Empowering conversations

Yesterday, both Steve Roesler and Pete Reilly proposed change processes that involve what I call "empowering conversations". Changes become more likely to endure when the individuals involved have been reminded of their power. It appears to be human nature to become dis-empowered, especially in the contexts of coercion, compliance or conformity. This creates endless opportunities for us to empower people. When we respond this way, we are not giving people power they do not already have. We simply put them in touch with power they are overlooking.

I attended a Thanksgiving dinner this year with 30 people, where only 3 were relatives of mine. I had several opportunities to conduct empowering conversations with people around the two tables. Most of the people attended a concert last night, where I saw the lingering effects of how I talked with them last week. It was a wonderful reminder for me of how much difference it makes to empower others.

There are many ways to empower people that you can fine tune as you try them out:
  • Giving people permission to deviate from the norm. Most get boxed in by the standards of conformity and lose sight of their freedom to be different.
  • Reminding people of their greatness. Most people focus on how they have been criticized, negatively compared to others and labeled as inadequate.
  • Showing people their hidden choices. Most see the obvious alternatives and fall short of exploring their options that are easily overlooked.
  • Complicating overwhelming constraints. Most take limitations literally and miss out on: how there's two ways to seem them, when they don't apply and times when the reverse is true.
  • Exposing unforeseen possibilities. Most people only consider incremental changes and make progress a step at a time, rather than explore transformational changes of their underlying premises, assumptions and strategies.
  • Reversing the endless struggle. People get stuck on uphill battles where letting go will only cause them to backslide, instead of seeing how everything will fall into place on a different path.
  • Putting their imagination to work. Most people conflate their current evidence with a harsh reality to be faced realistically, rather than imagine what they want to create, how they want to grow and ways they want to learn.

With these reminders to reflect upon, most people feel more powerful for a long while after the conversation.

No comments:

Post a Comment