”. Maybe it’s a lie, but you have to admit it makes you feel better.

The same thing happens when you start a new job or when you’re learning a new subject. The simplest word of support can act as a wonderful reinforcer. Or, if you’re facing a problem or a stressful situation, nothing is so cathartic as a supportive comment.

Micro-affirmations are communicative reinforcements that seek to generate well-being in others. They’re the antithesis of microaggressions. Their goal is to open doors to connection, encourage listening and conversation, and promote inclusion and care.

An investigation conducted by the University of Agder (Norway)  states that in the process of a person’s psychological recovery, the little things they integrate into their verbal or non-verbal communication have an extremely important impact on their well-being and recovery. In other words, micro-affirmations aren’t only useful in everyday contexts, they’re also especially effective in clinical settings. Let’s see how to carry them out.

One way of putting a micro-affirmation into practice is by giving feedback to the individual in front of you. Paying attention with your eyes, practicing active listening, and asking questions improve the connection between you and act as gestures of care and respect for the other person.

1. Smile with your eyes

There’s something more powerful than simple eye contact in your interactions with others. It’s smiling with your eyes (the Duchenne smile). It’s a really simple gesture that conveys positivity, validation, and sincerity. In fact, there’s nothing as meaningful as being looked at and genuinely appreciated.

On the contrary, if at work, with your family, or in any other situation, you encounter people who don’t even look at you when they speak to you, it can be devastating.

2. Invite those on their own to participate

Have you ever been in a group of friends or colleagues and suddenly realized that there’s one person who’s always silent and withdrawn? If you perceive that someone’s feeling excluded, encourage them to participate. It only has to be a  “What do you think, Robert?” or a “What’s your opinion, Rebecca?”.

3. Ask how they are

Many people might often ask how you are, but don’t stick around to hear your answer. Micro-affirmations are useful when they invite interaction, connection, and active listening. Therefore, if you ask someone how their life is going, make sure you wait for an answer. Slow down and don’t rush. Validation means, above all, giving presence to the other person.

4. Acknowledge when you’re spoken to and ask questions

Sometimes, when you’re talking to someone, you’re fully aware that their minds are elsewhere. These gestures are hurtful and can break trust. For this reason, when you’re conversing with someone, make sure you affirm with your expression, implying that you understand what they’re explaining to you. Also, if you want to strengthen your communication, ask them questions.

5. Avoid gossip

The purpose of micro-affirmations is to promote inclusion, respect, and coexistence. As such, we can’t ignore the fact that caring for and respecting someone also implies doing the same when they’re not around. This means that if third parties spread criticism or gossip, you should contain and deactivate those behaviors.

Respect and coexistence require putting a stop to criticism, prejudice, and the kinds of poisoned rumors that contaminate any social scene.

We all must work and explore ourselves to identify and minimize micro-aggressive behaviors.

People working as a team giving each other micro-statements
Micro-affirmations make a team stronger.

6. Offer reinforcers for behaviors and efforts made

We mentioned at the beginning that we all like to be told occasionally how good we’re looking today. Therefore, being told that we’re doing something right reinforces our self-esteem and well-being.

Phrases like “I love the work you’ve done”, “Nobody does things like you” or “You’ve made so much effort” should form part of your communicative repertoire. In fact, these types of expressions are credible and useful because they support the other person’s self-esteem and vision of themselves. After all, no man is an island and we all need someone to say something positive to us from time to time.

All our social scenarios and even our own relationships would improve if we established a micro-affirmative culture. After all if throughout the day, all you receive are micro-aggressions, they stop being small and soon become a huge problem.

No one deserves this type of dynamic. So, make sure you make an effort and create more nutritious territories in terms of respect, emotional connection, and coexistence. It’ll be well worth it.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Estrada M, Young GR, Nagy J, Goldstein EJ, Ben-Zeev A, Márquez-Magaña L, Eroy-Reveles A. The Influence of Microaffirmations on Undergraduate Persistence in Science Career Pathways. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2019 Sep;18(3):ar40. doi: 10.1187/cbe.19-01-0012. PMID: 31441717; PMCID: PMC6755308.
  • Topor, A., Bøe, T.D. & Larsen, I.B. Small Things, Micro-Affirmations and Helpful Professionals Everyday Recovery-Orientated Practices According to Persons with Mental Health Problems. Community Ment Health J 54, 1212–1220 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-018-0245-9
  • Williams MT. Microaggressions: Clarification, Evidence, and Impact. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2020 Jan;15(1):3-26. doi: 10.1177/1745691619827499. Epub 2019 Aug 16. PMID: 31418642.
  • Williams, M.T., Skinta, M.D., Kanter, J.W. et al. A qualitative study of microaggressions against African Americans on predominantly White campuses. BMC Psychol 8, 111 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-020-00472-8

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.