If you ever had the chance to go on some kind of youth retreat in school, you would probably have heard of affirmations at some point or another. If you haven’t, then think of them like compliments, but ones that you usually give via a letter, or even anonymously.

An affirmation is a message that’s designed to raise someone’s spirits, or let them know about their good qualities. You mention their good qualities and how much you appreciate them. If given by a letter, it can allow them to keep that good message and treasure it. Sometimes, it can be hard to say things to people with them knowing who it comes from, so anonymous affirmations can make things easier.

The important thing is, people love hearing good things about themselves. Sure, at times it can make some of the less-brave people a little awkward, but it’s something that is good for us as human beings.

Palanca is the Spanish word for lever. In my experience of the word and the context it applies to, it is a little like an affirmation. It comes from the word lever because you are giving someone ‘leverage’, raising them up.

In a sense, this is a stronger form of affirmation. This isn’t just about saying nice things about people, but it’s about giving them something that will raise them up. It can be a nice message, a small and thoughtful gift, or even the odd bit of poetry or music.

A palanca is something that goes above and beyond the call of a mere affirmation. It is focused and personalised. I first encountered this idea when I joined a local community youth group, and it was something that was entirely different to the affirmations I received in school.

The word affirmation comes from the Latin words ad (to) and firmus (strong), meaning ‘to make strong’. When we affirm someone, we give them strength in their own position. I’m not putting that down, but a lever performs a different purpose. Rather than making the place where someone is firm, it pushes them up, to be greater than before.

Sometimes we need firm ground to stand on, but sometimes we need to be lifted up. Chances are you might have given plenty of affirmation to people you know in the past. Levering is a little rarer, I would say, so I have just one question I want to leave you with:

Who do you know who could use a palanca?