Peggy Holman and I have just spent two days working with some amazing provincial public servants in Victoria, hosting a learning workshop on Appreciative Inquiry. There were many gems over the two days, but I think what stands out for me is the list of learnings that came after this morning. Our participants were given some homework overnight which simply consisted of interviewing someone using appreciative questions. Here are some of the rich insights that came up in the check in this morning:
- Genuine, appreciative questioning brings us together and fosters connection
- Being interviewed appreciatively open our awareness of possibility
- Appreciative questions stop us dead in our tracks – many of us have never been asked questions that invite us to tell a story of a high point in our life, or a reflection on our core strengths – and these open us to our higher selves.
- Discovery uncovers assets we never knew we had.
- When there is a clear need and a call that comes from a deep source of responding to life, people show up (given in the context of why one participant chose to give blood rather than interview someone).
- When one is emotionally closed, appreciative questions introduce possibility and in dark moments, possibility can be a shocking surprise.
- Authentic possibility is grounded in reality rather than wishful thinking.
- Curiosity changes minds better than trying to convince someone that everything will be alright. In judgment we back into relationship. Curiosity fosters sustainable relationships.
- In Quaker Clearness Committees, people are only allowed to ask questions which are genuinely curious about and to which they do not know the answer.
- The essence of discovery is that we learn something new about people or places that we thought we knew or that we take for granted.
- Appreciative learning creates a hunger for more.
- When there is conflict open more space – practices that invite mystery bring us to new paths through old patterns.
- Appreciative life is supported by a climate of openness. This is a key leadership move to getting more out of people, groups and communities.
These are terrific insights, and although some of them are not new to me, I was struck by how powerful these were coming altogether after one appreciative interview. If you want you can conduct the exercise yourself and report your insights and results here.
Simply and curiously invite a conversation with someone that invites them to tell a story of the best experiences of themselves. It is especially rich to inquire about how someone survived a dark time, inquiring about the resources they drew upon to make it through. Don’t judge what is being said, simply stay open to what you learn. You may well find out something spectacularly surprising about people you thought you knew well.