7 Chapters
Medium 9781523094035

3 Two Simple Appreciative Practices

Stavros, Jacqueline M.; Torres, Cheri; Cooperrider, David L. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Creating a positive future begins in human conversation. The simplest and most powerful investment any member of a community or an organization can make is to begin with other people as though the answers mattered.

– William Greider

We saw in chapter 1 how Alisha at the medical center changed the direction and tone of her conversations simply by varying her frame of reference and asking a question that altered everything. Her frame shifted from employees as problems to employee ideas and actions as possibilities. From this new frame of reference, a different set of questions emerged, inspiring solutions and more effective interactions than previous critical conversations. These questions helped her staff focus on what was working and what could be working better. The answers enabled them to replicate success and create new possibilities.

Likewise, Kamal and Mary at the bank intentionally framed their first meeting with Elizabeth to set the stage for appreciative tone and positive direction. Inviting her to share her best experiences about what gives life to the bank and the community resulted in a conversation worth having.

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4 What’s Driving Your Conversation?

Stavros, Jacqueline M.; Torres, Cheri; Cooperrider, David L. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations.

– Deborah Tannen

Tone and direction are simple cues that tell us what kind of conversation we are in. How we got into that kind of a conversation is a different story, yet it is an important one to understand if we want to make sure we have conversations that feel good (on balance) and that take us where we want to go. If we are not aware of what’s driving our conversations, it is much more difficult to practice positive framing and generative questions. Our personal frame, expectations, and assumptions can get in the way. Fortunately, David Cooper-rider has identified a set of explicit principles—the Appreciative Inquiry Principles—that underlie your success with the two practices. These principles can guide your awareness, putting you in the driver’s seat and strengthening your capacity for engaging in conversations worth having.

During Alisha’s AI training, she learned that human interactions rest on a set of five rules, or principles.1 Recall from chapter 1 her reaction: She realized she was part of the problem. She became aware of her own frame and assumptions and of how they were influencing her conversations. That awareness changed everything for her. It was essential to her success in applying the two practices. The five principles enable us to understand what’s driving the tone and direction of any conversation. Whether it be appreciative or depreciative, these principles are in effect. The five AI principles are as follows:

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2 What Kind of Conversations Are You Having?

Stavros, Jacqueline M.; Torres, Cheri; Cooperrider, David L. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The moment of questioning is also the moment of choice, which holds the greatest leverage for effective action and positive change.

– Marilee Goldberg

Conversation is a constant in our lives, whether it consists of our internal dialogue or our interactions with people. We all know these conversations affect us, but we may not realize how much influence they have on our well-being and our capacity to thrive. Not sure about that? Have you ever been in a great mood and having a really good day when a short interaction with someone turned the whole thing sour? Or perhaps you were having a lousy day and a simple conversation suddenly brightened your outlook. In their research, Jeff and Laurie Ford, authors of The Four Conversations, actually documented that “the type of conversation you have with the people around you has a profound impact on your experiences, relationships, and accomplishments.”1

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6 It’s Not Magic, It’s Science!

Stavros, Jacqueline M.; Torres, Cheri; Cooperrider, David L. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.

– Nancy H. Kleinbaum

If the experience of our clients, families, and colleagues detailed in the stories in this book has not convinced you that there is magic in conversations worth having, then perhaps the evidence from more than twenty-seven years of scientific research will help explain how positive framing and generative questions bring forth the best in human nature. This research falls into three distinct areas: the New Science,1 positive image/position action, and positive psychology.2 The net outcome of this research points to the importance of using language to inspire positive emotions, positive images, and positive actions. Science tells us to follow the 80/20 rule—a ratio of 80 percent positive emotions and imagery to 20 percent negative—to support well-being and excellence at the individual, group, and organization levels.3 We’ll begin with the New Science, which actually is not so “new” after twenty-five years.

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1 Shifting Conversations

Stavros, Jacqueline M.; Torres, Cheri; Cooperrider, David L. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

One great conversation can shift the direction of change forever.

– Linda Lambert

Alisha Patel, a senior administrator at a thriving medical center in New England, was surprised at the less-than-stellar patient satisfaction report that was sitting on her desk. Her surprise turned to understanding when she saw which hospital unit this was from. The director of that unit had recently quit because she felt frustrated with the new leadership model and refused to change. Alisha was filling in until a new director was hired.

She sent a copy of the patient satisfaction report to the nurse managers in the unit. She also emailed them an assignment for their next management meeting, which was a week away: Pay attention. Look for what staff members are doing that contributes to patient satisfaction. Come prepared to share a story of a best practice you’ve seen during the week.

The nurse managers were confused when they got the email; one even wrote back, asking if Alisha had made a mistake. “No,” she replied, “please look for what’s working well and bring your best story next week.” This was a dramatic shift from what these nurse managers were used to, and it created quite a buzz. The former director usually read them the riot act, tried to find who was at fault, and demanded they do better, or else. They were glad to see her go!

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