Essentials of Healing Conversations Now

Healing Conversations are engaging and energizing.  Sometimes having a structure is helpful to start a conversation; others will happen spontaneously.  Whether you plan ahead, or it just happens, the same essentials of Healing Conversations still apply: appreciative, energizing questions and stories.

The power of questions:  “Inquiry itself creates wonder.  When I’m really in the mode of inquiry, appreciable worlds are discovered everywhere.  The feeling of wonder is the outcome” (David Cooperrider, originator of Appreciative Inquiry).  When we approach Healing Conversations in the “spirit of inquiry,” we want to learn and explore, our minds are open and eager to discover what might emerge.  Our curiosity leads the way when we want to understand the other’s point of view or information, or to know them more fully.

Think of the glass half-full…appreciative and energizing questions are not just any questions.  They are framed in the positive, they focus on situations that nurture, bring out the best, or give someone satisfaction.  Appreciative questions are designed to engage the storyteller.  Appreciative questions invite the storyteller to remember the best of their pasts, things that are life-affirming, and often give you clues about wishes for the storyteller’s present and future.  Appreciative questions help us to understand and appreciate one another at a deeper, more reflective level.

The invitation to tell a story often ignites something new in the storyteller.  Often the listener will say, “Wow, you never told me about that.”  To which the storyteller replies, “No one ever asked, what else do you want to know?”  You never know until you ask.

Sequence matters:  start slow and build.  Begin with more general questions, build rapport, and then delve deeper to invite a more intimate conversation.  Core questions should ask about high points, values, pivotal events and peak experiences from the past.  Once you understand what was positive about the past, you can move on to future-oriented questions.  Responses to future-oriented questions may show you what’s missing in the present or describe what the storyteller wants for the future.  Once our elders can see the possibility of a desirable future and have a realistic image of it, they are more likely to do what is required to make it a reality.

Stories and storytelling:  Storytelling is an ancient form of relating and sharing life and history.  By asking appreciative and energizing questions you are letting the storyteller know that you want to hear and understand them.  Stories are powerful because they encompass a whole experience, and invite this listener to walk in the storyteller’s shoes.  It is important that you accept responses without trying to correct information or insert your point of view.  As you listen openly and appreciatively, you are more able to understand what is important to the storyteller, perhaps in an unexpected way.  Stories engage both the storyteller and listener, share a whole experience – feelings, events, characters, etc., give context of a situation, and are memorable.  Stories are an avenue to a more meaningful connection among conversation partners and create a shared picture of the world while building their relationship.