Appreciative Voice - crowd

Personal Reflections on Appreciative Voice – PS 72

Episode Introduction

This show is a little different from my usual format because I’m flying solo, except for a special guest, Mary Jane Dieter who shares a story illustrating a challenging exchange with a neighbor that resulted in good outcomes because of how she chose to speak with him. It’s a story that illustrates appreciative voice.

In this episode, I focus on how we can grow and strengthen our appreciative voice through the principles and practices of Appreciative Inquiry and what it can do for us individually and collectively.

Episode Background

To learn more about the inspiration for this show, please check out my blog What is Appreciative Voice in Your World?  

I participated in the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Homecoming at the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College in Burlington Vt.  We were around 40 – 50 people mainly from US and Canada.  Most of us were familiar with AI

We gathered in response to the following invitation.

Invitation to the AI Homecoming

AI was made for these turbulent times.  This year our theme is one that can’t be ignored: voicing the appreciative–in conversation, in media, in public forums, in organizational life, in community. How do we create space and opportunity for conversations across divides, across borders, across values and visions that can help create the world we want to live in? How do we contribute? How do we create space and opportunity to co-create with others?

Inquiry into Appreciative voice

The first question put to us was:

What voices are coming through?

This question had us go deep very quickly.  

We reflected that it’s easy to block out messages coming through channels we don’t want to hear because our technologies allow us to. This enables us to live in echo chambers or bubbles,  meaning we stay with what we know and close ourselves off from hearing the perspectives of others who are not like us.

Living in the bubble limits us from exercising our appreciative voice.

When we come from inquiry we open up to listen to others  and when we live in inquiry we are less likely to jump to judgment.  You’ll hear that Mary Jane Dieter’s story is a great example of being true to her voice and at the same time curious and open to a different voice.

Four Compelling Questions

  1. When has your voice made a positive difference?
  2. When has your voice as part of a group made a positive difference?
  3. Recall a movement that made a positive difference in the world?
  4. When has an individual voice made a positive difference in the world in business/technology/education/ or any domain?

These questions focused our inquiry and they are typical of an appreciative inquiry.  As you listen to this show, you’ll find out how these appreciatively framed questions work in bringing out the best in us.  AI is one of the fastest and most enduring way that I know results in high quality human connection.  

Asking Appreciative Questions is Easy

We can all do this.  It is not hard to learn how to ask questions that focus on what works in a situation.  Many things go wrong, there is evil, there is hardship, there are natural disasters, and entangled in the chaos there are things that also offer redemption.  

Bob Marley’s lyrics in his Redemption Song say it all.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

None but ourselves can free our minds


Appreciative Inquiry Guiding Principles

Appreciative Inquiry Principles offer us a framework to practice our appreciative voice so we can bring more of it to the world.  The guiding principles that help us connect with others in ways that serve not only ourselves but others, too.  

Constructionist Principle: Words create worlds

Appreciative Voice sunflowers - communication skills trainingPrinciple of Simultaneity: The very first question starts the change

Poetic Principle: What we focus on grows

Anticipatory Principle: Image inspires action

Positive Principle: Positive affect leads to positive action

Wholeness Principle: We are in this together

Narrative: Stories transform us

Enactment: Embody what we want


“The self is a style of being, continually expanding in a vital process of definition, affirmation, revision, and growth, a process that is the image, we may say, of the life process of a healthy society itself.”  

Robert Penn Warren

Self-love is the foundation of a sane society, our responsibility to ourselves — and to our selves — is really a responsibility to one another: to know our interiority intimately and hold our darkest sides up to the light of awareness. But part of our human folly is that we do this far less readily than we shine the scorching beam of blameful attention on the darknesses of other.  

Maria Popova referencing Erich Fromm

The full article by Mari Popova of Brainpickings is The Terror Within and the Evil Without: James Baldwin on Our Capacity for Transformation as Individuals and Nations  

One workshop can be transformative. One single positive experience, when we discover a latent talent or potential strength or experience a gesture of caring, can be transformative. In fact, the very first question asked, and the way it is asked, begins the change process. When we open ourselves to our best selves, envision possibilities, and get in touch with our strengths, a paradigmatic, seismic, quantum shift can happen in the blink of an eye.

Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions. 


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