How to Stimulate Connection with Curiosity and Appreciation

International Podcast Day

Valuing Curiosity and Appreciation was the title of my session during the 30 hour live-streaming event on International Podcast Day 2016.   Seventy two podcasters from sixteen countries were represented over the 30+ hour live video event.  

I was deeply honored to be invited by two amazingly generous and committed individuals, David Lee and Steve Lee of International Podcast Day .  In the video below you will hear how I was lucky enough to be invited.  I put it down to serendipity – being in the right place at the right time – and that place was Twitter.  I don't hang out every day on Twitter, but this day I did and when the opportunity was presented, I seized it.   It was so much fun for me.  I hope my message will impact my podcaster colleagues and their audiences way into the future.

An Affirmative Question Shifts Energy and a Curious State Invites Appreciative Inquiry

In the video, you'll learn more about Positivity Strategist Podcast. The show is an interview format where I talk with people who are positive change agents in all areas of life.   Its purpose to provide a platform to showcase the work of those who are innovating social change and who serve as an inspiration to all.  My hope is to  inject a good dose of optimism and possibility into our lives. It seeks to marry the ideal with the practical.

During the video, I talk about the transformational change methodology, Appreciative Inquiry that informs my approach, providing me with a framework to stimulate connection in the most generative way.  Story telling and valuing oneself and others is key to deepening connection and strengthening relationships.  It is my experience that when you come from curiosity and appreciation, you really do stimulate connection whatever the situation and, as a podcaster, I would suggest those two states are essential for building rapport and serving yourself, your guests and your audience.

Curiosity as a State

Think back to a time when you were curious; and when you remember that time, it most likely aroused in you feelings of  mystery, adventure,  novelty,  anticipation, hope, possibility.   I expect your attention was focused, and you experienced a heightened sense of  alertness and aliveness. Some of you may have to think back to childhood, as that's when living in a state of curiosity is almost the default.

How about the State of Appreciation?

Now remember a time when you experienced appreciation.  Were you the giver of appreciation because you showed appreciation to someone else; or, were you the receiver of appreciation, because someone showed appreciation to you?   How did appreciation make you feel – about yourself and about the other?  I expect both situations made you feel good because you were able to stimulate connection at a different level.  Not only did you and that other person feel good, I bet others around who observed it also felt positively impacted.  If you want to see this in action, you may enjoy my TEDx talk.  There is something magical about the reciprocal nature of the act of appreciation.

Positive Emotional States Stimulate Connection

If you're not convinced that experiencing positive emotional states do bring out the best in us, try a little curiosity and/or appreciation when you next have the opportunity to be in conversation with someone.

Recently, during a Town Hall debate, the two debaters were antagonist the entire time.   The final question:

… regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?

That question was a state changer, and for a short time, we witnessed a shift in energy, we might say it served to stimulate connection, and as an observer, I felt a positive possibility, and I suspect it impacted others in the same way.

If you believe a good dose of positivity can serve you, please subscribe to Positivity Strategist Podcast to listen in to stories of people who are positively impacting the world.  You will be inspired.



Synchronicity: An Exciting Emergent Principle in Appreciative Inquiry

Episode Introduction

Tom Myers is an entrepreneurial, Associate Professor at the Robert P. Stiller School of Business at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. He’s in the International Business and Management Faculty, teaching courses in entrepreneurship, international marketing, leadership and organizational development. Right from the get-go of this episode, you’ll find out why Tom is more than qualified to teach these subjects to students who seek to have impact in the world. He comes not only with real life, international business experience, but also from an inner knowing of the inherent interconnectedness of all matter that makes up the complexities of life.

Episode Overview – Synchronicity, an exciting emergent Appreciative Inquiry Principle

SynchronicityAt the time of our conversation, Tom was completing his doctoral research and Ph.D. on the topic of “Seeing the Connections: The Emergent Synchronicity Principle in Appreciative Inquiry.” Tom, as a scholar and practitioner of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) originally set out to research “Positive Employee Engagement” for his thesis.  

He wasn’t too far into his research before he opened up to his own family history.  As he learned about the positive workplace engagement that his own ancestors had created for their 5000 employee silk production company, he acknowledged the abundance of synchronicities that were unfolding, thereby, tugging at him to accept these synchronicities. He chose to act on them.  Seeing the connections, Tom shifted his research topic to the significance and value of synchronicity and how we make meaning and understand relationships throughout our life, while, at the same time, he was also seeing the connection with the Principles of Appreciative Inquiry.

Did You Discover Appreciative Inquiry or Did Appreciative Inquiry Discover You?

Following a Masters degree in Positive Psychology, Tom was first introduced to Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College, where he chose to complete his certification in the Positive Business and Society Change Program when Professor Lindsey Godwin joined the faculty.  He has been integrating AI into his work ever since, and, through his doctoral studies, is deepening his experience with AI in an academic and practical sense.

Constructing Your Own Life Story

Embarking on a PH.D. journey with the intention of focusing on the AI Principle of Social Construction to research the topic of Positive Employee Engagement, Tom started in a traditional way to look at what constituted employee engagement from an historical perspective.  Tom didn’t have to look very far, when he realized one of the best examples of a positively engaged workforce existed in his own family history.  Tom’s inquiry:

  • How might we look back at our personal ancestry history in order to create a source of intergenerational energy for today?
  • What might we discover if we explore our ancestry with an appreciative and generative approach?

Tom’s  ancestors were the Cheney Brothers who founded the Cheney Silk Manufacturing Company in Manchester, Connecticut which grew to be the largest producer of silk in the western hemisphere.  The Cheney brothers created a workplace culture that was ahead of some companies today and provided benefits to employees that most workers still do not receive even today.  It was deemed a workplace ‘utopia.’  

Listen in to Tom sharing his family story and read more in a moving and informative article Tom wrote for the Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner, entitled “Lessons from Ancestors: My Historical Intergenerational Appreciative Inquiry.

Meaningful Connections are Around Us All Time

Synchronicity is a concept, first explained by psychiatrist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related. (Wikipedia)

Listen in to learn more from Tom’s research through interviews and focus groups he's conducted over the course of his research. 

Appreciative Inquiry Interview Template

Tom has generously offered to share his Appreciative Interview template that he used in focus groups as part of  his research.  You might like to download and experience the questions yourself, or even better invite a small group to experience the questions.  Tom would be really grateful if you would share your findings with him.  His email is included in the template.  Open the Positivity Lens Reveal below to download the PDF.

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Synchronicity TemplateAppreciative Inquiry Interview Template for Synchronicity

This is such an opportunity to experience an Appreciative Inquiry set of questions and inquire into your stories of synchronicity and the stories of others, if you so chose to do.

You will be moved by what you discover about yourself and others as you inquire into your own stories of  “seeing the connections” – how synchronicity shows up in your life.  It will help you acknowledge, become aware of and act on the synchronicities, as mentioned in the post below.



3 “A”s

As a result of the interviews and focus groups, Tom heard from participants that they could identify their experience of synchronicity as three main events, which he has named the 3 “A”s

  1. Acknowledgment – you start to acknowledge the “coincidences;” namely the connections that are meaningful to you.
  2. Awareness – next time you encounter this meaningful connection, you become more observant and conscious;  this has happened again, therefore, you are more open to the occurrences of these meaningful connections from a range of sources, e.g. whether it’s people coming into your life, symbols that have meaning for you or events that show up in your life
  3. Act on it – you recognize that it’s time to pay attention and act on the connections which are meaningful

Two keys psychological orientations come up regarding synchronicity:

  • Being open
  • Being vulnerable

In those two states of being, you are more likely to experience synchronicity.  It’s worth reflecting on the questions to see if those two states feel true for you.

How to Enhance Abilities to Embrace Synchronicity

Create Quite – meditate, yoga, reflection allow us to be more open to see the synchronities

Allow for Space between – synchronicity occurs in the quiet spaces; journaling time; reflection on the unplanned event, the things that do crop up between the planned events.

Trust – trust the feeling; when you plan too much, you may not allow for intuition

Connect to Tom

Website:  Champlain College

Tom on Twitter

Tom on LinkedIn

Tom on Facebook

Article: Lessons from Ancestors: My Historical, Intergenerational Appreciative Inquiry

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


Listen to Stitcher


Listen on Google Play Music

Subscribe Via RSS

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.


Be an Agent for Positive Change, With Robyn Stratton-Berkessel – PS044

Increasingly, many of us want to have a positive impact in all that we do. Find out how to get greater clarity and comfort with change. Learn the value of positive emotions to change your brain and your body; learn how to assess your character strengths and put them to work; follow a five step process (Appreciative Inquiry) to bring about positive changes.

Decluttering Your Life With Good Design and Positivity, With Natalie Shell – PS038

Episode Overview

In this episode, Natalie Shell shares her experiences and insights about writing and publishing her book, The Wedding Virus and Other Snippets, the benefits of “chick lit”, the power of design, and decluttering your life. Positivity Strategist host Robyn Stratton-Berkessel and guest Natalie also discuss the value of stories and the role positivity plays in decluttering.

Episode Introduction

Natalie Shell, decluttering your lifeNatalie Shell is an Australian thinker, storyteller, and coach. Her unique coaching practice arises from the intersection of storytelling, environmental psychology, and design thinking to help clients get started, shift stories, gain clarity, and to take major leaps.  She’s one half of lifestyle blog, co-founder of Breathe & Shine, ex-Product & Brand Manager & UX Junkie at, and change consultant. Her debut book of short stories, The Wedding Virus and Other Snippets was released in May 2015. An avid traveller, she has lived and worked in 5 countries. These days you can find her living with her Mr. and son in Tel Aviv.

The Wedding Virus

Natalie’s book The Wedding Virus and Other Snippets is a collection of humorous essays and stories that pokes fun of what was really in the lives of her friends who live all around the world rather than the stories they were being fed. The title is a joke about how weddings and babies spread like a virus between people.

Weddings and marriage are very different things. Natalie suggests that some people may actually just want the wedding. Marriage is fare more interesting.  She suggests that a better word to describe “marriage” is “partnership.”

Fun and Not-so-fun Aspects of  Self-publishing

Not-so-fun: As humorous as her book's title is – The Wedding Virus and Other Snippets – listen in to the episode to find out how well it translates as a subject line in an email!

Fun: Ask for help from others. You might be surprised by how many people come together to support your success. You’ll also get opportunities to work with talented people and experience community.

Gain as much knowledge as you can about promotion, especially long-term promotion. There’s a lot of value spending time (if you can) before even releasing your book to create a really strong launch plan and marketing plan.

Starting something is really important. Finishing a cycle, letting it go, and letting it become what it needs to become is really important part of the process, too.

Benefits of “Chick Lit”

Natalie confesses  that she can take herself too seriously. She writes about happiness, letting go, decluttering, and positive change. For her, chick lit provides a lighter entry point to get to some tough challenging issues.

Natalie enjoys this genre because it allows lightness of dialogue, giving you the platform where you can talk about really deep, tough topics but in a lighter way. For example, there’s a chapter in The Wedding Virus about 49 things you don’t talk about. Because it’s under another mode (chick lit), it allows you to bypass the natural block that people might have for talking about those topics and offers them in a different way. Chick lit allows you to flaunt humor, the ridiculous, and get to people's truths. You can make a fiction or comedy about how we live our lives,  and thereby you yourself becomes more accessible. Chick lit also gives a break from the things going on in our lives and world. Humor is great therapy and a great leveler.

Power of Good Design

Design makes a big difference. The power of design — good design — can lead to greater positivity and happiness. Our environments affect our moods.  They make us feel happy or sad.

Conscious design with inspiration incorporates understanding about the influence of the physical space in our lives, and using a physical approach to initiate  all kinds of changes. Having “happy house rules” — when you feel good at home, you also feel good in your life –so, by working with your space and place, it releases some of that stuckness in your head. This concept can easily be seen in a number of traditions such as feng shui.  Natalie shows there is great power to work with physical space changes, as those changes are easier to implement than the changes we might need to make in our head space.

Combination of design and environment — an intersection of interior design and environmental psychology — design thinking provides opportunity for positive change.

Positivity Lens NotebookPOSITIVITY LENS for this Episode

Download Natalie's suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint – it’s about the power of release and clearing some space to allow more positivity into your life.

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Click the button below to open your activity sheet for this episode:

Decluttering Your Life

Robyn shares that when she gets into a state of overwhelm, one thing that helps her get out of it is to do a displacement activity: such as tidying up her filing cabinet or some other mess that's in her physical space.  This physical act is creating order and clears space for other ideas and activities to emerge.

Unfortunately, simply telling ourselves, “Be ordered in your mind now,” doesn’t work well for many of us. Instead of thinking about “changing your behavior,” reframe the situation and your perspective as “changing the direction in which you want to go” — and reframing in itself is creating a change in direction.

The issue of clutter is deeper and goes beyond “stuff.” Natalie says that stuff becomes something that people have imbued with memories and feelings. We’ve put something into our stuff and into our home that maybe we actually want to be working on: working with stuff, understanding why we’re keeping something, and understanding what it is that’s not making us feel good. Clutter is not just material items; it’s also symbolic and a manifestation of stress.

“Change your space (or change your place), change your luck.” – loosely translated Hebrew saying

If you ask yourself where you’re feeling most stressed in your home, you most likely know the answer — and it’s usually reflecting something else. When that area is put in order and you make the space feel better, then you feel better. There’s a shift in mindset because something has shifted. Natalie explains that when something actually shifts, you get a different fortune and a different path appears. Your relation to things change, so you get a different outcome. Decluttering is a physical manifestation of engaging in positivity and psychologically freeing yourself.

Robyn emphasizes the power of emotions; and to help overcome our  negativity bias,  we need to build up our positivity muscle. By default, we tend to find things that don’t work, upset us, or are challenging to us because of our survival instinct (fight or flight). We have to constantly work at positivity. For Natalie, positivity is a muscle and a reflex of looking at what’s good, what’s working, and putting ourselves in situations and doing things that make us feel happier and better.

Value of Stories

For Natalie, as a storyteller, the value of stories is to bring out our humanity. She added that stories are even more valuable now because we’re engaging in a lot of devices and our world is becoming increasingly machine dependent. Therefore, there  is an increased need to connect at the human level.  Sharing stories are a powerful way to facilitate that.

“If you tell the right story to the right person at the right time, you change their world.” – line in Hasidic storytelling tradition

Natalie reflects that when she tells a story, she is a really good version of herself. By gathering stories, especially positive ones, we can increase our likelihood of changing the world. The exchange of stories allows people to be heard and listened to. Stories also serve as a mirror for the person telling them and the person listening.

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Books Mentioned In This Episode

 Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


Listen to Stitcher


Listen on Google Play Music

Subscribe Via RSS

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

Search 2014 for the Best in Humanity

Search 2014

Search 2014


The video below affirms my choice to be a positivity strategist!

I encourage you to invest 1.32 minutes to watch this video put out by Google, entitled “Year in Search 2014” focusing on the most searched for terms for 2014.

Hold your judgement 🙂

Pictures speak a thousand words

The medium is the message.  Pictures speak a thousand words.  Pick your favorite idiom or quote.  For me it's “words create worlds” and “what you focus on grows.” What we search for, we will find.  Where we put our attention, our energy follows.  These searched for words in this video shine the light on the best of our human story:  Hope, Science, Love, Greatness, Sense-making, Remembrance, Inspiration, Discovery, Imagination.

If you scroll through some of the comments under this video, you'll see also another side of the human condition: the cynicism.  Many are saying this message of hope is hokey-pokey.  These comments reveal a different reality when they claim that  the most searched for words are search for “porn”, “sex” etc.   No doubt, that's real, too.

Search for the best

There are multiple realities.  There's the good and the bad and everything in between.

I value the wholeness of the entire human experience.  This video demonstrates to me that hope, and love, and inspiration, discovery and imagination are what get me out of bed everyday.  Searching for the best in humanity.  Couldn't live without it.

The Greatness Zone and Positivity, with Jay Forte – PS011

Episode Overview – The Greatness Zone and Positivity

Jay ForteMy guest and conversational partner is this episode is Jay Forte.  Jay is a business and motivational speaker, coach and author.  Jay is President and Founder of The Greatness Zone – an organization that provides talent and strength-based tools to help people live extraordinary lives, and, organizations achieve exceptional results.  Jay is the creator of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation course at Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL where he’s an adjunct professor.

Jay is a fellow podcaster -his podcast show is The Greatness Zone and he has another one about to be launched next week, called Ready for Life.

Through the lenses of positivity and our own greatness zone, we talk about the importance of living a purposeful life and how to create that for ourselves.  It starts with developing a sense of self-awareness and how we go about our daily lives.  Taking time to notice the world around us and how we fit it can start by becoming aware of our strengths, and what gives us joy which leads to discovering the best of who we can be for ourselves and for the world.

Energizing Work

Delivering, training and coaching the Greatness Zone is optimistic and positive work that energizes Jay.  His goal is to share what’s right with the world rather than what’s wrong.  He works to help people find their strengths. When people find the right road that helps them find their abilities, talents and values, they tap into their own greatness zone.  All of that is most energizing.

From Misalignment to Alignment

Greatness Zone work is  extra energizing because, Jay admits he was misaligned for most of his own life.  He was of the mindset, that the world does a good job of reminding us that a lot of things go wrong most of the time.

He stumbled into the greatness zone,  because, at that time he was not on the right  road:   he was on someone else’s road: starting with parents, then employers and partners. He experienced pessimism and negativity. He lacked passion, even though he was good at what he was doing professionally, he was not standing in his own authenticity.

The Greatness Zone

The-Greatness-Zone-LogoJay defines it as a place where you are aware of the best in you and you bring that self to the world. To find your own your Greatness Zone, Jay provides a process and series of steps that help you identify your own road to a rewarding, fulfilling life.  It’s a process of self-discovery that leads to clarity of your abilities, passions and values. When you can identify them, that’s when your Greatness Zone shows up.  This quote says it:

Frederick Buechner:

“Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.”

Jay teaches that we need to identify our own road and  our place in the world.

Millenial Generation

In his course, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, designed for freshman, the focus is on tapping into the greatness zone by taking students on a journey of discovery: of themselves, the world around them and their fit.

He teaches his students to come up with three adjectives that describe themselves and their behaviour and then write a statement that suggests who they are in the world, as a “branding statement.” This is a measure of success that is a great outome – they show up in the world differently at the end of the course than at the beginning.  Better than any grades, he suggests.

When you have this clarity of yourself, the world opens up and so much more becomes possible;  and the world seems a more supportive, caring place.

Ready for Life

This is a new program and podcast which Jay will be launching early November. It's geared to bridge the conversation between parents and children, so kids find their own blueprint and begin to think about what might be after college.  Some tips about the course's intention:

  • We come packaged to be game changers and most people don’t know what they’ve got
  • If you’re aimless you are not optimistic.  Some clarity about what inspires you opens you up
  • You only change when you notice what is amazing and remarkable about you – what your built-in genius is
  • World gives you back when you are in your authentic place – there's a mutual exchange

Positivity and The Greatness Zone

At the core they are the same.  They are about self-love, self-awareness, noticing the little things that really do have a big impact. Jay talks about an inventory of greatness, and I talk about a reservoir of positive emotions.  Both facilitate a deep sense of knowing that our contribution to the world makes a difference, and we do have impact in all that we do, that we, and the world are full of countless possibilities and opportunities.  We need to trust and act so we can expand our horizons.

When coming from the place that “I matter and can make a difference,” we can participate in a way as Buckminster Fuller describes:

“What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about that probably won't happen unless I take responsibility for it.?”

How thrilling is that!


  1. Buckminster Fuller – “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about that probably won't happen unless I take responsibility for it.?”
  2. Frederick Buechner – “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.”

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Books Mentioned In This Episode:

Positive Thinking & Emotions: The Practice of Positivity


Positive Thinking & Emotions

I had the good fortune to be able to attend a most inspiring event where Barbara Fredrickson and Sharon Salzberg shared insights in the Brainwave series at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York city on the topic of the science of positivity.  Barbara, as a scientist, has been studying the neuroscience and physiology of positive emotions.  Moreover, her research shows us how we can build up our reservoirs of positivity and what good that does us over time.  Sharon teaches loving-kindness meditation, based on Buddhist teachings as a way to help us connect us to our joyful heart and happiness.  Their stories and synergies delighted us all. Read more

America’s Positive Core

837b0732I am a ‘resident alien' of the US after marrying my German-born, American husband. My Australian cultural imprint is strongly inclined to fight for the underdog. We have tendency to “knock down tall poppies”, to be irreverent and anti-authoritarian.

I have been willing regime change for just about the whole 9 years I've lived here, so during that time, I have been, at times, quite “unappreciative” and a done my fair share of ” **** bashing” – another of our not so generous cultural constructs.

So now that has all passed, I'm seeing the best in America, which fills me up with energy and optimism and hope. I see such opportunities for us to co-construct. The shift in what we are now paying attention to leads to a whole new set of discoveries, dreams, designs and destiny.

So wondering what might be responses to the following questions:

  • What are the best and highest qualities that represent America’s “positive core”?
  • What areas offer America the greatest possibilities to bring about justice, equity and equality?
  • And, in 10 years,  how do you want America to be in the world?
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