Leveraging the “Power of Conversations” in the times of COVID Crisis

Change begins with a single conversation.

Conversations are the lifeline to how we get things done in most settings. If you learn to have conversations that are appreciative and inquiry-based, it will strengthen relationships; move you towards positive outcomes in your families, teams, and organization; and promote situations where you can flourish! 

For the last 25 years, I have been studying and practicing the impact of asking questions using AI (no – it’s not artificial intelligence). The AI I am referring to, is Appreciative Inquiry. Something that is easily learnt and powerful when mastered. The power of AI comes from learning to ask questions (inquiry) that add value to others (appreciative), deepen understanding, make room for other perspectives, and inspire new knowledge. The heart of AI is asking life-giving questions. AI is about discovering what gives life to the system, and purposefully looks for what is true, good and possible.

Currently, in my organization, I am serving on a Safety Committee to make recommendations on how to safely re-open a university campus that was closed abruptly as a result of Covid-19. As one would expect, there is tremendous worry, anxiety and emotions surrounding this discussion. How do we re-open? How do we keep our campus community safe? When does the staff report back to work? These are some of the many questions that the committee is struggling to answer. We are learning that there are many concerns and fears among employees about coming back to work.

Instead of making assumptions about how employees feel, the committee is having conversations with all the employees across the 16 departments (via Zoom) to make space to hear:
– What are their concerns?
– What are their ideas to re-open the campus carefully, responsibly and safely?

The department that I work for will be hosting two Town Hall Meetings (again virtually) with our students to learn:
– What worked when we suddenly had to go online?
– What can we do better?
– What are their concerns and wishes for the fall semester?


We also have critical infrastructure (essential) employees working on-campus and have asked:
– What are some of the best safety measures they are using?
– What is working well?
– What do they need more of?

AI questions are intentionally designed to put the employees in a ‘connect’ mindset with the goal of understanding why, when and how might we begin to bring employees back; and re-designing how their departments work with each other and the students who may (or may not) be coming back this fall. We do not know what the fall will bring, but we are already in conversation about what worked well, what is working, and what is possible.

Are your conversations providing clarity, deepening understanding, generating possibilities, strengthening relationships and providing alternatives to create a pathway forward?

To learn more about Appreciative Inquiry visit AI Commons:
https://appreciativeinquiry.champlain.edu/
The “AI Commons” is a place for everyone with an interest in Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and positive change.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Jacqueline (Jackie) M. Stavros’ passion is working with others to create meaningful results for positive change. She is a professor in the College of Business and Information Technology at Lawrence Technological University. She has co-authored 7 books, over 50 articles and book chapters related to Appreciative Inquiry and SOAR.

Two recent books are:
Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement (www.ConversationsWorthHaving.today), and
Thin Book of SOAR: Creating Strategy that Inspires Innovation and Engagement (soar-strategy.com).

She has worked in 25 countries using Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to affect the lives of thousands of people and enabled hundreds of organizations improve capacity to thrive and increase performance. Her work has been featured in Forbes, SmartBrief, Detroit’s Live in the D, dbusiness Magazine, and leadership and training blogs and podcasts. She is a keynote speaker on positive approaches to leadership, strategy, and change. She earned a Doctor of Management in Capacity Building Using an Appreciative Approach: A Relational Process of Building Your Organization’s Future.
(Email: jstavros@ltu.edu)

Lock – Unlock

The Sun is about to rise. It is still dark and from my balcony, I can see the highway lit up beautifully. I can see the plant at a distance glowing in the silver light and chimney throwing up the golden flame. The interplay of lights here and there is making the sea water, in front, dance intermittently. I can see the birds flying and chirping happily as if singing in excitement for the Sun to rise. The sky is changing colours so beautifully making chariots of Gods come alive and disappear one after the other in different formations. One innocent redness is now visible just a little above the hill in the middle of the sea. The red ball is now climbing up the hill and the Sun rays have started their play on the sea surface. Here comes a pigeon and another one in the balcony adjacent to mine. The pigeon above says something to the pigeon sitting a little below and they keep communicating in total oblivion to everything around. They fly away a little later to join their other friends flying happily over the sea waters. I chant the Gayatri mantra welcoming the rise of the morning Sun and close my eyes to just listen to the chirping around . Silence has its own beauty and I don’t know how many minutes elapsed in that peaceful blissful silence. In silence, I hear the gentle sound of the church bell nearby announcing the beginning of the new day.

This all has been around every day. How come it just comes alive when everything, everyone is locked up? What is this new life amidst the dance of terrible fear around – the fear of losing it all? What is this emerging when everything else seems to have been denied, taken away?

I sit there quietly reflecting. It’s a lockdown. Lockdown of tea stalls, lockdown of Vada pav shops, lockdown of that small general store having all one needs. So, all this gets locked down. So does the income for these people and many more giving them daily supplies. How are they managing things for themselves and their dear ones? How are the emergencies being handled by them? It’s a lockdown of our office. How does the show go on? What’s the new norm of working, connecting and for how long? What’s happening in other organisations?

A part of me is still in the deep silence of early morning and all of a sudden, I again find myself getting consumed by this silence within and the play of nature outside – both mingling seamlessly.

As I get up to get ready to work from home and be nicely available to the office colleagues for the whole day, I am still wondering why it took a human crisis for the gifts of nature to unfold. I am still wondering while taking shower why it took a lockdown for our inner beauty and peace to open up to ourselves. I am still wondering while slowly eating my breakfast if it is possible for us to slow down; appreciate the beauty around and within; and make the focused difference to the world as well in harmony. The laptop beeps up with the first teams call for the day – Hello Mohit! Good morning. So, today ……😀😀😀


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mr. Mohit Kumar, Joint President – HR (Hindalco Industries Ltd.) is a Human Capital Strategist with 26 years experience in different facets of Human Resource Management in strongly HR oriented organisations like Hindalco Industries Ltd & Idea Cellular Ltd (Aditya Birla Group), Hewlett Packard, ITC INFOTECH INDIA Ltd (ITC group), SRF Ltd, DSS Mobile Communications Ltd and BCH (Eaton corporation).

He is a passionate thought leader, business enabler, employee champion; and is cross culturally adept having worked in different parts of India and with business and HR teams from over 12 countries. He is actively involved in leadership coaching and development, internal development assessment centers, talent & capability pipeline, sensitivity development and various other quality HR interventions towards creating a learning and winning organization.

Tug of war

“Aim high, the higher the better.”
“Shoot for the moon, dream big.”
“Who seeks shall find.”
“Try and try until you succeed. Don’t compromise.”
“There is no-one between you and your dreams.”
“Ask and you shall be given.”

They say, you get in life that what you have the courage to ask for. The courage to ask for something is not always enough.

Imagine. What if every step towards something you want is a step away from someone who has always been there for you?

There is nothing more important than family and love.”
“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”
“Love awakens your soul.”
“You always gain by giving love.”
“If you want to become fearless, choose love.”
“When we have each other, we have everything.

Is there anything worse than this state of helplessness?

Deep inside, self dissatisfaction is a choice we make over hurting them. It’s ironic. This choice comes from a mechanism that is trained to choose the best for us. It is functioning at levels beyond our conscious thinking. How can, then, one turn against themselves, when humans are genetically so well trained for survival.

Should we trust this intelligence?

The other option is to revolt.

“Revolt against whom, our own selves?”

This is the unsatisfactory deadend.

Broken… or… Beautiful

Sania was reading a book and got interrupted when the doorbell rang. She opened the door and greeted Anirban, her husband.

“Tea or Coffee?” she asked.

“Let’s have tea. I will freshen up in 5 minutes.” he replied.

Sania started crooning and went to the kitchen with a smile on her face. The evening was lit. Sania was liking the calm, pleasant, positive evening. Anirban joined for tea and they started talking about their day.

“Before I forget, we have been invited for dinner today by Aakash and Amrita.” Anirban said.

“Ok”, said Sania.

Suddenly, the vibe of the day changed for her. She started feeling a bit jittery.

Aakash is Anirban’s colleague and Amrita his wife. The couple likes dining out and road trips for exploring new places. Sania used to be excited to meet them initially. However, she realised that every time she met them, there was something that made her uncomfortable. It was the couple’s cynicism about everything and everyone. Every discussion led to them ending into judging someone, criticising someone or just gossiping about someone. Sania didn’t quite like that vibe. She also felt guilty of being a part of it, even though she never contributed. She would just smile and, she felt that by even smiling she encouraged those conversations.

Finally, they met for the dinner. Sania appreciated the preparations and before she realised, the couple started talking about their bad dinner experiences at another colleagues’ house. This was the beginning. Soon, they were talking about someone’s looks or mocking someone’s tragedies. They asked Sania if she had some gossip to share. When she said, she didn’t have any, they started pushing her to share something.

“Come on! There would be something spicy that you know. How about the Department Head’s wife? You met her last week.”

“Ok. Tell us about Department Head. Don’t you think he is too lean? Looks malnourished. Doesn’t he?”

Sania couldn’t take it anymore.

She said, “To be honest, I wonder if I have ever come across anyone who looks perfect in all aspects and has a perfect life all the time. And somehow, I have come to understand it’s our deviations from the standards of a perfect look or a perfect life that make us unique, that make us stand out and that make us beautiful. People with broken hearts, people with broken teeth and people with broken lives have stories to tell. They are adventurous, courageous and are living life to the fullest. For me, broken is beautiful. So, to answer your question, I have met only beautiful people with beautiful lives. In my view, these people deserve only respect and appreciation. I have promised myself to not judge or criticise them.

Not that anyone understood what she was trying to say. However, Sania started feeling better once she expressed this.

The Japanese art form Kintsugi is built on the idea of strength and beauty in imperfection. When a ceramic object breaks, the broken pieces are carefully mended by artisans and the golden repairs are visible — yet somehow beautiful. 

Fight against no one

We become what we can’t fight.

We want to stay sane. Why? Don’t know. But we have to. There are things, in numbers quite large, we don’t like. We want them to not happen. We want them to end. We don’t fight them. Sometimes we “can’t” fight them. Why fight a battle that we will lose after we appear to win?

We are cowards. We are scared to risk what we may end up losing after we win. It kills us from inside. We fight against our own selves. This is a battle we choose over the one we can’t afford to lose, or win.

We are losers. We use our fingers, not our arms to convey what we want. We just can’t fight back.

“What the hell do I do?”, asked a voice inside me, one day.

“Why do you have to fight it? It is the way it is. Stop troubling yourself over it. You are not responsible for everything wrong that’s happening around you.”, came a reply in a slightly different voice.

When there is a conflict inside, one of the sides is assigned to the blood pumping organ and the other to the manager of organs. I couldn’t identify which one was which.

The following day, I argued against the notion of chasing dreams.

10 Happiness Mantras for Moms… :)

That important meeting, a birthday party in neighbourhood and your friend’s engagement – all happening at the same time. You have to attend one and make up for another. Yes, it does get messy at times. Enjoy the beautiful mess. Choose to be happy. 

Here are 10 simple tips to be a Happy mom.

1. RELISH 5-MINUTE BREAKS 

When you are having your favourite juice, sipping your coffee or walking to the nearby store, just enjoy it. Disconnect from rest of the world and enjoy your me time.

Imagine sitting on your couch, looking outside the window and appreciating the beauty of nature with a glass of juice in your hand. Enjoy that juice and think neither about past nor future.

2. GO EASY ON YOURSELF 

There will always be some critics who do not approve of your parenting style. Let them be. You know what is best for you, your family and your baby. Ignore the criticism if it pulls you down and is not constructive. 

Every night before you sleep, think of ten great things that happened to you in the day. You will see the significant positives overpowering the insignificant negatives. 

“Our own worst enemy cannot harm us as much as our unwise thoughts. No one can help us as much as our own compassionate thoughts.” ~Buddha 

3. BUILD YOUR INNER STRENGTH 

A 10-minute meditation ritual every morning or evening can work wonders for you. It will keep you centered, mindful and sane the rest of the day. There are many mobile Applications with guided meditation audios, relaxation music and sleep stories. Once you practice this for a few days, you will experience the super power it gives you.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment,  live in the breath.”  ~Amit Ray

4. DO WHAT YOU LIKE 

Create time to do things you really love to do – reading, listening to music or dancing. If it requires for you to seek help from others, do not hesitate. It does not make you selfish or less caring, it helps you destress. If you neglect yourself, it will make you irritable. 

If you need half an hour to have a conversation with your best friend, tell your family and slot time to speak to her without any disturbance. At times, we assume too much and do not communicate what we want. Ask and you shall be given. 

5. TREAT YOURSELF THE WAY YOU WANT OTHERS TO TREAT YOU 

You want your employer, your family and your friends to understand you, appreciate you and trust you. Do you empathize with yourself enough? Believe in yourself, respect yourself and go easy on yourself. 

Our personality is a reflection of what we feel about ourselves and how we treat ourselves. When we take ourselves seriously, the world is bound to. Believe you are a Queen, treat yourself like a Queen and you will be treated like a Queen. 

6. LIVE YOUR LIFE TO THE FULLEST

“Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.”  – Thích Nhất Hạnh 

Sometimes when we are too busy, we just keep thinking about completing the work. Do not look at your life as just series of jobs to be done. Enjoy everything that you do. Life is not the big achievements; it is the million little things. The time with mother nature, great interactions with good people, sharing and caring is all happening while we are chasing our big goals. Acknowledge and enjoy all of it. 

7. DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS 

Most of us stop dreaming or give up on our dreams after becoming a mom. Once you start believing in your dreams again, you will find ways to give time, efforts and attention to this while still managing the other things well. You just have to believe in your dreams. 

“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.”  ~Robin S. Sharma 

8. STAY HEALTHY AND LOVE YOURSELF 

Eat healthy, stay healthy and stay fit. However, do not chase size zero. As long as you are healthy and are able to take care of yourself, your family and your work, you are beautiful. Love yourself for who you are and love your body. 

9. BE THE GIRL YOU ONCE WERE 

There are no rewards for being sane all the time. Sing out loud, dance in your living room and play crazy games. In fact, motherhood is all the more an opportunity to be a child again. 

The best thing about kids is that they are not inhibited. It takes immense energy to be self- conscious all the time. It is ok to let loose at times and just be yourself without the fear of judgement.

“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.” ~Eckhart Tolle 

10. HAVE FAITH- IN PEOPLE AND UNIVERSE 

Amidst all chaos and uncertainty, it is faith that keeps us going. Your faith can move mountains and your doubt can create them. It is faith in visible and invisible, known and unknown that keeps us strong. Have faith. Stay true to yourself, keep your loved ones by your side and stay strong. 

In pursuit of happiness, we need to just pause and be happy. Happiness will not come to us that one day; it’s experienced every day in little things like these. So, be happy and pass on the happiness to your child. After all, kids don’t need a perfect mom, they need a happy one. Wish you a calm, meaningful and cheerful life ahead. 

Sadhu

Sadhu is walking barefoot along the river that flows next to his kachcha (mud-) house.

Sadhu is a 67 years old man. Carrying long white curly beard on his fair face,
he is the master of a fit-not-fat body.
The cold waters of the river are taking away with them any fatigue that Sadhu’s body is carrying. Slowly as he walks on the mud floor, as his worries and tension start fading away, he feels a sense of freedom. He feels free from holding himself accountable for every wrong that happens in his family. He appreciates not being judged, not being looked at, not being unnecessarily instructed. The silence of the shore, outside and inside, makes him want to live, want to do more.

Suddenly the silence is broken. The sound of the alarm wakes Sadhna up from her dream. The routine life continues. Sadhna gets up from bed, gets the kids ready for school and starts preparing breakfast.

The house gradually starts filling with voices. the husband can’t find his socks, the kids are waiting for the lunchbox and the mother-in-law needs her medicines.

After the husband and the kids leave, it’s time to start working for lunch.

Carefree, she is, only in the dream!!!

Heroes in our Homes

(1)

He is sitting silently on the hospital bench. 

“Congratulations! You have been blessed with a baby girl,” the nurse announces excitingly.

He stands up.

“Would you like to see her? I will bring her to you,” says the nurse.

She comes back after ten minutes, with the little miracle in her hand. He looks at the little life as she moves from nurse’s arms to grandmother’s arms.

“Have you recorded the time of birth? You guys are always in your own little world,” he yells at his mother.

Her face turns pale. Everyone around her goes silent for a while.


(2)

He is standing in the hall waiting for his wife and daughter. 

His daughter is going to college and is moving out of their home.

“Darling, hope you have kept your medicines,” says his wife, as they enter the hall.

Yes mom, don’t worry.”

“Also, make sure you take out all the snacks as soon as you reach there and arrange them properly.”

“No, I won’t,” the daughter laughs, “I will manage, Mom.”

“It’s high time you learn to take things seriously,” he yells at his daughter.

She breaks down. So does her mother.


(3)

He is moving out of the hospital with his extremely sick father. As he makes his father sit in the car, his father suddenly holds him tightly and starts breathing heavily.

He looks at his father and looks around to see if there is someone who can help. In seconds, his father stops breathing. He looks back at him to realize his father is no more.

He calls his wife, “Inform everyone he is no more.”

“What!??” she exclaims.

He hangs up.

Her heart sinks as she senses the coldness in her husband. She sits down and cries her heart out.


This is just half the story. Here’s the full story…

(1)

He looks at the little life as she moves from nurse’s arms to the grandmother’s arms.

He is overwhelmed and is feeling a range of emotions. He brought into this world a life; he has a big responsibility now and he suddenly has this unconditional feeling of love.”

He doesn’t cry with happiness.

“Have you recorded the time of birth? You guys are always in your own little world,” he yells at his mother.


(2)

“No, I won’t,” the daughter laughs “I will manage, Mom.

His daughter is moving into the big bad world. He always protected her and now he is concerned for her. He doesn’t cry and say, “I love you. Please take care of yourself.”

“It’s high time you learn to take things seriously,” He yells at his daughter.


(3)

He looks back at him to realize his father is no more. 

His world is shaken. He feels like there is no roof over him anymore. He feels this unbearable pain in his heart.

He doesn’t cry.

He calls his wife, “Inform everyone he is no more.”

“What!??” she exclaims.

He hangs up.


He  doesn’t cry, he never does. He should not. He is supposed to give strength to the family and be their hero. And heroes don’t cry. Humans do.

Every time he feels the rush of emotions, he doesn’t know what to do. And the outlet is what it is. 


Let’s ask ourselves today…

Do we want to be born to a hero or to a human?
Do we want to live with a hero or a human?
Do we want to raise a hero or a human?”

Defensive Pessimism vs Mindful Optimism?

In stressful times like these, many people adopt an inclination towards defensive pessimism: prepare for the worse and hope for the best. To my mind this is a losing strategy. Events are neither good nor bad. It is our thoughts that make them so.

Defensive pessimism keeps us on the lookout for the negative, and over interpreting events through a very dark lens. The problem is seek and ye shall find. Being inundated with negative thoughts keeps us stressed and feeling helpless— neither of which is good for our health and well being. To hope for the best may sound fine but actually on closer inspection it has a pessimistic outlook built into it that is absent from expecting the best. Hoping for something acknowledges that defeat is a real possibility. Expecting defeat through a series of social psychological processes too often creates defeat.

Mindful Optimism, on the other hand, is not burying one’s head in the sand with a certainty that all will be fine, but still helps us live fully moment by moment without stress. Uncertainty is not newly upon us. Everything has always been uncertain. It feels new because people tend to confuse the stability of their mindsets with the stability of the underlying phenomena. That is, all is and was always changing and not fully knowable but we may have felt we knew because we were oblivious to the inherent uncertainty.

We can worry or relax and things can turn out to be good or bad. If we worry and everything turns out fine, we’ve stressed ourselves unnecessarily and wasted precious time. If we worry and if turns out to be bad we’re no more prepared for it than if we didn’t worry. If we relax and it turns out bad we’ll be stronger to deal with it and if it all turns out to be fine we can continue behaving adaptively.

So what should we do if we want to adopt this more successful life strategy of Mindful Optimism, in the time of a pandemic?

Make a plan for yourself, such as frequent hand washing (which is always good) and engage in social distancing and then go back to living fully moment by moment with the implicit expectation that all will be fine.

About the Author

Ellen Langer


Dr. Ellen Langer, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and the first female professor to gain tenure in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. She is the author of eleven books and more than two hundred research articles written for general and academic readers on mindfulness for over 35 years. Her best selling books include Mindfulness; The Power of Mindful Learning; On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity; and Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.

Dr. Langer has been described as the “mother of mindfulness” and is also the founder of The Langer Mindfulness Institute. Among other honors, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and three Distinguished Scientist Awards, the World Congress Award, the NYU Alumni Achievement Award, and the Staats award for Unifying Psychology. Most recently she received the Liberty Science Genius Award.

Beauty and the beast

Can a beast be with a beauty? 👹 ⚡ 👱🏻‍♀️ 
Can a hammer stay with a flower? 🔨 ⚡ 🌷 
Can roughness survive with tenderness without destroying it?

Ice 🧊 breaks its bonds to melt and become water 🌊 when exposed to the warmth of light☀️. The rigidity it possesses is subject to change. It is water… frozen by atmosphere. It can, too, flow freely, quench thirst and liquefy itself. Is it scared of the transformation?💭 Maybe. Undoubtedly, there is risk of losing parts of itself and falling apart, if not held tight. “Would it lose itself” is a fear that makes it hold itself solid🧊. Water, on the other hand, is flexible, free flowing and “more” liquid. It does not possess good counters for hard blows and punches, it lets them pass through; does not attack the attacker but tears itself apart🌊.

Is water jealous of ice for its endurance?
Is ice jealous of water for its freedom?
Ice and water are two forms of existence of the same material; interchangeable yet different properties.

What if they are put together in a closed box? It is no less than amazement to see them not fighting but trying to unite🤝. They tend to lose themselves to become the other. There comes a point of equilibrium where there isn’t a need for them to lose themselves anymore to relieve the other of its discomfort with the coexistence. They start coexisting⚗️. What if we heat the box🔥? The discomfort rises again inside both. A lot is happening inside💔. The tendency to lose themselves pushes them in one direction; survival instincts and identity greed in the other. After all confusions and haphazard ups and downs, what happens in the end😞?

Equilibrium. ⚗️ 
Peaceful coexistence. 🤝

How? 😯😯

However.

Woman Shrugging on WhatsApp

Why? 🤔

Because they want it. 🙂

Isn’t love also a verb?!!! 🙂

Woman and Man Holding Hands on Facebook 4.0