The best way to get started in dialogues is to find one person to work with first. Start by doing Steps 1 and 2 together on a regular, weekly, basis for a while. After you establish regularity in your meetings and feel comfortable with the routine, you might consider inviting others to join you. Up to 6 participants works quite well for an hour-long meeting.
- With a partner, or in a group, commit to a regular schedule of meetings, such as 30 minutes to an hour per week at a set day and time.
- Choose to meet by Zoom, Skype, phone, in person, or any other way that is convenient for everyone.
- Commit to setting this time aside for a Strengths-focused Dialogue. Other kinds of social exchanges can take place before or after your dialogue.
During your meeting
Participants take turns in the roles of speaker and listener. This is true whether your group is two or up to six people.
In the role of speaker, you will:
- describe a recent positive moment.
- name the positive feelings you experienced.
- articulate some of the strengths you heard in your own story.
The listener role is very important, and can be challenging and new. Listening means you are not interrupting, judging, or even agreeing or disagreeing with the speaker.
The goals of the listener are:
- to listen fully, without distraction.
- to communicate both in body language and verbally that the speaker is being heard.
- to facilitate the speaker’s articulation of positive moments, positive feelings, and subjective strengths.
Listeners can encourage speakers to expand or go deeper into what they are sharing with open ended questions and prompts such as:
- Is there more?
- Tell me more about _______.
- What positive feelings did you experience?
- What strengths might you have been using? (See Articulating Your Strengths appendices for lists of possible positive feelings and strengths.)
Significantly, the listener’s job is not to:
- express sympathy.
- share a similar experience.
- give advice.
All of these might happen at another time, but are not part of a Strengths-focused Dialogue. At first, listening may not seem like much to offer, and you may be tempted to go beyond to role of a listener and into the role of a friend or collaborator. What makes the listener role so important and meaningful is that if you ask yourself whether or not you would like an opportunity to be heard, the answer may often be emphatically, YES. In order to really feel heard, a high quality of listening needs to occur.
To review, a Strengths-focused Dialogue is two or more people taking turns sharing positive moments and putting related strengths into words.
Strengths-focused Dialogues form the basis for Strengths-focused Relationships and Communities. They provide a structure for sharing and going deeper into positivity. They also provide an environment for evolving positive solutions and innovations.