In this episode, my two guests are Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres. In the word of Appreciative Inquiry, they are already hugely celebrated. They have written, taught and spoken on the subject for many, many years. Jackie has been a guest on the show before when she talked to us about her work in AI, especially the SOAR Framework that has been a massive contributor to bringing Appreciative Inquiry into the realm of strategic planning.
Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres have co-authored a second book, Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement. That's what we put our attention to.
What Was Your Last Conversation Like?
If I invited you to think back to the last conversation can you remember, what that was like? It may have been minutes ago, hours ago or days ago. And how did it make you feel? How do you think it made the other person feel? Was your conversation uplifting and energizing? Did you ensure it had a tone good? Did it go in a direction you all wanted? Or, was it just blah or neutral or nothing special – same old, same old – just going through the motions? Or, was it upsetting and negative and left you drained of energy and frustrated and feeling stuck?
Conversations Worth Having
Jackie and Cheri's book offers us a clear framework to shape our conversations so they are worth having. The book published in May 2018 by Berrett Koehler is simple, easy to follow and filled with uplifting stories of how, and where, and with whom meaningful conversations take place.
Cheri Torres works with organizations in every sector to support effective leadership, team excellence, and culture change. She has trained thousands of trainers and teachers in the use and practice of Appreciative Inquiry.
Jackie Stavros is a full-time professor at the College of Management, Lawrence Technological University; She works across all sectors and in a variety of industries in leadership development, strategic planning, organization development, and change using Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and SOAR. She has presented her research and work and trained others in AI and SOAR in over 25 countries.
Highlights of Our Conversation
To provide you with a sense of our conversation, below are some of the topics we covered in a very generative and enthusiastic manner.
- How they came up with the idea to write a book about Conversations Worth Having.
- What became clearer as they conducted their research and wrote up the stories about worthwhile conversations.
- What is meant by “conversations worth having are appreciative and inquiry-based?”
- The authors stress early in the book that conversations worth having are dependent on 2 simple practices
Positive framing – what we want more of
Generative questions – what sparks our curiosity
Two Simple Practices
The authors weave memorable stories throughout the book that bring to life to the two practices that underpin conversations worth having: positive framing and generative questions. The stories cross a range of contexts, from healthcare to banking, education, family, technology, manufacturing. They all illustrate very clearly how these two simple principles can shift a conversation that may be stuck or spiraling downwards to one that spirals upward and is appreciative, productive and meaningful.
Jackie, Cheri and I have a funny exchange that I keep revisiting during the episode as it reminds me of a conversation I have with my significant other that I recognize and want to change. Let me explain:
A seemingly benign kitchen remark such as, “Sweetheart, why don’t you use just one pan? It will be so much easier and less work in the end” can launch a cascade of undesired results and friction. The person offering this suggestion is merely trying to be helpful, and yet its impact (depending on the past history of the relationship) can be interpreted as critical and judgmental and destructive to the relationship. What this simple example highlights is the distinction between appreciative conversations and depreciative conversations.
What's great is that this easy-to-read, little book is packed with gems and golden nuggets that are grounded in theories and sciences. Neuroscience, positive psychology and appreciative inquiry provide backup studies, results, and evidence of how we can transform ourselves and our relationships through our words, our thoughts, our emotions and our actions.
The practical examples and stories about how to improve our conversations and, as a result, our relationships and outcomes are woven throughout.
Dealing with Negative People
If you are having to deal with negative people at home or at work, and you think it's not about you, be willing to do a personal check-in. Make sure your own mindset is open minded, open hearted, open willed, so you can shift from a place of judgment to a place of real genuine curiosity. From that place, questions will come to you and you will shift and you will help others shift from where they are.
To be able to move away from what is not working in a situation or relationship, or what is troubling you or is a problem for you, start with shifting in the direction towards what you and the person want more of. What do you want to happen? Where do you want this to go? Simple questions open us up to listen to each other, without closing down or negating the other person. An old coaching saying is “meet them where they are and be ready to really hear them.” When that happens, you begin to really hear each other.
Key Learnings from “Conversations Worth Having”
- Be mindful how you use words and actions in your conversations so that they have the impact you want.
- Conversations create images, which in turn create the blueprint for our future. Create the most positive images by asking the most generative questions. They are compelling.
- You always have many options for a conversation (critical, destructive, affirmative, and great). Make choices that generate conversations worth having.
- Nothing is static. Everything is dynamic and fluid. It’s not about you. And it’s not about the other. Rather, it’s about the intersection of the two—the conversation— that can change in a heartbeat. (Except from Conversations Worth Having, page 128)
Grounded in the Principles of Appreciative Inquiry, we know that positive framing and generative questions are life-giving. As we increasingly pay attention to how we engage in conversation with others, we become more intentional about taking responsibility for creating conversations worth having. And, make sure you include those conversations you are having with yourself!
Click on the link below to buy this book. You'll be pleased you did.
Stay Connected with Jackie and Cheri
Book's Website: Conversations Worth Having
Cheri on Twitter
Jackie on Twitter
Jackie on LinkedIn
Cheri on LinkedIn
Jackie on Facebook
Cheri on Facebook
Links to Books
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Conversations Worth Having
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0971441669]
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1576752690]
Appreciative Inquiry Handbook
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00HTJRWZQ]
The Thin Book of SOAR
Let's Stay Connected
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- Leave a comment on the show notes below
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