Appreciative conversation- "Beginning it is hard but if you get into the habit, it grows like a culture"

(On 28th Sep 2018,  I facilitated a one-day session on use of SALT and Community life competence process in development and M&E . NILERD -National Institute of Labour Economics Research and Development (An Autonomous Institute under NITI Aayog, Government of India) organises M&E course for foreign professionals every year in Delhi, India. Here is a short summary of the discussion we had on our ‘common humanity’ and what it means in context of our work with people. This is part II of the three series blogs )

When we started discussing some good things the participants had done in their lives, we moved to very deep, caring conversation and learning from each other. For instance a participant’s story on how he person had done something, which was right inspite of the risk that he might lose his job sparked a lot of discussion “honesty is the best policy, even if it means that you will lose friends, do the right thing and be true.”

I observed that the conversation generated enthusiasm and energy.

Two females participants while sharing suddenly hugged each other. What had led to it, I asked them. The story of one lady was around something she had achieved and other lady said that she was struggling with something similar and hearing the story had given her hope and encouragement.


Another group of three male participants remarked that they shared a good bond but suddenly the bond had strengthened and the connection had deepened with sharing our personal stories. “We now seem to know the other person differently.” “Our group conversation brought back memories, felt closer to the person I was sharing with.”

 We all acknowledged that looking at strengths and having this kind of conversation is not easy. “I was hesitant to share personal stories. It is as if you are opening inner window. You feel vulnerable but then other person also opens up. You feel closer to the person talking to like an old friend.” “Appreciation is giving value to something which is good. It can be contagious. Beginning it is hard but if you get into the habit, it grows like a culture.”

Concluding thoughts: The problem solving approach has its place and can be helpful. However, when people only focus on problems, it can create a sense of hopelessness and dependency and reliance on outsiders for solutions. Appreciative questions bring depth in sharing and build a bond amongst the group. Starting from people’s strengths rather than focusing on perceived weaknesses fosters new possibilities. I like this quote ""How can we ask questions that move us together and forward instead of moving us apart?"

Notes M. Wheatley (2002) in Turning to One Another I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem solving, debate or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard and we each listen well. 

Blog one in the series 

“I can see myself in you”

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