“We live in the world our conversations create,” writes David Cooperrider, one of the creators of the Appreciative Inquiry framework.
So, does living a better life start with having better conversations? If so, how might we do this?
Like the best theories and frameworks, David’s answer is straight-forward:
1: Focus on strengths and what’s working
2: Ask question instead of making statements
In their book Conversations Worth Having, authors Jacqueline Stavros and Cheri Torres share a simple matrix summarizing the four different types of conversations we have.
Appreciative Conversations Worth Having Affirmative Conversations
Depreciative Critical Conversations Destructive Conversations
Starting in the bottom right quadrant (Destructive Conversations) is the conversation where someone demeans others, complains, and repeatedly points out why things won’t work. Ouch.
A step in the right direction is the bottom left (Critical Conversations) where the conversation is focused on why things aren’t working.
Moving diagonally to the upper right (Affirmative Conversations), an even better approach is to talk about the strengths we possess that have allowed us to figure out issues like this one in the past.
But best of all is the top left (Conversations Worth Having) where we are asking questions about the desired outcome and how our strengths will allow us to get there.
Reflection: What percentage of my conversations are currently in each quadrant?
Action: Experiment in a conversation today with the appreciative inquiry principles of being positive and asking questions.