I’ve recently been experimenting with appreciative inquiry at work and have been struck by how complimentary it is with co-active coaching and my ongoing search for a form of leadership that can champion a more sustainable world.
I started out treating it like any other methodology, dutifully wading through the text books to find the ‘right’ approach, but the more I read on the subject, the more I started to realize that it is an approach to life, work, parenting and friendship, not just a tool.
I decided to actively try to be an appreciative person, not just in my work conversations but in life! Surely it can’t be too hard to appreciate what is positive all around, it seems like the ideal way to live? However, the US presidential race had just concluded, the UK referendum result still dominated the news, the jungle camp in Calais was being destroyed piece by piece, Aleppo was turning into even more of a hell hole – I was struggling to find much to appreciate about these events. I came up with some ideas, I tried them on…. but they didn’t stick. I became more skeptical about ‘being’ appreciative in times of despair. It wasn’t giving me anything but untruth.
And then I was told that my unborn child may have a serious health condition and my world stopped.
For days I laughed/cried off the notion that there was anything to appreciate in this agonizing situation of waiting for test results whilst imagining the worst. It left me breathless and crumpled.
But as time went on, it dawned on me that it wasn’t about appreciating this news. It was about appreciating everything else. In the shadow of feeling self-indulgently gloomy, my appreciation for my husband, for my son, for our health, for our simple life, was not just present, but it was amplified, magnified, and enlarged into everything that mattered. And so it was, that I came to realize that appreciation (and the joy that it arouses) can be entangled with feelings of despair and anxiety.
Appreciating doesn’t mean always being insincerely positive. It can co-exist alongside all things.
And, my test results were clear.