Helping Sibling Squabbles Subside

Jun 29, 2023

Do you notice that sometimes it is harder to bring up a delicate topic with family members than with work colleagues? I know I do. Well – panic not. Here comes the positive principle from appreciative inquiry to the rescue. This principle states that the more positive and generative the questions, the more positive and generative the outcome. Furthermore, positive images and positive actions produce positive results (Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1999). The principle was clearly in evidence during this week’s Kickstarters session where the group created insightful generative questions to address positive frames for two different family issues.

Positive Frame #1

Name it:  My adult kids cannot have constructive conversations.

Flip it: My adult kids can have constructive conversations in a caring and respectful manner.

Frame it: My adult kids understand and care for each other.

Another suggested frame: My adult kids relate to each other as adults.

Generative Questions

Once the frame was in place, the group created generative questions that could create a conversation worth having, one in which everyone would want to participate. 

  • Have either of you experienced or witnessed a similar interaction that was handled in a way you admired? What might you bring from those experiences to this interaction?
  • When you were young, in what ways did you have caring conversations with your sibling?
  • What have been some of your favorite times with your sibling?
  • When in the past have each of you demonstrated how much you care in your conversations with one another?
  • Tell me about a time the two of you had a conversation where you really began to understand each other?
  • How might you each demonstrate how much you care about each other, even in challenging interactions?
  • How do you need to be in order to have a conversation worth having with your sibling?
  • How or what might you learn from one another?
  • How do you see your relationship growing as you grow older?
  • What do you see as your sibling’s strengths?

Positive Frame #2

Name it:  My mom and siblings only call me when they need something.

Flip it: My mom and siblings call me and ask me how I am doing – they call to just check in.

Frame it: My siblings call because they genuinely want to connect with me.

Other suggested frames:

  • My siblings and I like having conversations.
  • My siblings and mom keep me in their thoughts and are genuinely interested to check in with me.
  • We are more connected and enjoy being together.
  • We feel close when we share what is going on in our lives.

Generative Questions 

To work toward that frame, the group offered generative questions.

Questions for myself:

  • How might I be contributing to them not calling to connect?
  • What am I assuming about these situations?
  • How have I set up the dynamic where they just call when they need something?
  • What do I most value about my siblings?
  • What do I most appreciate about my relationship with my siblings?
  • Do I need to be vulnerable and tell them I can’t solve their problems?

 Questions for mom and my siblings:

  • What’s the best memory you have of us having fun together?
  • Think of a time when we talked for no good reason – what was it about? How did it feel?
  • When was the last time we shared family stories?
  • How were we feeling when we connected at a genuine level before?
  • How can we have a reciprocal relationship?

Cool Tip!

It is useful to tune in and ask ourselves questions to determine how we might have contributed to a situation prior to talking to others. Remember, it is not about blame, rather, it’s about examining the situation with discernment, deep insight, and wisdom. Tune in by pausing, breathing, and being curious.

Source: Cooperrider, David L., and Suresh Srivastva. Appreciative Management and Leadership: The Power of Positive Thought and Action in Organizations. Euclid, OH: Williams Custom Publishing, 1999.

Monday Kickstarters

This topic came from our Summer 2023 Monday Kickstarters series, working sessions to figure out how to have a conversation worth having when faced with a tough situation, challenge, or problem on leadership or performance. Do you have a tough situation you’d like reframing? Join us on June 26th for Monday Kickstarters. Register at The Center for Appreciative Inquiry.

Shared by: Sylvette Wake, a certified Conversations Worth Having and Strategic Conversations Facilitator.

Photo by: Andre Henrique 111 for Pexels


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