International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry


Appreciative approach: The positive gaze upon our humanity – by Vânia Bueno Cury

Appreciative approach: The positive gaze upon our humanity

Vânia Bueno Cury

I have always been critical, and most of the time I have been driven by the desire for perfection. Thus, wherever I was or whatever I was doing, I always sought what was missing. As a foundation for this behavior, there was the justification that pursuing the best was a virtue.

My intention was good, but my extreme effort left a trace of tiredness and loss, especially in my relationships.

This mental model followed me in everything I did, and I have to admit that it helped me follow the challenging path towards self-development, seeking beauty and ethics with much persistence. I was self-demanding and wanted to do everything flawlessly at school, work and in life. My intention was good, but my extreme effort left a trace of tiredness and loss, especially in my relationships. Long years of therapy, meditation, courses and reading did not enable me to deal with the frustration of facing up to “imperfect and uncontrollable reality”.

This struggle was always present in my work as a journalist and as a young entrepreneur, setting up a communication studio. I have worked on PR projects with good clients and an engaging team for twenty years. This setting fostered the growth of the business and its recognition in the market.

In 2007, all was going very well: business was prospering, I was in a happy second marriage, and I had good clients. However, a strong cry for change came from within my heart. It had taken me some months of searching and anxiety until I could understand the reason for that recurring tiredness at the end of the day and for that disenchantment I had never felt beforehand. One day the answer came, crystal clear: I no longer wanted to invest my time and energy in just selling products and services. I wanted to work in assisting people develop through good communication and contribute to transforming the world.

This new clarity of purpose gave me courage, enabling a deep practice of detachment

This new clarity of purpose gave me courage, enabling a deep practice of detachment: in three months I referred my clients to other professionals, I out-placed my employees, and I left for a journey with no destination. I just knew I needed to be free, to go back to study and to find a new meaning for my existence.

Through a careful and unexpected weaving of synchronicities, I left Brazil: I was the second Brazilian to participate in the MPOD – Master of Science in Positive Organizational Development and Change at Case Western Reserve University, the cradle of AI. Nine years after this adventure, I can now very joyfully say that it was the best decision I have ever made.

Ever since, I have been working to connect communication and human development at organizations and schools. To my surprise, I became a university professor and the classroom has been the place where I feel the happiest and the most fulfilled. In conversation circles, I have been sharing the power of dialogue, conflict transformation, systemic vision, and emotional intelligence – always under the inspiration of the appreciative approach. As each process continues, I confirm the power that AI has for generating positive energy to foster change in projects, companies and communities.

Since the very beginning of each graduation group, one innovative intervention in my viewpoint is the use of the “4D AI cycles” for creating agreements for living together. In doing so, students and I have been able to create and support a more inclusive, respectful and collaborative culture. This contributes a lot to our co-learning and maturing.

Nevertheless, what most impresses me in the methodology is the potential to move people and generate inner dialogues. I very often hear feedback from participants like: “This experience changed my life” or “I will never be the same”. This is certainly very gratifying.

I should also say that I am still working on my transformation. For instance, in a recent dialogue with a dear and wise Brazilian professor of mine, Lia Diskin, everything made even more sense. Professor Diskin made me understand that the shadow of perfectionism withdraws us from our own humanity because it is the denial of our human nature. It is this human nature that makes us fail and make mistakes. For me, more than the efficient 4Ds methodology, AI is an enlightened lens through which to see and understand life. It is the way of compassion towards oneself and others, and a possible path for dreaming and gratitude.1

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