Appreciative Dialogue is based on the popular approach to organizational change called Appreciative Inquiry that focuses people on what’s working rather than trying to fix what’s not. This is an excellent technique to use when you feel stuck and can’t solve a problem. Taking an appreciative approach, you see your issue through a new lens, not the normal critical lens assigned to problem solving. You jump outside of the box that your logical brain likes to play in.
In fact, the sorting and arranging of information involved in typical problem-solving processes works against your ability to see the problem in a new light. You can try to shift and rearrange what you know, but your thoughts end up swirling around in circles. Many times you will give up and keep doing what you have always done. The sudden, new, and amazing solution to a problem only arises when you can look at your situation from an entirely new angle.
Using Appreciative Dialogue to sort out personal challenges goes beyond discovering and applying your strengths. As a high achiever, you can easily identify what you are good at doing. Appreciative Dialogue goes beyond assessing your talents to being mindful of everything you can access to create moments where you feel fully alive and excited. You explore everything that contributed to the creation of your peak experiences in the past and then consciously apply those contributions—your strengths, values, gifts, attitudes, and outside resources—to a challenge you are currently facing.
In Wander Woman, I look at a number of ways you can use Appreciate Dialogue to resolve issues, design plans and determine how to find “your best self” every day. I’ll share one problem-solving application with you here.
This activity is best done with a trusted friend or coach to help you stay focused on the positive application, not the problem. Although you can do the exercise by yourself, exploring through dialogue can wield greater results than when you reflect on your own.
You will be focusing on one difficult situation or unsettling conflict you are currently facing. But first, set this issue aside. Instead, think of a time in your past when you felt energized, significant, and fulfilled. This moment could have happened yesterday or years ago. Can you recall a particular peak experience?
Now, with this memory in mind, answer the following questions:
- Describe a peak experience where you felt fully alive and fulfilled.
- What five things did you contribute to creating this peak experience? (do not move on to the next question until you complete this list)
- Looking at your list of contributions, what can you carry forward to the challenge you are now facing or what will help you to better understand the difficult situation you just experienced?
- What is possible for you now?
The intent of Appreciative Dialogue is to teach your brain how to make the shift from problems to possibilities. How can you look at the present moment in light of your past peak experiences? What is available to you to shift from dark to light? New ideas will appear in the conversation as you connect your positive past with the present moment.
You can also use Appreciative Dialogue to extend and repeat a positive experience. The focus is on “what can I continue?” You then detail what you did to create the glorious moment so you know specifically what you will repeat.
Remember to have these conversations often so you can determine what activities, mindset, and energy patterns will best serve you right now. The results will help you adjust and revitalize your daily activities.
From Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction to be released this spring.