In her book Contagious Culture, Anese Cavanaugh offers a series of probing questions that encourage us to adopt a more proactive and positive approach to our interactions with others, especially when those interactions become challenging. This approach is similar to the concept of a growth mindset, a theory developed by psychologist Carol Dweck that suggests our abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. Cavanaugh’s questions are not just queries; they are a call to action, a prompt for personal reflection and growth that can significantly alter our relationships and environments for the better.
The first question, “What’s possible for this person?” invites us to look beyond current limitations and frustrations. Instead of focusing on shortcomings or irritations, this question encourages us to see the potential in others. It’s a perspective shift from what is to what could be, which can dramatically change our approach and reaction to others. When we start seeing people in light of their potential, our patience, and empathy naturally expand.
The next question, “Who is this person becoming?” compels us to consider the person’s journey and growth over time. People are not static; they evolve and change. By contemplating who they are becoming, we engage with them as dynamic beings on a path of development, which can foster a deeper understanding and connection.
However, growth is often impeded by obstacles, leading us to the critical question, “What’s getting in his or her way?” This inquiry forces us to consider the external and internal barriers hindering the person’s growth. By identifying these obstacles, we can better understand their struggles and, perhaps, even help remove these barriers.
Understanding that progress is a step-by-step journey leads us to ask, “What’s the next littlest step the person can take to move forward?” This question emphasizes the power of small, incremental steps in achieving growth. It’s about breaking down overwhelming goals into achievable actions that can gradually lead to significant change.
Finally, “How can I support him or her?” shifts the focus from a solitary journey to a collaborative one. It’s a recognition that we are not isolated players but members of a community, each with the power to support and uplift others. This question is an acknowledgment that we have a role to play in each other’s growth and an opportunity to contribute positively.
These questions, as Cavanaugh presents them, stem from a worldview of ownership and growth. They remind us that if we are dissatisfied with a situation or a relationship, the power to change it lies within us. It’s about moving from a passive stance, where life happens to us, to an active one, where we are the architects of our reality. This shift is not just about altering the situation but about transforming our perspective, our approach, and ultimately, our experiences.
In the face of annoyance or frustration with others, it can be challenging to adopt this mindset. However, by consciously choosing to engage with these questions, we can navigate our relationships with more grace and effectiveness. It’s about recognizing that every interaction is an opportunity for learning, growth, and transformation—not just for the other person, but for ourselves as well.