The Gifts Conversation

The most radical and uncomfortable conversation we have is about our gifts. The task of leadership and of active citizenship is to bring the gifts of those on the margin of our communities into the centre.

We tend to be obsessed with deficiencies and weaknesses, which will most likely not go away. But we gain more leverage when we focus on the gifts and assets we bring and then use them to make our best and highest contribution. Change and an alternative future occur by capitalizing on our gifts and capacities.

When we look at deficiencies, we strengthen them. What you see is what you get. The gifts conversation boils down to our willingness to stop telling people about what they need to improve, what didn't go well, and how they should do it differently next time. Instead, confront them with their gifts.

Talk to them about the gifts that you’ve received from them, the unique strength that you see in them, the capacities they have that bring something unique and needed in the world — and what they did in the last ten minutes that made a difference.

When we focus on gifts, we strengthen them. Focusing on gifts is a practical stance, rather than a moral one. What do you want from me — my deficiencies or my capacities?

Having the gifts conversation is also in essence about valuing diversity and inclusion. We are not defined by deficiencies or what is missing. We are defined by our gifts and what is present. This is so for individuals and communities. Belonging occurs when we tell others what gift we receive from them, especially in this moment. When this occurs, in the presence of others, community is built.

A gift is not a gift until it is offered. We embrace our own destiny when we have the courage to acknowledge our own core gifts and choose to bring them into the world and change lives for good.

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Some questions for the gifts conversation:

What gifts have you received from each other?

What have others in this room done that has touched you?
(Tell the person in specific terms).

 What are you grateful for that has gone unspoken?

What gift do you hold that no one knows about?

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(edited and adapted from) Peter Block “Community – The Structure of Belonging” 2008 and Peter Block “Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community” 2007



Peter Block “Community – The Structure of Belonging”
now in a second edition, revised and updated
Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 2nd ed. edition (July 17, 2018)

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