How to BRAVELY GO Where An Asset Building Conversation Leads

By Kelly Noftz, Youth Partnerships Coordinator

Asset Builders know that intentionally engaging youth in conversations is an effective way to take relationships to a deeper level. After building caring, trusting relationships with youth, we can more successfully influence, guide and build assets in young people!

The tricky part about using clever conversation starters and open-ended questions as a relationship booster (for this asset builder!), is that these conversations frequently generate smart, thoughtful questions that I am not prepared to answer. Wait! I do not have the answers? What kind of a wise and caring adult am I?

For those of us who really like to have all the answers, an Asset Building Conversation requires us to re-think the purpose of the conversation. Using the Developmental Asset Framework as a guide, we can Bravely GO where even an uncomfortable (for us!) asset building conversation leads. How? By acknowledging (even embracing) that the conversation itself is the asset building activity, not our own ability to argue, defend a position or “teach”.

Using the 8 Keys to Thriving Youth to frame provocative and engaging conversation starters, we can be confident that having the conversation and connecting with this young person is building assets. That shift in perspective allows me to relax, listen better, and learn more.

When I suspend my own judgment and focus on actively engaging and showing interest in this young person’s ideas and opinions, I hear conviction, passion, enthusiasm, joys and concerns. Even if I disagree, I can role model assets I value like caring, honesty, interpersonal competence and resistance skills.

Conversations (especially those without “right” answers) help us begin, maintain and strengthen relationships. Use the 8 Keys to Thriving Youth to deepen your relationship with a young person. Pick an Asset Category and start a conversation. As you engage in the conversation, you will build assets. Not just one asset, but many. There! That might be the “right answer” I was looking for all along!


Using the 8 Keys to Thriving Youth to get a conversation started:


What was the nicest compliment you ever received from an adult?

What is your favorite family tradition?

Talk about a time you laughed so hard you thought you couldn’t stop…


Name someone younger that you who looks up to you. How do you know that he or she looks up to you?

If you could be a superhero which would you be and why? What would you do you’re your super powers?

Finish this statement: One way I would like to change the world is…

 Boundaries and Expectations-

If you could describe your ideal day, what would it be like?

What is your highest expectation of yourself?

Would you rather live in the country, a tiny rural town, a suburb of a city or an urban center? Why?

 Constructive Use of Time-

If you have to choose between doing activities inside or outside, which do you do? Do you think you have a balance?

If you could take lessons in anything, what would you learn?

Are you sometimes afraid of trying new things because you think you won’t be good at them? How could you encourage yourself more?

 Commitment to Learning-

What was your favorite book when you were young? What did you like about it?

What most affects your attitude toward school?

What is your first memory of school?



Conversations On The Go, By Mary Ackerman (Search Institute)

Ask Me Where I’m Going (Search Institute)





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